The Oklahoma Sooners (1-2) open the home portion of the 2005 season this weekend with a three-game set against Eastern Illinois (0-0) at L. Dale Mitchell Park. The series starts on Saturday with the first pitch slated for 1 p.m. in Norman. Sunday’s action against the Panthers will again start at 1 p.m. and the finale on Monday is scheduled for a 3 p.m. start.
Saturday and Sunday’s game will be broadcast on the Sooners’ new radio home this year, KOKC (1520 AM). The OU baseball program welcomes one of its own, Chuck Kelly, as its new play-by-play commentator. Saturday and Monday’s games can also be seen on Oklahoma’s official web site at SoonerSports.com (live stats are also available). Fans wishing to watch the broadcasts must subscribe to the O-Zone, the site’s premium content section. All times and availability are subject to change.
EASTERN ILLINOIS NOTES
Record: 0-0 | Rankings: NA
The Panthers return to Norman for the first time since 1997, the last meeting between the schools. In those two games, the OU offense collected 25 hits and produced 18 runs to the Panthers’ nine. The victories improved head coach Larry Cochell’s record to 5-0 against the Panthers. The two also met in the 1992 season and played a three-game set. In the five overall contests, the Sooners’ have outscored the Panthers, 53-23.
EIU’s head coach Jim Schmitz is in his 11th year at the Panthers’ helm (18th overall), he is 282-248 after guiding the club to a 26-30 record in 2004. The Panthers finished second in the Ohio Valley Conference with a 17-9 mark and return six starters from that team. Among those starters are third baseman Ryan Campbell who was named by Collegiate Baseball to the Louisville Slugger Freshmen All-American team. The right-handed sophomore, who hit .347 with 44 RBI, is a team captain and will most likely bat third in the lineup. Ted Juske, one of two seniors on the team, returns and is projected as the No. 1 starter for EIU. The lefty went 4-2 with two complete games in 2004 and recorded a 5.79 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 46.2 innings pitched.
GAME TICKETS AND PROMOTIONS
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 and popcorn and sodas will be specially priced at Saturday’s game for 50 cents each. More Promotions.
After dropping the 2005 opener to Gonzaga in the Coca-Cola Classic, the Sooners are still an impressive 13-2 under coach Cochell on opening day. The only other defeat was also against Gonzaga in the 2004 Coca-Cola Classic. Following are some other notes of interest about opening day under Cochell:
* OU has compiled a 31-7 record over their opening weekend series.
* Oklahoma has recorded five shutouts.
* OU has only been taken into extra frames once in 2001 when it emerged with a 4-3 win over Oklahoma City in 11 innings.
* One of the most significant victories during this span was when the 1999 squad knocked off then-second ranked Georgia Tech, 12-0, in their second game of the ACC Disney Baseball Bash in Orlando, Fla.
TOP 25 OPPOSITION
The Sooners face six 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 (4/1), Texas A&M (14/17) and Baylor (8/12) are all currently ranked in the top 25. Non-conference opponents ranked among the nation’s best include; Cal State Fullerton (3/2), Arizona State (11/18) and TCU (23/25).
GETTING IT DONE
Freshman outfielder/designated hitter Joe Dunigan (pronounced DONE-again) sparked the OU offense against Gonzaga on Saturday in the season opener with a three-run home run in the eighth inning to give OU a 6-5 lead. Dunigan proceeded to go 4-for-10 in the Coca-Cola Classic (three games) with three RBI and a homer. Dunigan leads OU in RBI, home runs, total bases (7) and slugging percentage (.700).
Another freshman, Kody Kaiser, is proving to be a vaulable newcomer for OU early in the season. The outfielder went 3-for-4 in his first collegiate game with two runs scored batting out of the six spot. In the next two games, Kaiser was OU’s leadoff hitter where he recorded two more hits and an RBI. He is batting .385 and is tied for the team lead in hits with five.
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).
After three games, the Oklahoma defense has been almost perfect recording only one error in 27 innings. Its .991 fielding percentage is third in the Big 12.
The 2005 roster is filled with 19 newcomers and in OU’s first three games, 12 of the 22 players that saw action were not on the 2004 team. Included in that total, five of the seven pitchers used over the weekend were newcomers. In OU’s victory, two pitchers, Steve Guerra and Brad Burns, dominated South Alabama. The duo combined to allow one run on four hits, while striking out six. Burns racked up five of those stikeouts, the freshman came in out of relief for Guerra and retired nine straight batters in three innings worked.
COCA-COLA CLASSIC ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
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.
One trend that remained consistent in the Sooners’ three games in Surprise, Ariz., was scoring first. In each contest, OU got on the board first courtesy of senior Eric Thornton in each instance. Thonton had an RBI double against Gonzaga, an RBI single versus Arizona State and he scored the first run versus South Alabama. Unfortunately, taking the initial lead did not produce the results OU was looking for as the club went 1-2 in those contests.
In just three games played, three Sooners have hit safely in each of the contests. Kody Kaiser, Eric Thornton and Russell Raley all recorded hits in each of the three games at the Coca-Cola Classic and they also recorded multiple-hit games as well. Raley collected two hits against Arizona State and South Alabama, Eric Thornton was 2-for-4 against Gonzaga and in the same game, Kaiser went 3-for-4 against the Bulldogs.
AROUND THE BIG 12
After two weeks of action, four teams in the conference still hold perfect marks. Texas (8-0), Texas Tech (5-0), Missouri (1-0) and Nebraska (0-0) all are undeafeated. Following is a look at the standins as of Feb. 16.