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Baseball Hosts Baylor in Big 12 Opener
March 23, 2006

NORMAN, Okla. -- The No. 19 Oklahoma Sooners (18-5) will open Big 12 play this weekend at home against No. 21 Baylor (15-6, 2-1 Big 12).  The series starts on Friday at 3 p.m. on March 24 at L. Dale Mitchell Park.   The series opener was originally scheduled for 7 p.m., but was moved due to expected cold weather in the area.  Saturday’s game is scheduled for a 3 p.m. first pitch and the series will conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m.

MEDIA EXPOSURE
All three of this weekend’s games against Baylor will be broadcast live with Chuck Kelly calling the play-by-play and DeWayne Vaughn providing color analysis.  Friday’s game can be heard on the internet via Yahoo and Saturday and Sunday’s will be broadcast live on KOKC (1520 AM).  Saturday’s game will joined in progress following the completion of the OU women’s basketball NCAA Tournament game against Stanford, set for a 1:30 p.m. tipoff.  Pregame coverage for all Sooner baseball games, begins 15 minutes prior to first pitch.  In addition, a live web cast for all three games will be available on the O-Zone (Soonersports.com’s premium site) and live stats for all games this season can be viewed on Soonersports.com.

Game Notes | Big 12 Notes | Live Stats | Live O-Zone  

UPDATING THE SOONERS
The Sooners went 2-1 last week after dropping UT-Arlington 8-0 on Tuesday and splitting two games at No. 11 Arizona State over the weekend. 

The Sooners extended its winning streak to eight games last Tuesday with an 8-0 shutout at UT-Arlington.  It was the first time the Mavericks had been shut out this season and the game marked the fourth shutout for OU in 2006.

In the series opener on Friday against then-No. 11 Arizona State, OU suffered a heartbreaking 8-7 loss after taking a 7-5 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning.   The defeat came despite a 10 strike out performance from Daniel McCutchen.

On Saturday, the Sooners evened the series at one game apiece with a convincing 15-8 victory.   OU starter Steven Guerra improved to 7-0 with three strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings on Saturday.  The Paso Robeles, Calif., native leads the Big 12 in wins.  The 18-5 win on Saturday snapped the Sooners’ six-game winless streak in Tempe. The last time OU defeated ASU on its home field was on March 14, 2003 in a 6-5 game when the Sun Devils were ranked No.1.  On Sunday, OU had a chance to win its first series against ASU since 2002, but the finale was cancelled due to rain.

SCOUTING BAYLOR
The Bears are coming off of a 10-4 victory on Tuesday over TCU at home.  Before that game, BU took two out of three games against Kansas in its Big 12 opener in Waco. 

BU is riding a two-game winning streak and on two separate occasions this season, it has rattled off five consecutive victories (season high).

-Offensively, senior catcher Zach Dillon leads the club in batting average (.358), is tied for the team lead in homers (2) and ranks second in RBI (16).  Dillon has hit safely in the last five games with eight hits and four RBI. 

Designated hitter Matt Sodolak leads the Bears with 17 RBI.  The junior is batting .321 this season.

-Senior right hander Ryan LaMotta will get the starting nod on Friday versus the Sooners.  LaMotta is 3-2 this year in six starts and owns a 3.58 ERA.  In 27 2/3 innings pitched, LaMotta has struck out 18 batters and walked 12. 

Used in relief all of last season, LaMotta was one of BU’s best arms out of the pen in 2005.  In two relief appearances against OU last year, LaMotta lasted five innings and blanked the Sooners on both occasions after allowing three hits and striking out seven.

-Baylor is coached by Steve Smith, who is in his 12th season at the Bears’ helm and is 433-264-1 (.621) in that span.   He led BU to a 46-24 record last year and tied for first-place in the Big 12 Conference with Nebraska.  Returning from last year’s team that finished tied for third at the College World Series are 14 letterwinners and four position starters.

-BU owns a 27-23 advantage in the all-time series.  In the last 10 meetings, the Sooners are 4-6 against the Bears.  During the 2005 meeting in Waco, Baylor took the series opener (5-3) and the finale (6-2) after falling in game two (5-2).  In Big 12 play, Baylor holds a 15-12 advantage and when the series is played in Norman, OU is 14-5.

