The Norman Transcript

Sports

May 2, 2014

Veteran bullpen to play last series at Dale Mitchell

NORMAN — A college baseball career goes by pretty quickly. Four-year players are rare, as are seniors. Oklahoma has five who will play their final games at L. Dale Mitchell Park in this weekend’s series against Baylor.

“It doesn’t seem real at all that this is the last home series,” senior reliever Kyle Hayes said.

It has been a long season for the senior trio of Kindle Ladd, Drew Krittenbrink and Hayes. The group has combined for 59 appearances — Ladd (23), Krittenbrink (20), Hayes (16) — this season.

They’ve been the Sooners’ Nos. 1, 2 and 3 bullpen options for coach Pete Hughes. Starts where pitchers make it beyond the fifth inning have been rare. The coaching staff knew that could be the case going in. They hoped the bullpen could be reliable. They felt better knowing they had three seniors in there to rely on.

“They’ve won at the highest level here, so they know how to do that. They’re just a good resource to have every day, especially with a pitching staff that is young outside of those three guys,” Hughes said.

“Those three are super mature guys and have been really good leaders and examples for our younger guys. We’ve asked a lot of them as far as their leadership skills, but also with pitching them a ton. I appreciate their efforts because they’ve pitched even when they’ve felt tired.”

Getting the seniors to buy in is essential whenever there’s a coaching change. Typically, if there’s discord in the clubhouse, it carries over.

The Sooners (25-21, 5-10 Big 12) have had plenty of problems on the field this season. The series against the Bears (20-26, 5-12) is pivotal for either team just in securing a spot in the Big 12 tournament.

Clubhouse turmoil is something OU hasn’t had to deal with. Largely, because the seniors bought into the changes.

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