Sooners head east to face surprise West Virginia
Astrud Reed, The Oklahoma Daily
West Virginia has been a surprising team so far.
The Mountaineers (27-19) were picked by the conference’s coaches to finish dead last in the Big 12. But after back-to-back quality weekends in which it went 5-1, West Virginia is within striking distance for first in the Big 12.
Although what West Virginia has done so far has surprised some people, coach Sunny Golloway is not part of that group.
“Does it surprise me what they’ve done? No,” he said. “Things have fallen into place for them really well. We’ll go in there and we’ll respect them, but we’re not going to fear them.”
The No. 12 Oklahoma baseball team holds the Big 12’s top spot with a 10-5 conference record, and Baylor trails by mere percentage points with an 11-6 Big 12 record. Kansas State and West Virginia are tied for third with 9-6 records.
So what once seemed like an easy series, which starts at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, W.Va., has turned into a crucial match in the battle for conference supremacy.
“It is a big weekend,” senior third baseman Garrett Carey said. “But we’re just going to roll out and play our game and not do too much. We should come out on top if we do what we’re capable of doing.”
But what OU (33-12) is capable of doing has not been what’s displayed at the plate during the last two games.
The Sooners seemed to be on a roll by winning five of their last six games, but their lone loss during that stretch plus Tuesday’s loss against Dallas Baptist exposed one of the team’s biggest flaws at the plate.
During the first two games of Texas Tech series, Red Raider pitchers attacked OU hitters on the inside half of the plate, and the Sooners scored 14 runs en route to victory.
In the series finale, Texas Tech changed its approach and challenged hitters with outside pitches. The Red Raiders won, 9-3, with two of OU’s runs coming in the ninth inning.
Dallas Baptist used a trio of freshmen pitchers Tuesday to continue the attack on the outer half of the plate and found success, shutting out the Sooners, 2-0. OU was held to three hits in the loss.
“I think the book clearly is on Oklahoma: Pitch away and let their big guys try to let their ego get the best of them to pull the ball for power, and then on the left-handers just mix,” Golloway said. “Our conscious effort is to use the whole yard — not worry and be selfish about power numbers. Go back to what we’re doing best.”
The solution to this scouting report is simple: just be mentally prepared for it, junior first baseman/designated hitter Matt Oberste said.
“It’s all mental right now,” he said. “Physically we’re prepared, but mentally … we’ve just got to be ready to hit once we step in the box. We’ve got to clear our heads through everything and quit guessing and just hit the ball.”
If OU hitters do not figure out how to stay back and go the opposite way or lay off outside breaking balls, which killed at-bats and opportunities against Dallas Baptist, then West Virginia’s pitching staff that boasts a 3.87 team ERA will have its way with the Sooners all weekend.