TICKETS AND PROMOTIONS
Seats for this weekend’s game are available for $10 (reserved), $7 (general admission), $5 (youth) and $3 for groups of ten or more at the OU Athletics Ticket Office (800-456-4668) and at SoonerSports.com.  The gates will open an hour and a half before game time.  On Friday, the first 500 fans will receive free OU Athletics Educational Game, on Saturday, the first 250 fans will receive a free Boomer Mascot bobblehead doll and after Sunday’s finale, kids are invited to run around the bases.

Sooner Fan Zone, an interactive fan entertainment area located on the southwest side of L. Dale Mitchell Park, will be held for Sooner fans prior to each home Big 12 Conference series. Fan Zone will open an hour and a half prior to the first pitch. Sooner fans of all ages can access Fan Zone and take part in the festivities. Highlights include inflatable interactive games for children, live music, food and much more! 

PLAYER TO WATCH:  CHUCKIE CAUFIELD

Chuckie Caufield
The right fielder led the offense on Saturday with a 3-for-5 performance with three runs scored and a RBI.  Caufield is riding a seven-game hitting streak (all-multiple hit games) and in that span he is hitting .552, slugging .862 with six doubles, three stolen bases, a home run and seven RBI.

WHO’S NEXT
After this weekend’s action, OU will continue its current eight-game home stand with Dallas Baptist on Tuesday, March 28 at 7 p.m.  OU will then return to Big 12 action to host Texas for a three-game set at L. Dale Mitchell Park.  The entire series will be broadcast by ESPNU and begins on Friday, March 31 at 7 p.m.  The series continues on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and the finale is slated for a 1 p.m. first pitch.  The entire OU-Texas series will broadcast live by ESPNU.

TOP 25
After being ranked in each of the four major polls last week for the first time since April 19, 2004, the Oklahoma baseball team remained in the all four rankings this week and improved its standing in all but one poll.  For the fourth consecutive week, OU was ranked in the top 30 by both Collegiate Baseball magazine and the National Collegiate Baseball Writer’s (NCBWA) polls.  The Sooners’ achieved its highest ranking of the season this week at No. 19 in the NCBWA poll and they are No. 22 in the Collegiate Baseball poll.  OU is also ranked No. 20 by USA Today/ESPN and No. 23 by Baseball America .  Refer to page six for a complete week-by-week breakdown.

IMPRESSIVE LAST 10 GAMES
The Sooners’ season-high, eight-game winning streak came to an end on Friday, March 17 against Arizona State (7-5).  Despite the loss, OU rebounded in its next game to win 15-8 over the Sun Devils and improve to 9-1 in its last 10 games.  During that span, OU has scored 91 runs off 117 hits and is hitting .336 as a team with 28 doubles, eight home runs and 80 RBI.  Ryan Rohlinger leads the offensive charge during the streak, with five doubles, three homers and 14 RBI.  His .425 batting average is only second to Chuckie Caufield’s .439 clip (six doubles, home run and seven RBI). 

On the mound, Steven Guerra (2.55 ERA), Ryan Mottern (2.70 ERA) and Daniel McCutchen (2.20 ERA) are a combined 7-0 during the winning streak.  Guerra is 3-0 in that span, while McCutchen and Mottern are both 2-0.  Additionally, McCutchen has 25 strikeouts (opposite seven walks) in three starts.

WHEN A STARTER EXITS
OU is 15-1 this season when the starting pitcher exits the game with the lead.  The lone exception was the Sooners’ March 17 game against Arizona State (McCutchen).  In comparison, when OU is trailing and the starter leaves the game, it is 2-3 with wins over Texas State and Notre Dame and losses to Lamar (Feb. 5), Rice and Wichita State.  Additionally, OU is 1-1 this year when a starter throws a complete game.  Daniel McCutchen threw both of those games and lost to Memphis before defeating UC Riverside.

SOLID START
The 2006 Sooners are off to one of the best starts in the program’s last 30 years after 23 games.  Since 1976, only the 1981 and 1985 Sooners (22-1) held a better mark after the first 23 games of the season.  Additionally, the 1984, 1987, 1991 and 1998 teams also started off its respective season at 18-5.  The 2006 version of the Sooners will hope to finish as successfully as those teams.  In the years listed above, each team finished with 40 or more wins; 1981 (40-15), 1984 (42-15), 1985 (55-14), 1987 (42-20), 1991 (40-23) and 1998 (42-20).

