The Norman Transcript

Sports

March 22, 2013

Oberste brings hot bat into Big 12 opener

NORMAN — Matt Oberste is experiencing that magical time in a baseball. The ball that leaves the pitcher’s hand is appearing bigger than its standard 91⁄4 inch circumference.

“I’m just hitting balls in the right count and in the right area,” Oberste said. “I’m hitting it to right field if it’s outside and reacting to it if it’s inside.”

When someone is batting .500, which Oberste is after 23 games and 88 at-bats, he usually has a way of making hitting look and sound very simple.

Oberste has done it. The Sooners’ cleanup hitter hasn’t hit at the incredible pace by getting a bunch of bloopers to fall. He has 44 hits and 18 of them are for extra bases, including seven home runs.

But the problem Oberste is about to face is that the Sooners (19-4) are on the verge of opening Big 12 Conference play. TCU (9-11) comes to L. Dale Mitchell Park at 2 p.m. today for the first of the three-game series.

There are a lot of ways to win conference games, but teams have to earn the right to get their red-hot slugger pitches to hit. It means the hitters in front of and behind Oberste have to do their part.

It means leadoff hitter Jack Mayfield and two-hole Craig Aikin must get on base. Three-hole hitter Max White must make opposing coaches understand that pitching to him is as dangerous as pitching to Oberste. Five-hole hitter freshman Hunter Haley must make them pay if they pitch around Oberste to get to him.

“That’s gonna be the key,” OU coach Sunny Golloway said. “It’s gonna come down to what Max does and what Aikin does. If they’re not going to pitch to Max, then they have to pitch to Obe. It’s worked out pretty well thus far. But you don’t want to have first base open when Obe is coming up. It’s my job to manage the game. You won’t see Max trying to steal a whole lot. Will you see guys pitching to Obe a lot with Max on first base, we’ll see.”

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