Jan. 31, 2001

A CLOSER LOOK AT OKLAHOMA

Sooners Open With Bison and Stars

Oklahoma baseball opens the 2001 season this weekend against local rivals Oklahoma Baptist and Oklahoma City. This year marks the fifth-straight year that the Sooners have faced both teams in the first three weeks of the season. OU will be looking to avenge two 5-3 losses to OCU last year, while the Sooners were successful in upending the Bisons 9-4.

The season begins with a single game versus OBU on Friday at 3 p.m. and finishes with a two-game set against OCU on Saturday and Sunday. Both contests against Oklahoma City are scheduled to start at 1 p.m.

Scouting OBU

For the second-consecutive year, Oklahoma Baptist put together a 40+ win season last season. The Bison compiled an overall record of 45-23, including a Sooner Athletic Conference mark of 16-13, in 2000. OBU utilized a solid offensive and pitching attack as the team's offense recorded a .300 average with 45 home runs and the pitchers posted a 4.37 ERA with four hurlers throwing four complete games or more.

Oklahoma Baptist returns 16 lettermen from a year ago, including three of its top hitters. Senior outfielder Darrell Cottrell (.336), senior infielder Adrian Gascon (.331) and senior infielder/outfielder William Nolta (.327) combined for 14 homers and 106 RBIs during their junior campaigns. The Bison also pose a threat on the basepaths after swiping 76 bases last year.

OBU also returns over half of its pitching wins from last season in its top three returners, senior lefthander Chad Barton, junior righty Todd Brown and senior righthander Brad Hurst. Barton registered a team-best 11 wins last year and threw seven complete games in 16 starts. Brown and Hurst posted records of 5-1 and 9-3, respectively, while splitting time between relief and starting situations. All three pitchers were successful in holding their opponents to a .269 batting average or less.

Scouting OCU

The Stars are coming off a 50-13 season in which they captured their fifth Sooner Athletic Conference title in the last 10 years after posting a 20-4 league record. Despite a successful regular season, OCU finished third in the conference tournament and failed to make postseason play. Last year's success was largely attributed to their strong offensive production in which the Stars hit .373 as a team while pounding out 119 home runs and 508 RBIs.

Oklahoma City returns four of its starting position players and three starting pitchers off of last year's squad. Senior outfielder Mario Delgado, the team's top slugger in 2000 with a .439 average, is expected to lead the club offensively again this season. Delgado also led last year's team in home runs (18) and RBIs (76).

Delgado also saw action on the mound last year where he compiled a 5-1 record and 1.54 ERA in nine starts. The Stars top pitcher from 2000 also returns in senior righthander Chris Schroder. Schroder finished with an 11-1 mark in 15 starts and completed six games. Schroder also displayed incredible control as he struck out 102 batters in 87.2 innings of work, while walking only 19.

Season Outlook

The Sooners return 11 players, including five starting pitchers, from a team that went 41-23 last season and placed third in the Big 12 Conference regular season standings and the conference tournament. Headlining the group of returnees are All-Big 12 third baseman Jason Bartlett and 2000 Freshman All-American pitcher Austin Mix. Bartlett, a senior from Lodi, Calif., who started all 64 games in the spring, is one of only two regular returning starters in the field. Joining Bartlett is senior outfielder Jerome Godsey, who also started all 64 games in centerfield and finished second on the team in hitting last season with a .353 average.

As always, Cochell has brought in a talented group of newcomers to fill any voids on the team. This year's group includes eight true freshmen, five junior college transfers and three university transfers. Three of the incoming players were drafted and passed on Major League offers in the spring to become Sooners, including Matt Sorensen from Cal State Fullerton (Toronto - 42nd round) and two players from nearby Yukon (Okla.) High School, Denver Kitch (Pittsburgh - 29th) and Ryan Welborn (Seattle - 41st).

The pitching staff will have the greatest amount of depth of all the positions. The staff returns all of its regular starters as well as several players who pitched the majority of the relief efforts last season.

Offensively, the Sooners added several outstanding lefthanded hitters to the mix this season. With only one regular lefthanded bat in the lineup last year, seven newcomers bat from the left side of the plate in 2001, including senior Greg Dobbs, juniors Charlie Frasier and Zach Harris and freshmen Tyler Johnson and Welborn. Senior Bryan King and freshman Alex Sianez are able to bat from either the left or the right side. Cochell also noted that the group of Harris, Johnson, King, Sianez and Welborn are tremendous athletes who contribute to the overall team speed.

Preseason Rankings

The team garnered its second preseason ranking when the Baseball Weekly/ESPN Top 25 poll listed the Sooners 19th in its preseason college baseball poll which was released last week. OU's other preseason mention came from Collegiate Baseball who ranked the Sooners 15th in its initial poll.

It marks the first preseason rankings for the Sooners, who finished the 2000 season unranked in all polls, since the 1998 season when OU appeared in every initial poll, receiving the highest ranking from Collegiate Baseball who ranked the Sooners 12th that year.

Aye, Aye Captain!