SHUTTING OUT THE OPPOSITION
OU is tied with Texas A&M in the Big 12 with four shutouts this season.  The Sooners have blanked Western Illinois (14-0), UC Riverside (1-0), Centenary (12-0) and UT-Arlington (8-0) in 2006.  The Sooners only recorded two shutouts all of last season and the last time an OU squad posted four shutouts in a season was during the 1994 campaign, which saw OU win its second National Championship.  The last time a Sooner team posted five shutouts was in 1992 and the record for most shutouts in a season is 18 (1976 and 1973).

HOME STANDS
The Sooners ended their second longest home stand of the season of four games after the UC Riverside series.  OU finished 3-1 during the stretch and is 9-1 overall this season at L. Dale Mitchell Park.  The Sooners’ longest home stand (eight games) begins this weekend with Baylor (March 24-26) for a three-game series.  That set is followed by Dallas Baptist (March 28) in a mid-week contest, Texas for a three-game set (March 31-April 2) and concludes with UT-Arlington (April 4).

OU AGAINST RANKED COMPETITION
The Sooners have faced five teams this season ranked in one of the four major polls in collegiate baseball (USA Today/Sports Weekly, Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and NCBWA).  OU is 3-3 in those contests and has defeated Arizona State (13, 16, 11, 13) Long Beach State (20, 19, 15, 11) and Notre Dame (NR, NR, 22, 27).  OU has lost Arizona State, Rice (4, 5,4, 2) and Wichita State (NR, NR, 28, 24).  The Sooners will also face six more teams ranked in this week’s polls (Baylor, Texas, Kansas State, Rice, Wichita State and Nebraska) later on this season, combining for 14 of their final 32 regular season games.  (All rankings listed were taken at the time of competition).

SCORING EARLY AND OFTEN
OU is ranked second in the Big 12 in runs scored with 187 and it has recorded 71 percent of those tallies in the second through six innings this season.  The Sooners have crossed the plate 132 times in those five innings, including 31 times in the second frame alone.  Additionally, OU has scored first in all but five of its games this season (Texas State, Rice, Indiana State, Centenary-GM3 and Arizona State-GM1) and is 15-3 when it posts the game’s first run, suffering losses to Wichita State, Lamar on Feb. 5 and Memphis.  Listed on page 11 is a complete breakdown of the Sooners’ runs scored inning-by-inning.

BEST IN THE BIG 12
The Sooners knew heading into 2006 that the defense would be solid with all but one position starter returning from 2005.  So far after 23 games, OU owns the best fielding percentage in the Big 12 (.984) and has turned the third-most double plays (22) in the conference, behind Texas A&M (23) and Baylor (24).

Kevin Smith
CONSISTENT POSITION STARTERS
OU has used numerous different starting lineups this season, featuring two or more players at every position except right field.   Chuckie Caufield has started all 23 games in right field and is the only Sooner to start every game in 2006.  In addition, Caufield has hit in the leadoff spot in all but five games this season.  The only Sooner close to Caufield’s consistency in the lineup is Kevin Smith.  Smith is the only other Sooner to play in every game this season and he has started 22 games, all at first base.

EXTRA BASE HITS
The Sooners have recorded two or more extra base hits in all but four games this season (LBSU, Memphis, Indiana State and game one vs. UC Riverside).  The Sooners’ season high for extra base hits in a game is seven.  That feat was accomplished against Arizona State in game two of the series.  In that contest, OU connected for five doubles and two home runs.

OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION
Although early in the season, the 18-5 Sooners have proven that they are an offensive team after recording 10 or more hits in 16 of its 23 games.  Additionally, the Sooner offense has scored double-digit runs on eight occasions this season (UTPA, WIU-twice, Lamar-Feb. 18, TCU, Centenary-twice and ASU).  OU is averaging 8.13 runs a game and 11 hits  per game in 2006.   Additionally, six different Sooners are hitting .300 or better (min. 45 at-bats) and 10 sluggers have 10 or more RBI, including two with 20 or more (Rohlinger-20, and Smith-21).

TRUE ROAD GAMES
Even though OU is 9-4 away from L. Dale Mitchell Park, it is only 4-2 in “true” road games this season.  In the UTPA Classic, the Sooners defeated the host Broncs 16-3 and in the Coca Cola Classic, they dropped an 8-2 decision to then-No. 5 Rice.  OU topped UT-Arlington and TCU in mid-week games and most recently split two games at Arizona State.  OU is 5-2 in the remaining games, all neutral sites, falling only to Memphis and Lamar (Feb. 5).

