Proven winner, master motivator, tireless recruiter and charismatic leader - it was those qualities that led the University of Oklahoma to name Pete Hughes as the ninth head baseball coach in program history. Joe Castiglione, vice president and director of athletics, made the announcement June 27, 2013.
In 21 seasons as a head coach, Hughes owns a career record of 652-492-3 (.569), including his stints at Virginia Tech (2007-13), Boston College (1999-2006) and Trinity (TX) University (1997-98).
Oklahoma returned to the NCAA postseason in 2017 by earning the two-seed in the Louisville Regional. The Sooners won their opener against Xavier before a loss to the No. 7 Cardinals and a defeat in a rematch with the Big East champion Musketeers. OU finished the season 35-24 overall and 12-11 in the Big 12; good enough for third place in the nation's top RPI conference.
The Sooners won the most top-25 RPI series in the country with five, including Long Beach State, at Baylor, Texas Tech, at West Virginia and TCU. A total of 10 players were honored with Big 12 postseason awards; the most in program history. Designated hitter Brylie Ware was named the Big 12 Co-Newcomer of the Year and earned a spot on the All-Big 12 First Team along with outfield Steele Walker. Austin O'Brien and Jake Irvin were each voted CoSIDA Academic All-District; the first OU honorees since 2011.
Off the field, the Sooners have made a major impact on the Norman/OKC community over the last four seasons. Hughes' 19 Ways Foundation has found numerous ways for OU baseball to be involved with groups and individuals beyond the OU campus. To conclude fall ball each year, the Sooners have put on their annual ALS Awareness Halloween Game to benefit the ALS Foundation. The event has become one of the most popular in the fall season for the community to attend and in 2015 the baseball team joined forces with the softball team for the fundraising effort.
From 2014-16, the Sooners also participated in an annual Shave for the Brave event. The team shaves their heads and raises money to fight childhood cancer that benefits the Vs. Cancer Foundation and the OU Children's Hospital. Oklahoma baseball combined to raise over $80,000 during that time.
In 2016, Oklahoma went 30-27-1 overall and had five players join the professional ranks through the MLB Draft. Sheldon Neuse became the first All-American under Hughes. Neuse, a consensus All-American, was also awarded with the Brooks Wallace Award as the nation's top shortstop. Neuse anchored an OU infield that contributed to the team's .977 fielding percentage, which ranked 28th in the country and was Oklahoma's best since 2006.
Hughes and the Sooners also picked up series wins over Texas and Oklahoma State in 2016. It marked the first time since 2010 that Oklahoma won both series in the same season.
The 2015 Sooners went 34-27 overall and finished third in the Big 12 with a 13-11 mark. Oklahoma boasted a program-best four All-Big 12 First Team selections, including Kolbey Carpenter who became the first Sooner to win the conference's batting title since 2001. As a team, Oklahoma hit .282, which was second in the league for the second year in a row.
At the 2015 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, the University of Oklahoma was called more than any other school in the nation. Overall, 11 Sooners were drafted, including catcher Anthony Hermelyn (fourth round) and pitcher Jacob Evans (sixth round) on day one. Nine of the 11 plays had been undrafted before attending OU.
In his first season in Norman, Hughes guided the Sooners to an even 29-29 record and 8-16 mark in the Big 12. Oklahoma was second in the league with a .287 team batting average and ranked third in team slugging at .401. The Sooners led the league with the lowest strikeout rate at just 4.86 per game; 0.49 per game less than the next closest team in the league.
Under Hughes' tutelage, freshman Sheldon Neuse was named the 2014 Big 12 Rookie of the Year and earned various Freshman All-America awards as he hit .304 and slugged .521. Junior utility man Mac James went from nine at-bats in 2013 to All-Big 12 First Team in 2014. He hit a team-high .330 with a .477 slugging percentage, while earning starts at five positions, primarily at catcher and first base, and left OU after being drafted in the sixth round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Twice named both the New England Coach of the Year and the BIG EAST Coach of the Year, as well as the 2000 American Baseball Coaches Association Northeast Region Coach of the Year, Hughes owns a well-deserved reputation for setting new standards of excellence at every stop during his 18-year coaching career.
Hughes recorded five straight 30-win seasons at Virginia Tech, including a pair of 40-win campaigns that culminated with NCAA Tournament berths in 2010 and 2013. He inherited a club that hadn't reached the NCAA Tournament since 2000 and went on to compile a 222-174 (.561) record in seven seasons with the Hokies from 2007-13.
Upon his hire, University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren said, "Pete Hughes is an ideal choice as our new baseball coach. He is not only a talented coach; above all, he shares the best values of our university family. He will be a player-oriented coach. We enthusiastically welcome him to OU."
Hughes staged an even more dramatic turnaround at Boston College, taking over a program that had averaged a meager 13 wins per year over the previous 35 seasons. The Eagles finished 17-23-1 the year before his arrival in 1998. Two years later, the club registered an 18-game improvement under Hughes' leadership, finishing 35-20 and making the club's second-ever appearance in the BIG EAST Tournament. In 2005, he guided Boston College to a school-record 37 victories.
Castiglione on Hughes:
"As we conducted our research, we kept finding more and more reasons why Pete Hughes would be an excellent fit to lead the OU Baseball program," said Castiglione. "First and foremost, Pete brings a winning pedigree as a head coach with NCAA postseason experience. His proven track record as an accomplished national recruiter was also a prerequisite for OU baseball.
"Pete is highly respected in the baseball community with good reason. We are confident that his energetic attitude and competitive spirit will resonate with our student-athletes, our community and Sooner fans across the nation. Pete has embraced the lofty expectations associated with OU Baseball and appreciates the distinguished tradition that has been established over many generations. We are excited and privileged to welcome Pete, Debby and their five children to the University of Oklahoma family."
"On behalf of Debby and our children, we are incredibly thrilled to embrace this tremendous opportunity at the University of Oklahoma," said Hughes. "We appreciate the trust and confidence that President Boren and Joe Castiglione have placed in me. There are only a handful of institutions and athletics programs around the nation that I would consider marquee destinations, and the University of Oklahoma easily ranks among the very best jobs in collegiate baseball.
Hughes on Joining the University of Oklahoma:
"The combination of respected leadership, a distinguished tradition of academic and athletic excellence, passionate fans and first-class facilities are a rare combination. I'm invigorated by the challenge of getting the Sooners back to the College World Series and can't wait to get on the field with our student-athletes. I am also enthused to get back to a region where I began my head coaching career and have enjoyed recruiting throughout the years."