Western Illinois Comes to Norman

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
FEBRUARY 26, 2005

The Oklahoma Sooners (4-2) will look to win their fifth straight game as they continue the current six-game home stand this weekend against Western Illinois (4-4) at L. Dale Mitchell Park.  The series starts on Saturday with the first pitch slated for 3:30 p.m. in Norman. Sunday’s action against the Leathernecks will again start at 1 p.m. and the finale on Monday is scheduled for a 3 p.m. start. 

The games on Saturday and Sunday will be broadcast live on KOKC (1520 AM). Chuck Kelly will have the play-by-play. All three games can be heard online via Yahoo (see Live Audio link below). Live statistics are available for free for all three games on SoonerSports.com. Fans wishing to watch Monday's game live should subscribe to the O-Zone, SoonerSports.com's premium content section. All times and availability are subject to change.

Live Stats | Live O-Zone | Release (PDF)

Seats to all three game are available for $8 (reserved), $5 (general admission) and $3 (youth and 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.  Promotions for the weekend include: Saturday - Run the Bases - children can run around the bases after the game;  Sunday - Church Bulletin - bring your church bulletin to the game and receive two dollars off a general admission ticket; Monday - Senior Citizen Day - anyone 65 years or older will receive two dollars off a general admission ticket.  More Promotions.

Record: 4-4  | Rankings: NA
The Leathernecks come to Norman after stealing a 5-4 game from the Sooners a season ago in a 13-inning contest.  The Sooners won the only other contest against the Leathernecks (under Cochell) in 2002 by a 18-8 score.  Western Illinois is coached by Stan Hyman, in his 4th year at the helm (12th overall), and he is 66-113 in that time after guiding the club to a 29-36 record in 2004.  The Leathernecks finished second in the Mid-Continent Conference with a 13-11 mark and return six starters (three starting pitchers) from that team. 

In 2005, WIU is 4-4 after recently going 1-2 against Texas Tech in Lubbock.  Senior right-handed pitcher Pat Kohors is coming off an impressive performance in that series.  He picked up his third win of the season after holding the Red Raiders to one run. The 8.1 innings (8 hits, 4 strikeouts) of work against Tech helped Kohors win the Mid-Continent Conference Co-Pitcher of the Week honor.  Dating back to last season, he has won nine straight decisions.  Senior outfielder Kyle Malan is leading the team with 13 RBI and is batting .357.

The Sooner offense was more than supportive of its pitching staff against Eastern Illinois last weekend, outscoring the opposition 35-11, but that does not overshadow the fact that the Sooners’ starters were solid in each of the three outings.  Garrett Patterson, Steven Guerra and Brad Burns surrendered just eight hits and one earned run over 18 innings while striking out 19 Panthers.   The trio was almost as impressive in the Coca-Cola Classic as they went 12 innings combined and allowed three earned runs on eight hits and struck out 10.

Junior Kevin Smith, who started off the season in a 1-for-13 slump, redeemed himself against Eastern Illinois as he batted .667 in the three games.  Smith went 7-for-9 with eight RBI in the series’ first two contests and continued his hot hitting streak with a 1-for-3 performance on Monday that included another RBI.  Smith concluded the series with nine RBI and an impressive 1.083 slugging percentage.  Smith struggled as OU’s cleanup hitter in the Coca-Cola Spring Classic and was able to settle down in OU’s next three games, batting sixth in one game and fifth in the other two. Coach Cochell expects Smith to return to batting fourth in the lineup soon. 

OU opened the season 1-2 after scoring the game’s initial run in each instance in Surprise, Ariz., and continued that trend last weekend against Eastern Illinois but with more success.  The Sooners scored first against the Panthers in all three games and extended their winning streak to four games after winning the finale at the Coca-Cola Classic against South Alabama.  

