The Norman Transcript

Sports

May 25, 2014

Season-long issues stay unresolved for Sooners

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s Big 12 tournament run mirrored what it did during the 24-game conference slate. The Sooners dropped two of three.

The only difference was the 11-8 loss to Oklahoma State at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark that ended early Saturday morning brought closure to the season. At 29-29, there will not be an NCAA tournament berth for the first time since 2007.

The manner of play in the Big 12 tournament illustrated why the Sooners’ season will not extend into June.

Inconsistent starting pitching and unreliable defense weighed them down throughout the regular season. Those shackles remained in place in OU’s two losses to the Cowboys and in their 9-8 victory over Texas on Thursday.

In the elimination game against the Cowboys, Adam Choplick lasted five innings. That was a little more than average for OU starting pitchers this season. It could have been more innings, but Choplick’s 115 pitches included just 57 strikes. He was dominant at times with eight strikeouts. But it’s impossible to go deep into games without being efficient.

“His consistency, I think that’s what we’re all aiming for in this game,” OU coach Pete Hughes said of Choplick. “The team that plays the most consistent, in whatever phase of it, usually wins. That holds true on the mound as well. There’s a kid that’s come a long way from last year, too. We’ve got to keep working him and getting him consistent and keep building his confidence. He certainly can be a dominant arm. It’s just a matter of him being a little more consistent.”

The Sooners did not help him with three errors. Seven of the runs were unearned. Those extra outs helped drive up pitch counts and force calls to the bullpen to come earlier than expected.

They also cause scenarios like the one that effectively ended the season. Two runners on and two out after an error to start the inning, OSU’s Aaron Cornell blasts a three-run home run to win the game in the top of the eighth inning. Make the routine plays — like the grounder shortstop Hector Lorenzana bobbled to start the inning — and OU would’ve been back in the dugout in a tied game.

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