A new era of Oklahoma Baseball is approaching as Skip Johnson leads the team into his first season as head coach. The Sooners went 35-24 last season, making the Louisville Regional of the NCAA Tournament, but went a combined 1-4 between the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAAs.
The post season plummet wasn’t a waste though as Johnson expects it to pay immediate dividends. “We went to a regional last year and the biggest thing that we have focused on this year is setting our coaches tones on practicing in game-like situations,” Johnson said. “Every day these guys have to get ready to play and all of them are out practicing and working hard.
Our three focuses this fall has been on commitment to the team, our work ethic and our game like practices every day. The culture is what we are trying to build within the program and we all want to get on the same page on how we want to play. “
You can’t put a price on experience nor can you place value on the motivation brought on by disappointment. With a host of players returning from last year, the Sooners have both of those attributes as they get ready to head to South Carolina to start the season.
“I think they (the team) are comfortable and I mean comfortable with each other as far as their team comradery,” Johnson said. “That is a big deal and we are practicing at a fast pace and at a quality level and we feel our guys are getting up to speed.”
Led by junior Jake Irvin, Oklahoma’s pitching staff looks to pace the team’s success. Irving was 12-5 last season, striking out 126 batters, with a 3.95 ERA.
“I think his confidence is where he has grown the most,” said Johnson. “Going out there every day having the mindset that he’s going to give his best effort every day. He’s working with the mindset that he’s going to give an effort that will give our team with a chance to win. It matters what our mindset is when we take the mound because with Jake or any good pitcher we have to go out and establish what we need to establish and go out there day-in-and-day-out and have confidence that he can execute that one pitch any time to win an at-bat for us or a game. He needs to understand what he can do to win games and be in control of himself and that goes for all of our pitchers. Jake has gotten a lot better at that.”
Devon Perez said no to the Los Angeles Angels to return to Norman for his senior season. He brings a 6-5/200 frame back to the mound where he produced a 3.50 ERA and 81 strikeouts last season. He’ll be OU’s second pitcher in the rotation and behind those two lay a vast amount of experienced options. I would look at Dylan Grove as a top option for number three.
From the batter’s box Oklahoma expects All-American junior outfielder Steele Walker to set the pace for the team’s offense. Last year he hit .333, and had an on base percentage of .413. Walker was responsible for 49 runs and 51 RBI in 2017.
The Sooners were picked fourth preseason, behind Texas Tech, TCU, and Texas, in the Big 12 Conference and will start their season at the ‘On The Beach Classic’ in Myrtle Beach, SC against Indiana at 11:00 AM on Friday the 16th.