#37 Oklahoma Baseball 2015 Preview

Oklahoma Sooners

Overall Rank: #37
Conference Rank: #5 Big 12
#37 Oklahoma Baseball Preview
Oklahoma Team Page


Year one under Pete Hughes wasn’t great for the Oklahoma Sooners. After appearing in a Super Regional in 2013, the Sooners were a .500 ball club last season, going 29-29. Last year’s Oklahoma team was a young one that featured a lot of freshmen and sophomores in starting roles and that should have the Sooners poised for a rebound in 2015. Nine players who were regulars last season as either freshmen or sophomores return, and they will be key for Oklahoma if the Sooner’s are to improve on last season’s results.
2014: 29-29, 8-16
2014 Postseason: None
Coach: Pete Hughes

Field Players:
Oklahoma returns Freshman All-American infielder Sheldon Neuse and he will lead the Sooners offensively. Last year’s Big 12 Rookie of the Year, Neuse hit .304 and led the Sooners in doubles, 17, home runs, seven, RBI’s, 47, and slugging percentage, .521. Junior outfielders Craig Aiken and Hunter Haley and junior catcher Anthony Hermelyn return as well and will help form the core of the Sooners offense. Aiken was a catalyst for the Sooners as their leadoff man last season. The junior centerfielder hit .326 and led the team in base on balls, 32, and on base percentage, .411. Haley was another big source of power in the middle of the lineup, hitting six home runs and driving in 34 runs to go along with his .294 average and 12 stolen bases, while Hermelyn hit .289 with two home runs and 28 RBI’s as a regular in the heart of the lineup.

Senior Taylor Alspaugh returns to the outfield after starting 45 games alongside Aiken and Haley last season. The former Baylor transfer hit .242 last year and drove in 23 runs. Neuse is the only full-time starter back in the infield, but a trio of 20 plus game starters return there and all three will have the chance to grab regular roles. Junior Kolbey Carpenter appeared in 34 games last season, starting 26, and hit .300 with three home runs. Carpenter was a utility infielder in 2014, playing first, second and third base, but he should settle into one of the roles full-time in 2015. Sophomore Austin O’Brien had 20 RBI’s and a .283 average in 40 games and senior Joshua Ake hit .188 in 33 games in 2014. Both will be in the mix for more playing time this year. Keep an eye out for Cody Thomas as well. The sophomore outfielder, who is also a quarterback on the football team, was a big time recruit, but he played in just 14 games last season, seeing most of his action as a pinch runner. Thomas could find himself in the mix in the outfield or at the DH spot in 2015.

The Sooners pitching staff didn’t put up the best numbers last season, but a number of talented pitchers return with another year under their belt. The bullpen should be the strength of the Sooner’s staff. The junior trio of Jeff Curran, Jacob Evans and Ralph Garza Jr. lead the group. Curran appeared in 20 games after transferring in from Fullerton College and finished the season with a 1.71 ERA. Evans and Garza both turned in great freshman seasons before struggling last year, but both look to have put the struggles behind them. A former Freshman All-American, Evans went 3-5 with a 5.52 ERA last year as he rotated between a weekend starter and the bullpen. Evans was great this summer though, sporting a 0.31 ERA over 28.1 innings pitched in the Cape Cod Baseball League. Garza led the Sooners in saves last season with seven, but struggled ERA wise. If Garza can limit the runs, like he did as a freshman when he posted a 2.76 ERA in 58.2 innings pitched, the Sooners should be set at the backend of the bullpen.

Oklahoma has the ability to keep Evans in the bullpen as a trio of pitchers with extensive starting experience return. Jake Elliott, 2-3 with a 3.56 ERA in 11 starts, and Adam Choplick, 3-4 with a 5.35 ERA in 15 appearances including 14 starts, are back and both will be given shots to be in the weekend rotation. Corey Copping, who made nine starts among his 16 appearances, also returns after going 2-2 with a 3.53 ERA last year. Alec Hansen could be a potential difference maker for Oklahoma in the rotation. The six-foot-seven sophomore struggled last year as a true freshman, but has big time potential, something that is evident by his 25th round selection in the 2013 MLB Draft out of high school. Redshirt-senior Robert Tasin is also back and he could be used either as a starter or out of the bullpen. Tasin went 4-5 with a 4.80 ERA last year while splitting time between both spots.

Who to Watch:
Sheldon Neuse is a do it all guy for the Sooners and he will need to have another big year. Offensively, Neuse is going to be counted on heavily after leading the Sooners in six different offensive categories last year, but he could be equally as important on the mound. Neuse appeared in nine games last year and totaled 12 innings, going 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA out of the bullpen. If Hughes elects to go with Evans in the starting rotation, a void will be left in the bullpen. Curran performed well as a reliever last year, but Garza struggled as the closer. Garza has the potential to stay there, but if he struggles again, Neuse could see his name called more often.

Final Projection:
There is a lot of talent on this Oklahoma team and now it is time for them to produce. The Sooners do have early games against Arizona State, Washington and Oregon State, but for the most part, the non-conference schedule is pretty manageable. Coach Hughes will need to take this time to solidify his starting rotation and bullpen. There were a lot of moving parts in both spots at the end of last year, which can be tough for a team. There are plenty of arms with enough talent, but they just need to be put in spots where they can help the team the best. If Hughes can straighten out the pitching staff early and get some quality appearances, look for this team to make it back to the NCAA Tournament this season.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Sheldon Neuse, IF, 240
Hits: Craig Aiken, OF, 78
Home Runs: Sheldon Neuse, IF, 7
RBIs: Sheldon Neuse, IF, 47
Runs: Craig Aiken, OF, 47
Stolen Bases: Hunter Haley, OF, 12

Wins: Ralph Garza Jr., P, 5
Innings Pitched: Adam Choplick, P, 72.1
Strikeouts: Adam Choplick, P, 76
Saves: Ralph Garza Jr., P, 7


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