NORMAN — Does good pitching beat good hitting? The Big 12 Conference standings provide a definitive answer to that question.
Oklahoma State and TCU are Nos. 1 and 2 in the earned run average in conference games. They’re tied atop the standings with two weeks to go.
Oklahoma leads the league in batting average. It’s stuck in eighth place and in a struggle with Kansas State for the final spot in the Big 12 tournament.
The dilemma the Sooners (26-23, 6-12 Big 12) face is they face the Horned Frogs (34-13, 13-5) in a three-game series, beginning at 6:30 p.m. today at Lupton Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Everything is predicated on the result you get off that little brown hill on your infield,” OU coach Pete Hughes said. “The confidence in your team, the momentum of the game. It relaxes your offense when you get a good start out there when you get shutdown innings. We have to get good starts this weekend.”
The Sooners’ starting pitching has not done that this season. Through 49 games, the average start has lasted about 41⁄2 innings, and no starting pitcher has made it into the ninth inning this season. The longest outing of the season was 71⁄3 innings by freshman right-hander Jake Elliott (2-3, 3.61 ERA) in a 6-4 loss to Gonzaga on March 2. In Big 12 games, no starting pitcher has picked up an out in the eighth inning or later.
“Starting pitching hasn’t been at our best over the last month,” left-hander Adam Choplick (3-3, 4.76 ERA) said. “I’ve had games where I only went 31⁄3 innings. When you do that, your bullpen is going to get tired eventually. We as starters have to be able to go deep into games.”
The over-reliance on the bullpen has taken a toll and it was apparent in last weekend’s series against West Virginia.