NORMAN — The personnel didn’t change much, but Oklahoma did some shuffling Friday night. The batting order was altered in an attempt to jolt a slumping team.
After the Sooners’ 10-0 victory over New Orleans at L. Dale Mitchell Park, the moves were validated.
The most obvious adjustments were at the top and the bottom of the order. Shortstop Jack Mayfield moved from the leadoff spot to the nine-hole. OU coach Sunny Golloway’s rationale was to take some pressure off the senior, who was batting just .238 coming into the game.
“It’s different because you have to wait a few innings before you hit,” Mayfield said, “but I trust all these guys who hit before me. It’s good to have runners on base when you come up.”
Mayfield only had one hit, but it was a three-run homer (Mayfield’s fourth of the season) in the seventh inning.
The other switch was putting Matt Oberste in the leadoff spot. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound slugger doesn’t fit the profile of a leadoff hitter. The moves were intended to get Oberste to be more selective at the plate and to get Mayfield to be more aggressive.
“He hadn’t been swinging very hard because his timing has been off,” Golloway said. “Even when he swung and missed tonight, I was encouraging him because he was making great swings. I want him to be more aggressive and I think he’ll do that on the back side of the lineup.”
Mayfield hit three balls on the sweet spot, flying out at the warning track in left field twice before belting the three-run blast in his final at-bat.
“I had been pressing and maybe it was nerves or something,” Mayfield said. “I just tried to square the ball up and find some holes.”
The Sooners (29-10) snapped a three-game losing streak with the victory and washed away some of the stain from Tuesday’s doubleheader sweep at the hands of Arkansas-Little Rock.
Of course, it wasn’t the typical Friday night game either. New Orleans (6-34) was clearly overmatched against OU pitcher Jonathan Gray. The right-hander only threw six innings, but held the Privateers to two hits and struck out 10. Gray improved to 7-1 with the victory.
But Gray actually had some run support for the first time in a while. His last two outings were both 2-1 games with OU winning at Texas and losing last Friday at Baylor.
Whether or not the win truly broke OU out of its hitting slump remains to be seen. However, it went 4 for 10 with runners in a scoring position and only left six stranded on base in the game.
It went 0 for 15 with runners in scoring position against Arkansas-Little Rock.
“Today we just focused on doing little things right,” Mayfield said. “We got some sacrifice bunts down and got a couple big innings. Putting up those crooked numbers are huge. It took some pressure off.”
Max White went 2 for 4 with and RBI and Hector Lorenzana went 2 for 3 and drove in a run.
Blake Prest (1-6) took the loss. He allowed seven runs on 10 hits over six innings. The series resumes at 2 p.m. today.
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