NORMAN, Okla. For the second consecutive year, the University of Oklahoma baseball team’s latest crop of talent was ranked as a top 10 recruiting class by Collegiate Baseball as it released its rankings on Thursday. The Sooners garnered a No. 10 ranking this season after placing ninth on the top 40 list last year. OU opened fall team practice on Monday with 22 newcomers including 11 high school talents, 10 junior college transfers and one university transfer.
A number of members of OU’s newest class have put together decorated playing resumes during their careers. Seven of the 11 freshmen garnered All-State honors last year, while four of the junior college transfers were first team all-conference selections at their institutions last season.
OU head coach Larry Cochell felt the strength of talent in this recruiting class was deserving of the high recruiting mark.
“This is definitely one of our strongest recruiting classes in the terms of numbers as well as talent. We were able to retain several drafted players in this group which helps the strength and talent level of this club,” said Cochell. “This group has already begun to show the incredible athletic abilities they posess in our fall drills.”
Of the 22 new individuals, three were selected in the 2004 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft back in June. Freshman outfielder Kody Kaiser was the highest Sooner-to-be chosen in the draft in the 24th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers, followed by freshman pitcher Brad Burns who was taken in the 37th round by the New York Mets. Freshman outfielder Joe Dunigan was OU’s third signee to be drafted when he was picked in the 41st round by the Montreal Expos.
Five other newcomers have been drafted in their careers. Junior hurlers Don Powers and P.J. Sandoval both previously turned down Major League offers twice following their senior years in high school and their first seasons of junior college ball. Both pitchers were selected for the first time in the 39th round of the 2002 draft with Powers being chosen by the Boston Red Sox and Sandoval being drafted by the Texas Rangers. Texas once again attempted to draft Sandoval again with their 38th round pick in 2003, while Powers was picked by the Colorado Rockies in the 36th round that year.
Also previously picked out of high school was junior pitcher Steven Guerra who was selected by the Balitmore Orioles in the 40th round of the 2002 MLB draft. Another junior hurler, John Brownell, was also drafted in 2002 by the Colorado Rockies in the 47th round following his first year at Butler Community College.
The San Diego Padres unsuccessfully attempted to sign junior outfielder Chuckie Caufield as their 25th round selection in 2003 after his first season at Seminole State Junior College.
In addition to the Sooners’ top 10 billing, the Big 12 Conference had four other schools listed in the top 20. Texas and Oklahoma State were the highest two conference members on the list coming in at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively. Landing just outside the top 10 were Texas A&M at No. 14 and Nebraska at No. 16.