Head Coach Larry Cochell
The Sooners face five different schools throughout the season (combined 16 games) ranked in either the Baseball America or Sports Weekly/ESPN top 25 polls this week (three in the top 10).  Half of those contests occur once Big 12 competition begins as Texas (3/1), Texas A&M (11/16) and Baylor (8/14) are all currently ranked in the top 25.  Non-conference opponents ranked among the nation’s best include; Cal State Fullerton (4/3) and TCU (24/23). 

Freshman Kody Kaiser continued to show why he is valuable to the OU lineup after batting .500 against EIU with a homer and three RBI.  The outfielder is riding a six-game hitting streak and leads the team in hits (12), batting average (.444), slugging percentage (.704) and total bases (19).  The Edmond, Okla., native almost hit for the cycle in just his fifth collegiate game on Sunday.  Kaiser led off the game with a triple and added a double and a home run in his next two at-bats before grounding out to second base in his last chance at the cycle. He has now served as the team’s leadoff hitter in four games (7-for-18) and batted out of the sixth spot (3-for-4) and the three-hole (2-for-5) in his other two contests.   

Although early in the season, a couple of Sooners have active hitting streaks entering the weekend series.  Kody Kaiser and Russell Raley lead all Sooners with six-game streaks.  In addition, Kaiser has four games with multiple hits while Raley has collected two games.  Senior Matt Bose and Kevin Smith have also put together hitting streaks with four games and three games, respectively. 

Members of the Caufield family have enjoyed success at the University of Oklahoma as LaNeisha Caufield (1999-2002) was a member of the women’s basketball 2002 Final Four team.  Now, Chuckie Caufield (LaNeisha’s brother), is quickly becoming a key member of the 2005 OU baseball team.  Caufield has started four of the five games he has played in so far this season and is batting .273 with two RBI and five runs scored.  He has also collected two doubles so far this season.   

After six games, the Oklahoma defense has been solid recording only three errors in 54 innings.  Its .984 fielding percentage ranks second in the Big 12 behind Texas A&M’s .996 (one error). 

The 2005 roster is filled with 19 newcomers and for the second straight week, 10-plus players saw time on the field that were not on the Sooners’ 2004 roster.  In OU’s first three games, 12 of the 22 players that saw action were not on the 2004 team.  In the three games against EIU, 14 different players were used and included in that total, six of the nine pitchers used over the weekend were newcomers.  Again it was Steve Guerra and Brad Burns playing significant roles in the Sooners’ victories.  The duo combined to allow one run on seven hits, while striking out 11 in six innings pitched a piece.  

The second game of the OU/Texas series held in Austin, Texas has been moved to a 6 p.m. (CT) start on Saturday, April 16 to make room for a television broadcast by Fox Sports Net (Oklahoma City-Cox Cable Ch. 37).   The game was originally slated to begin at 2 p.m. but was moved as part of a doubleheader in which Nebraska at Texas A&M will be aired at that time.  Fox Sports Net plans to air two other Big 12 regular season games (April 30- Texas Tech at Baylor and May 21 - Texas A&M at Texas) in addition to the coverage of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament Semifinals and Championship game.

Senior (1B) Eric Thornton
Senior first baseman Eric Thornton is one of 64 student-athletes on the 2005 Wallace Watch revised on Feb. 15 by the College Baseball Foundation in Lubbock, Texas. He is also one of seven players named from the Big 12 conference (Cliff Pennington, SS, Texas A&M; Cameron Blair, SS, Texas Tech; Ty Wright, DH/ATH, Oklahoma St.; Alex Gordon, 3B, Nebraska; Seth Johnston, SS, Texas; Josh Ford, C, Baylor).  The Brooks Wallace Award is presented annually to the national college baseball player of the year. Kurt Suzuki of Cal State Fullerton was the winner of the 2004 Brooks Wallace Award.

The Wallace Watch will be trimmed to 12 semi-finalists by Tuesday, May 24, 2005.  Then the selection committee will narrow the list to three finalists following the NCAA Super Regionals at a press conference in Omaha on Thursday, June 16, 2005. 

