#20 Oklahoma Baseball 2014 Preview

Oklahoma Sooners

Overall Rank: #20
Conference Rank: #3 Big 12
#20 Oklahoma Baseball 2014 Preview
Oklahoma Team Page


The Oklahoma baseball team took to the diamond over the weekend of January 24-25 for its first practices since Pete Hughes took over as head coach. Hughes succeeded Sunny Golloway, who left Oklahoma for the baseball job at Auburn. With Hughes having guided Virginia Tech to five 30-win seasons in a row and poised for better success in Norman, the sky may be the limit for the Sooners. On the other hand, a lot of players have departed the program to move on to minor league baseball or their chosen careers, and that means Hughes will have some big, big shoes to fill and replace.

2013: 43-21, 13-11
2013 Postseason: NCAA Super Regional
Coach: Pete Hughes

Field Players:
Hughes inherits a big problem right up top as slugger Matt Oberste (.373-11-60, 13 SB) is gone. How will the Sooners replace all those homers without finding a few more bats? Oh, and did we mention Max White (.310-3-33, 9 SB) is also gone? The top two hitters on this team are graduates, and that ‘s going to hurt Oklahoma. The Sooners will find hitters to duplicate their success at home (25-6), but Oklahoma needs to win more road games (9-12 a year ago) if it hopes to have any chance. Craig Akin hit .286 and stole 16 bases last year, but he and teammate Anthony Hermelyn (.275) wasn’t really a threat on the bases or for pop at the plate. Hector Lorenzana hit .274 and drove in 42 runs. Oklahoma has to focus on putting more pop in its bats (32 homers last year, most of which were hit by graduates or departed players).

Top pitchers Jonathan Gray and Dillon Overton combined to go 19-6 last year with 47 walks and 226 strikeouts. Where are they now? Gone. This means Oklahoma will have to patch its pitching staff with relievers and starters that saw spot duty a year ago. Top on this list is Jacob Evans (7-2, 2.06 ERA, 41 strikeouts). Ralph Garza Jr. went 5-1 with a 2.76 ERA a year ago. Oklahoma will have to do more work on its pitching in order to get anywhere in 2014, and this is where the Sooners hope to find lightning in a bottle.

Who to Watch:
The highlight of the first day practice was a home run hit by freshman Niko Buentello, who crossed state lines after playing his high school ball in Lewisville, Texas. Buentello hit 30 career homers in four years of varsity baseball at Lewisville High School, so he may be the closest thing to a long ball replacement Hughes has to work with in his first season. Buentello is one of 11 freshmen on the team, including two redshirts, that will help replenish the roster in Norman.

Final Projection:
Oklahoma should make the NCAA tournament, but the Sooners have a huge problem. Oklahoma needs to sharpen its pitching skills and its hitting lineup. If it cannot accomplish either, it could be a long season. If the Sooners can adjust the pitching, it should be all right. Same for the hitting…Oklahoma should win at least 35 games this season, and it could win more depending on whether or not the Sooners accomplish the goals. But there are a lot of holes to fill.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Craig Akin, OF, 252
Hits: Craig Akin, OF, 72
Home Runs: Four tied with 2
RBIs: Hector Lorenzana, IF, 42
Runs: Craig Akin, OF, 42
Stolen Bases: Craig Akin, OF, 16

Wins: Jacob Evans, P, 7
Innings Pitched: Ralph Garza Jr., P, 58.2
Strikeouts: Jacob Evans, P, 41
Saves: Jacob Evans, P, 9

Madness 2014 Baseball Recruit Rankings:
#18 Sheldon Neuse


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