For the second-consecutive year, Head Coach Larry Cochell has designated three players to serve as team tri-captains for the forthcoming season. This year Cochell has chosen seniors Greg Dobbs and Jerome Godsey and junior Evan Greusel to act as the team captains for the 2001 season.

Last season, when Jeff Bajenaru, Zach Lekse and Rick Park acted as the team's captains, marked the first time since 1995 that Cochell appointed the honor.

Class of 2001

The current group of newcomers was ranked as one of the top 20 recruiting classes in a recent issue of Collegiate Baseball. The class was rated as the 17th-best recruiting class in the nation for the upcoming 2001 season.

The ranking marked the second-consecutive year that the Sooners' recruiting class was ranked in Collegiate Baseball's top 30 listing. Last year's class was rated 29th.

Oklahoma-Alabama Series To Be Televised

Next week's series against Alabama, Feb. 9-11 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., will be televised live by both College Sports Southeast and College Sports Southwest. The broadcast times for the three-game set are scheduled to begin on Friday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 10 at 4 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 11 at 2 p.m., with first pitches occurring seven minutes after the broadcasts begin.

College Sports Southwest is available in several states in the Big 12 Conference region, including Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas. College Sports Southeast airs in nine states in the southeast region of the country, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Rotary Smith Award Watch

The 2001 Rotary Smith Award committee, which honors an individual as the nation's top college baseball player each summer, has named Sooners Jason Bartlett, Greg Dobbs, Austin Mix and Matt Sorensen to its preliminary watch list for the 2001 season.

The list includes over 160 Division I college baseball players who are under consideration to become the winner of the 14th annual award. Sports information personnel at all of the Division I baseball schools aided in compiling the list through preseason submissions. Additional nominations will be added throughout the season until the first round of voting begins in May.

Tough Competition

Once again, the Sooners' 2001 schedule features some of the country's toughest competition. OU is slated to face six teams ranked in several preseason top 25 polls and eight teams that participated in NCAA Tournament action in 2000.

OU's Big 12 schedule presents several challenges each season and this year will be no exception. Last season, the league boasted five NCAA Tournament qualifiers, including Oklahoma, and had three teams listed among the final Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball Top-25 polls. OU will face those three teams, Baylor, Texas and Nebraska, over consecutive weekends beginning Mar. 16 and ending April 1. Big 12 Conference opponents Kansas, Iowa State, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Texas Tech are scheduled for three-game sets in Norman.

Milestone Victory

Sitting at 390 career wins as the head coach for the Sooners, Larry Cochell is 10 wins shy of his 400th victory at OU. Cochell, who opened the 2000 season with his 350th win at Oklahoma, is on pace to accomplish the 400-win milestone quicker than any other OU head baseball coach in school history.

The 400-win mark will be the second time in his career that Cochell has achieved the feat. As the head coach at Oral Roberts (1977-1986), Cochell amassed 428 wins in 10 seasons with the Golden Eagles.

Mosiello Tabbed As One of the Nation's Top Assistants

Bill Mosiello, the team's top assistant coach, was recognized in a recent issue of Baseball America as one of the top assistant coaches in the country. Mosiello, who enters his sixth season with the OU program, was ranked eighth on a list of ten top assistants. The ranking, which accompanied an article on the success of several top assistant coaches around the country with major Division I programs, was based on a selective polling of numerous head coaches throughout the nation.

In addition to his duties as the Sooners' third base coach, Mosiello helps in recruiting efforts, instructs the Sooners in hitting and infielding and is responsible for OU's practice organization. At Oklahoma, the Sooners have posted several top finishes in the final national and conference fielding rankings under his direction, including a streak of three-straight first place finishes in the Big 12. Offensively, none of the Sooner teams have hit worse than .309 in his five years in Norman.

Thomas Named Summer League Head Coach

This past summer, assistant coach Aric Thomas was named the head coach of the Peninsula Oilers of the Alaska Baseball League, one of the premier collegiate summer baseball leagues. Thomas, who played for the Oilers while in college, already has extensive experience in coaching summer college teams as he has spent several summers as an assistant in the Cape Cod League, another top collegiate summer baseball league.

Now in his sixth season as a member of the OU coaching staff, Thomas is charged with tutoring the Sooners in the areas of outfielding, base running and hitting. Since joining the staff, Thomas has helped guide the Sooners to their first conference tournament championship in 18 years with the 1997 Big 12 Conference Tournament title and their third NCAA Regional bid in five years.

1951 National Championship Anniversary

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Oklahoma baseball's first national title. In 1951, Oklahoma came from behind to defeat the University of Tennessee, 3-2, in the championship game to become the first team in College World Series history to claim the title after winning the double-elimination tournament in straight games without defeat. The title also gave the University of Oklahoma the distinction of becoming the first school to win three national titles in one school year after the football and wrestling teams both captured national championships.

Sooners On The Air

Every Sooner baseball game will be broadcast on KREF 1400 AM and all Sunday games will be aired across the Sooner Sports Radio Network. The broadcast team will consist of Mark Mathew (play-by-olay) and James Hale (analysis).

In addition to the radio, each broadcast will be carried on the Internet. To hear Sooner baseball anywhere in the world, log on to the University of Oklahoma's athletic website at www.soonersports.com.