Dedicated to the memory of former Texas Tech shortstop and assistant coach, Wallace was a slick-fielding shortstop at Texas Tech from 1977 to 1980.  In the summer of 1984 he was diagnosed with cancer and fought the disease courageously until his death on March 24, 1985, at age 27. The Plano, Texas, native was married to the former Sandy Arnold and they had one daughter, Lindsay Ryan.

The selection committee for the Wallace Award is comprised of a national panel of preeminent coaches, sports information directors, former winners and beat media who most closely follow the sport. Screening Committee members will evaluate the candidates and will continue their review throughout the entire baseball season. Additional Wallace Watch candidates may be added as the season progresses. Voting for the three finalists and the Wallace Award winner will be conducted by confidential balloting, with totals tabulated by the J.W.Anderson & Associates accounting firm in Lubbock, TX.

Fifteen members of the 2005 OU baseball team were named to the Fall 2004 Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll as announced by the conference office on Tuesday.  Freshman Brad Burns and sophomore Aaron Ivey led the way with perfect 4.0 GPAs.  Student-athletes must maintain at least a 3.00 GPA for the semester to be recognized on the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll.  Other members included: Tyler Adkins, Matt Bose, Jared Freeman, Tyler Gooch, Steven Guerra, Brent Hodge, Kody Kaiser, Chad Lembeck, Blake Mitchell, Ryan Rohlinger, P.J. Sandoval and Cory Williamson.

Junior (2B) Russell Raley
Junior second baseman Russell Raley is no stranger to conference accolades as the Uvalde, Texas native was selected to the All-Big 12 First Team in 2004.  In 2005, the Dallas Morning News named Raley to the preseason All-Big 12 team and after the first three games, he is showing why.  Not only has Raley flashed a superb glove in the field, but he also is one of the Sooners top hitters after three games.  Raley is hitting .385 (5-for-13) with a run scored, a double and an RBI.  His five hits ranks first (tie) on the team in that category and Raley is also tied for the team lead in assists (9). 

Dunigan (4-for-10, HR, 3 RBI), Raley (5-for-13, RBI, 2B, run) and Guerra (1-0, 6 IP, one earned run, BB, SO) were named to the 2005 Coca-Cola Classic All-Tournament Team that consisted of 12 members from the four participating schools.  Raley and Guerra played key roles in the Sooners’ victory over South Alabama while Dunigan hit his first career home run (a three-run shot) against Gonzaga in game one of the tournament. 

Fans traveling to Sooner baseball games on the road will be able to listen to the Sooner Sports Network radio broadcast on “Road Radio”. At each site, fans using a regular Walkman radio may tune in to a special FM frequency to hear the play-by-play of the game. The frequency will be announced at the ballpark and will be available on the web site for future games.  The feature is also available at Sooner home games via an open FM frequency (95.5) if the game is not broadcast on KOKC 1520 but on the internet.

The program announced in December the signing of 12 new talents during the early signing period which ended earlier this week.  The new class is compiled mostly with players coming from two-year colleges as nine of the prospects hail from the junior college ranks.  The Sooners also continued to recruit strongly within the Oklahoma high school system as they picked up three of Oklahoma’s top prep players. 

The following is a brief look (in alphabetical order) at the Sooners’ 2006 incoming class, click here for more information on each player:

Omar Aguilar 
* Righthanded Pitcher - Merced Community College

Andrew Carpenter 
* Righthanded Pitcher - Sacramento City Community College

Arin Fowble 
*Third Baseman - Owasso (Okla.) High School -

Chris Henry 
*Lefthanded Pitcher - San Joaquin Delta Community College

David Hernandez 
*Righthanded Pitcher - Cosumnes River Community College

Matt Lovelady 
*Righthanded Pitcher - Modesto Junior College

John Maschino 
*Pitcher - Edmond (Okla.) North High School

Brandon Moss
*Catcher - Norman (Okla.) High School

Louis Ott  
*Infielder - Sacramento City Community College

Kyle Price  
*Infielder - Southern Nevada Community College

Aaron Reza 
*Infielder -  Modesto Junior College

Sean Shoffit 
*Infielder - Cosumnes River Community College




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