NORMAN — After a team goes 29-29, it has only one option: look to the future. Oklahoma coach Pete Hughes was already doing that early last Saturday morning following the his team’s 11-8 loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tournament.
“Better things are ahead, I promise you that,” he said. “It’s a great product to recruit to. We will recruit tirelessly. We’ll start tomorrow. Just real proud to be a representative of a great university and a strong, strong baseball tradition.”
Recruiting is obviously a big part of what the Sooners must do to get back to the standard it has set. The .500 season marked the first time since 2003 they didn’t win more games than they lost. The lack of an NCAA tournament bid kept OU from playing in June for just the second time since 2004.
Hughes embraced those expectations when he took the job last summer. The major reasons his initial season at OU turned into a rebuilding project was a very young team that developed too slowly.
Offensively, OU was a solid team. It batted .287 overall and .280 in Big 12 Conference play. It hit 30 home runs and 149 of its 580 hits went for extra bases. The Sooners did that with a lineup that most included freshmen and sophomores. Senior infielder Hector Lorenzana was the lone upperclassmen in the lineup that was an everyday player from the previous season.
The sophomore trio of Craig Aikin, Anthony Hermelyn and Hunter Haley all improved as hitters this season.
The emergence of Mac James, who was an all-Big 12 performer this season by hitting .330, belting five homers and driving in 41 runs, was monumental. He only had nine at-bats in 2013 season.
OSU coach Josh Holliday laid out where the limit is for freshman third baseman Sheldon Neuse.
“Sheldon Neuse is the best young hitter I’ve seen since I’ve started coaching college baseball,” he said.