OU baseball: No. 18 Sooners to face first true test against Pepperdine
There is a good reason why the Oklahoma baseball team barely has moved in Baseball America’s Top 25.
The No. 18 Sooners, who have started the season with a perfect 9-0 record, have only moved one spot in that poll — there are multiple college baseball top 25 polls available — because they have not been tested against too quality of opponents.
That’s not to say OU has not faced quality opponents.
Hofstra has some quality pitching, and New Mexico was in the NCAA Tournament last season, but some pollsters have not voted up Oklahoma because it has not proven itself as much as other teams have so far. So, voters do not know exactly what the Sooners are made of yet.
Well, those voters may get a better sense of whom OU is after this weekend’s test.
The Sooners will square off against Pepperdine in a three-game set starting at 3 p.m. Friday at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
Although the Waves (6-3) are not ranked in Baseball America, this is by far OU’s best test so far, said junior designated hitter/first baseman Matt Oberste.
“We’ve had big tests — New Mexico and Iowa are great teams and Texas A&M Corpus Christi gave us a pretty good run — but I think Pepperdine’s probably going to be the toughest (team) so far that we’ve faced,” said the two-time defending Big 12 Player of the Week.
Pepperdine lost to Baylor, 5-4, in Waco on Tuesday, but it took two-of-three from Texas A&M in College Station last weekend. The Wave has a .274 team batting average and a 2.75 team ERA.
“From what I’ve heard, [the Wave] have good pitching, so I’m just going to try to stay consistent and doing what I’m doing at the plate,” said Oberste, who has a team-high .441 batting average.
This weekend is a big one for junior pitcher Jonathan Gray.
The Chandler, Okla., native admitted this start is a “really important” one considering his start against Pepperdine in Malibu, Calif., did not go according to script.
In Gray’s first career start in the crimson and cream — a game OU lost, 10-0 — he did not get out of the third inning while walking six batters en route to earning the loss. When he talked about that game, he looked like he wanted to prove that is not the type of pitcher he really is.
And Gray has drastically improved since then. He finished the 2012 season with an 8-4 record and has started the 2013 campaign by going 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA.
“I haven’t really had a dominant outing yet,” Gray said. “I’ve had to tweak some things and really just battle myself to get the win and do what I’m supposed to on the mound."
Gray is slated to start Saturday’s game, which is scheduled for a 2 p.m. first pitch, and junior pitcher Dillon Overton (3-0, 0.56 ERA) will start Friday’s opener. Although Sunday’s starter will not be known officially until either Saturday night or Sunday morning, junior lefty Billy Waltrip probably will make the start.
Freshman pitcher Corey Copping is working through a soreness that kept him off the mound last weekend, and redshirt freshman lefty Adam Choplick will not be considered for the start but should make an appearance out of the bullpen.
The Sooners scheduling Pepperdine at this point of the season was part of coach Sunny Golloway’s plan.
He has said multiple times this season that the schedule has been set up so the team will make steps at specific points, and this weekend is one of those steps he expects his team to make a move.
“It’s about scheduling,” Golloway said. “It can only make you batter. It’ll give a chance to build and grow and give you confidence. It’s been good for us to this point. It’s gotten a little bit tougher with each weekend.