GOING THE DISTANCE
The Sooners’ offense held the spotlight early in the season, but the starting rotation has been even more impressive.  Seniors Daniel McCutchen and Steven Guerra have started seven games apiece so far in 2006 and have made each start last five innings in each of those starts.  Guerra has pitched six innings or more five times this season, while McCutchen has gone six-plus innings five times.  OU’s third starter, P.J. Sandoval, has lasted five-plus in all but one start (2 1/3 innings for Sandoval on Feb. 5 vs. Lamar).  Sandoval has two start over six innings.  In the Sooners’ three mid-week games this season, Ryan Mottern lasted three innings in his first start and five frames in each of the following starts (TCU and UTA).

BULLPEN VS. STARTERS
The four-man rotation of Daniel McCutchen, Steven Guerra, P.J. Sandoval and Ryan Mottern are a combined 16-4 this season with an ERA of 3.78.  The Sooners’ bullpen consisting of 10 pitchers is 2-1 with six saves and a 5.68 ERA.  Additionally, the Sooners’ starters account for 64 percent of the team’s strikeouts (109/171) and 52 percent of the team’s walks (36/69).   Finally, teams are hitting .254 against the four starters and .295 against the bullpen.
 
SMALL BALL
The 2006 Sooners are proving to be a team that has options on offense.  As the team ranks second in the Big 12 in RBI (169) and runs scored (187), third in hits (254) and fourth in batting average (.324) this season, it has also shown that productive outs are as important as power.  OU has shown its ability to be successful as a  “small-ball” lineup that can bunt, run and advance runners.  In addition to the power numbers listed above, the Sooners also tied for the lead the Big 12 in sacrifices (32-for-35) and they have executed five squeeze bunts out of six, resulting in five runs scored from third base.  OU is also fourth in the conference in stolen bases (33).

BEDLAM BASEBALL TICKETS ON SALE
Bedlam baseball tickets for the two games to be played in Oklahoma City at the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark went on sale Wednesday, March 8.   Tickets for the series opener in Tulsa will go on sale March 18.  

On Friday versus Arizona State, the Sooners will look for its first nine-game winning streak since April 2000.  The last time an OU team won 11 or 12 games in-a-row was during the Sooners 12-0 start to the 1998 season.

CHART CLIMBERS

Will Savage
Senior hurlers Daniel McCutchen and Will Savage rank in the top ten on OU’s career saves list.  With five saves this season, Savage sits alone in the No. 4 spot.  Below is a look at where Savage and McCutchen rank all-time:

1. 28 - Jeff Bajenaru (1999-2000)
2. 17 - Jarod McAuliff (2002-04)
3. 14 - Bucky Buckles (1994)
4. 10 - Will Savage (2005-present)
5. 9 - Scott Dean (1981-82)
6. 8 - Geoff Geary (1997-98)
7. 7 - Daniel McCutchen (2004-present) 
    7 - George Frazier (1975-76)
    7 - Matt Ruebel (1989-00)
    7 - Scott Girod (1990)
    7 - Scott Moore (1991-92)

PRESEASON PREDICTIONS
In the Big 12 Coaches’ preseason poll, the Oklahoma Sooners were picked to finish fifth in the league, the highest prediction since being tabbed third in 2003.  In addition, Collegiate Baseball picked OU to finish fifth and Baseball America has the Sooners finishing seventh in the conference. 

In addition to the preseason rankings within the Big 12, Baseball America tabbed Ryan Rohlinger as an All-Big 12 pick and Daniel McCutchen as one of the conference’s top 2006 prospects and Brad Burns was picked for the 2007 draft.

Finally, Collegiate Baseball named McCutchen, Rohlinger, Kody Kaiser and Will Savage as “players to watch” within the Big 12.

SOONERSPORTS.COM SPECIAL FEATURE
Click here for an article brought to SoonerSports.com from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, a national baseball publication that has been covering the sport since 1958.  The feature story was printed last month in the Jan. 6 issue and spotlights the amazing story of how OU sophomore Kody Kaiser and his uncle, OU head coach Sunny Golloway, were brought together at the University of Oklahoma.

OU BASEBALL ON RADIO AND TV
The University of Oklahoma baseball team released its 2006 radio and internet broadcast schedule on Jan. 31.  The entire 56-game schedule will be broadcast live either on the radio by KOKC (1520 AM) or on the internet via Yahoo. 

Ten of the games will be carried on the Sooners Sports’ Network, which enables fans to listen to OU baseball on the radio state-wide.  For a list of affiliates in Oklahoma, visit the Sooner baseball page on SoonerSports.com.

