2006 OU Baseball
The 2006 baseball season is set to begin in less than three weeks and this year's Sooners reported for individual workouts on Tuesday, Jan. 17 and they will then officially begin team practice on Monday, Jan. 23.
In preparation for the upcoming season, SoonerSports.com will preview what fans can look forward to in 2006 under head coach Sunny Golloway. The third part in the series features the Sooners' infield and outfield.
Returning: J. Freeman, R. Raley, F. Rodriguez, R. Rohlinger, J. Shackelford
and K. Smith
Newcomers: A. Fowble, J. Pedretti, A. Reza
For the second consecutive season, the infield looks to be the biggest strength for the OU baseball team. Ryan Rohlinger and Russell Raley, both All-Big 12 selections at one point in their collegiate careers, solidify the defense for the third straight year. Joining Raley up the middle will be last year’s starting shortstop, Freddy Rodriguez. And on the opposite corner of the infield from Rohlinger is converted third baseman Kevin Smith.
That foursome combined to start 219 games last year and accounted for over 40 percent of the 2005 Sooners’ offensive production. Rohlinger was the Sooners best offensive threat hitting at a .345 clip with 11 home runs and 53 RBI. Meanwhile, Raley, despite missing eight of the season’s last nine game, registered a career high with 41 RBI. In their first season as Sooners, Smith and Rodriguez also showed some pop at the plate with 42 and 30 RBI, respectively.
“Heading into this 2006, this group of infielders reminds me of the 1994 College World Series team,” commented Golloway. “I don’t want to put any extra pressure on them but the similarities are there on both offense and defense. These guys have had success as starters in the past and really make us a stronger team on offense and defense. Ryan has the potential offensively to have another great year.”
In addition to the returning starters from a season ago, OU will get depth from its newcomers. Sophomores Aaron Reza and Joel Pedretti and freshman Arin Fowble all figure to see playing time in 2006. In addition, sophomore Jarod Freeman, who primarily was used as a pitcher last year, will figure into the lineup at first base and provide another left-handed bat.
“With the guys we have coming off the bench, the infielders will make our defense the strength of this team,” added Golloway. “Aaron (Reza) is a special player and we consider him another starter because he can play at third, second or short. We can place him in at any of those three positions and not miss a beat.”
Returning: C. Caufield, J. Dunigan, A. Ivey, K. Kaiser, R. Mottern, S. Rooker, C. Williamson
Newcomers: N. Conaway, J. Hughes
While OU’s outfield will see a lot of familiar faces this season, there are still some changes that were made in the offseason. Senior Chuckie Caufield (.315, 19 RBI, 9 SB) and sophomore Kody Kaiser (.305, 34 RBI, 13 SB) return as starters but will swap positions this year. With Caufield in right and Kaiser in centerfield, Joe Dunigan looks to get the starting nod in left field.
Caufield and Kaiser both provide the OU coaching staff with options in the batting lineup. Either one of the Sooners have shown they can be successful at the top of the lineup or provide some power in the middle. The tandem combined to represent 34 percent of the Sooners’ stolen bases total from last season.
That will leave Dunigan, another versatile athlete, batting in the middle and providing some power from the left side.
“The switches made over the fall have made us a stronger defensive team in the outfield,” said Golloway. “Chuckie has a great arm but we wanted to shorten the distance from his defensive position and home plate. He is a better left-to-right type of fielder, where Kody is more successful roaming the outfield. And Dunigan’s potential is no secret. The key to our defense in the outfield will be communication and that is something we worked hard on over the fall.”
Once again, the theme of depth holds true again in the outfield. Scott Rooker, Cory Williamson, Aaron Ivey and Ryan Mottern all provide returning experience and will see time as starters, while newcomers Nich Conaway and Joseph Hughes provide extra help off the bench.
“Going into last season we had a lot depth on the bench but injuries hindered us early on,” said Golloway. “We once again have a tremendous amount of options this season in the outfield. When you get past the Kaisers, Caufields and Dunigans, there are four other guys with DI experience (Scott Rooker, Aaron Ivey, Cory Williamson and Ryan Mottern) who can all start for this team. And we also have two talented newcomers with Nich (Conaway) and Joseph (Hughes) who can also figure into the lineup.”
Part 4 - Thursday, Jan. 19: Batting lineup and Q&A with Coach Golloway
SEASON TICKETS NOW ON SALE
Season tickets for the 2006 OU baseball season are now on sale through the OU Athletics Ticket Office and SoonerSports.com. Click here to learn more about what is offered for the 2006 season.
The Sooners' home opener is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 10 at 3 p.m. against Western Illinois. OU will then continue the series against the Leathernecks on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 3 p.m. and conclude the three-game set on Sunday at 1 p.m.
To order your season tickets please call the OU Athletics Ticket Office at (405) 325-2424 or (800) 456-4668 or click here for more information available on SoonerSports.com.