NORMAN — If it all comes down to an arms race, Oklahoma could be in for a magical season. It has the pitching to not only reach the College World Series, but win it as well.
Pitching can take a team a long way, but going the distance means scoring runs as well. Figuring out a way to do it on a much more consistent basis than in 2012 is the Sooners’ central issue heading into the 2013 season.
“It’s a major concern,” OU coach Sunny Golloway said.
It was revealed in 2012 that OU went 42-25 despite hitting just .265 and averaging 5.2 runs per game.
All the offensive struggles seemed to manifest themselves in the NCAA Tournament. The Sooners, somehow, won the Virginia regional despite hitting .215 over five games. There wasn’t amount of pitching that could overcome batting .152 in the Super Regional series at South Carolina.
“We are continuing to try to get our athletes to buy into manufacturing runs,” Golloway said. “You have to be able to bunt, you have to be able to hit and run and you have to be able to steal bases and you to be smart on the base paths.”
Luckily, OU has some veteran players who get it. Left fielder Max White is entering his fourth season as an everyday starter. The senior hit .337 last season and was OU’s most reliable hitter. Jack Mayfield is making the move from second base to short stop, but he gives the Sooners a reliable bat early in the order. He’s coming off a season where hit .280 and drove in 34 runs in his first season as an everyday player.
Having Matt Oberste, who has moved from designated hitter to first base, healthy is huge for the Sooners. He only hit six homers last season, but four came in the postseason.
“He’s running around with a smile on his face because he knows he’s gonna be in the lineup. We’re working him at first base. He’s finally got his arm healthy,” Golloway said.
But the Sooners are not built to rely on three-run homers; they’re built to scratch out runs and put constant pressure on opposing pitching staffs and defenses.
“The goal is to score at least one run every inning,” White said. “It’s comforting to know we have a pitching staff that can put up zeros every inning, but we have to figure out how to scratch out those runs every game.”
The Sooners open the 2013 season with the first of four games against Hofstra at 3 p.m. today at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
Other than third baseman Garrett Cary and catcher Dylan Neal, the Sooners are going to rely on a plethora of newcomers to produce those runs.
Golloway said it has been a struggle getting it to click over the last month. Some of that credit should go to the Sooners’ pitching staff.
“Things haven’t gone, offensively, the way we want so far, so I don’t know that we’ve bought into it. We haven’t proven that they have,” he said. “Until they prove it, they haven’t.”
The Sooners will get their first chance to demonstrate the ability to their coach starting today.
They must at some point. Last season showed that pitching and defense can take teams a long way. The ability to consistently score runs, however, cannot be masked.
Follow me @john_shinn