In addition, the Sooners will also be seen live on television for five games this season.  The coverage begins with the Texas series on March 31-April 2.  That three-game set against the defending national champs will be aired on ESPNU from L. Dale Mitchell Park in Norman.  OU can also be seen live on Fox Sports Net for its April 15 game against Missouri.  The Bedlam finale will also be televised by the Sooner Sports Network.  

Below is a look at the games that can be seen on ESPNU, FSN and SSN in addition to the 10 network radio broadcast games.

Date

Opponent

Time

Media

Friday, March 31

Texas

7 p.m.

ESPNU

Saturday, April 1

Texas

5:30 p.m.

ESPNU

Sunday, April 2

Texas

1 p.m.

ESPNU/KOKC (network)

Sunday, April 9

at Texas A&M

1 p.m.

KOKC (network)

Saturday, April 15

at Missouri

3 p.m.

Fox Sports Network

Sunday, April 16

at Missouri

1 p.m.

KOKC (network)

Sunday, April 23

at Texas Tech

1 p.m.

KOKC (network)

Sunday, April 30

at Kansas

1 p.m.

KOKC (network)

Sunday, May 7

Kansas St.

1 p.m.

KOKC (network)

Friday, May 12

vs. OSU#

7:30 p.m.

KOKC (network)

Saturday, May 13

vs. OSU*

8 p.m.

KOKC (network)

Sunday, May 14

vs. OSU*

5 p.m.

SSN TV/KOKC (network)

Sunday, May 21

at Nebraska

1:05 p.m.

KOKC (network)


# game to be played at Drillers Stadium in Tulsa, Okla.
* games to be played at the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City

SAVAGE NAMED TO STOPPER OF THE YEAR WATCH LIST
Senior pitcher Will Savage was named to the watch list for the 2006 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Stopper of the Year award presented to the nation’s top closer.  The list is comprised of 30 closers in Division I baseball, 21 of those players ranked in the top 50 in the nation among saves and nine others were at-large nominations.

Savage became OU’s go-to guy in the bullpen in 2005.  Including the postseason, Savage appeared in 18 of OU’s last 19 games.  After he headed to the bullpen on April 16, Savage made 22 appearances, spanning 46 innings, to close out his year.  In those innings of work, he posted a 2.35 ERA, recorded a 6-1 mark, made six saves, allowed 12 earned runs on 54 hits and seven walks while striking out 19 batters.

FIRST-YEAR HEAD COACHES
Sunny Golloway, OU’s eighth coach in program history, became the fourth consecutive Sooner coach to win his first season opener.  Previous skippers Larry Cochell, Stan Meek and Enos Seymore were all victorious in their debuts.  Below is a look at how the previous seven coaches in OU history have fared in their first year:

Year   Coach, Record (winning %)
1906   Bennie Owen, 10-6 (.625)
1923   Bill Owen, 12-4 (.750)
1927   Lawrence Haskell, 12-5 (.706)
1942   Jack  Baer, 17-7 (.708)
1968   Enos Seymore, 13-14 (.481)
1990   Stan Meek, 31-26 (.544)
1991   Larry Cochell, 40-23 (.635)
2005   Sunny Golloway, 18-5 (.782)

OU PICKED FIFTH IN PRESEASON BIG 12 POLL
The Oklahoma baseball team was picked fifth in the Big 12 Conference Coaches’ preseason poll as released by the league office.  OU received 44 points in the Big 12 poll, ten points shy of fourth place Baylor. 

 This year’s poll marks the highest preseason prediction within the conference in the last three seasons, after being picked third prior to the 2003 season.

Texas once again topped the list for the fourth straight year with 79 points, including eight first-place votes. Nebraska (70) and Missouri (66) followed as the only other teams to receive a first-place vote with one each. The poll was based on a vote by each of the 10 conference head coaches who were not allowed to cast a vote for their own team in the process.  Following OU was Oklahoma State (41) at No. 6, Texas A&M (36) at No. 7, Texas Tech and Kansas (24) tied at No. 8 and Kansas State (11) rounded out the list at No. 10.

2006 Big 12 Conference Coaches' Preseason Poll

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Rank/School (First Place Votes) Points
1. Texas (8) 79
2. Nebraska (1) 70
3. Missouri (1) 66
4. Baylor 54
5. Oklahoma 44
6. Oklahoma State 41
7. Texas A&M 36
8. Kansas 24
8. Texas Tech 24
10. Kansas State 11