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February 2, 2014

Hughes letting the hitters hit

NORMAN — In two weeks, the Pete Hughes era of Oklahoma baseball will officially begin. He admitted Saturday at the program’s media day that he was still in the feeling out process.

There was nothing close to a full lineup card made out. The decision on a weekend rotation was still at least a week away.

But he did offer one approach that will differ from former coach Sunny Golloway.

“I just like to put pressure on the defense, but I do like these guys to be their own little hitters and not be so controlled by the guy at third base. I’m not going to do that,” he said. “I think if guys can get comfortable in playing and not worried about hitting and running and bunting or stealing and just hitting and getting caught up in their approach, guys get better and more productive. So that’s my plan for this year.”

The offensive philosophical change may or may not be apparent when the Sooners open the season with a three-game series against Seton Hall Feb. 14 at L. Dale Mitchell Park.

“It’s different than the small-ball approach,” sophomore outfielder Craig Aikin said. “Coming into the season, we’re gonna stand up there and try to out-swing people. There’s still gonna be a place for my drag bunt, but my drag bunt will set up an RBI double for someone else.”

Aikin is one of three freshmen All-Americans that are back as sophomores. Catcher Anthony Hermelyn and closer Jacob Evans join him.

Getting players like those to make the expected leap most players make from their first year in the program to the second is an essential element for this team.

For Hermelyn, adding some power at the plate is essential. He hit .275 last season and drove in 26 runs, but only six of his 49 hits went for extra bases.

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