2006 OU Baseball
The 2006 baseball season is set to begin in less than three weeks and this year's Sooners will officially report for individual workouts on Tuesday, Jan. 17 and then begin team practice on Monday, Jan. 23.
In preparation for the upcoming season, SoonerSports.com will preview the 2006 version of OU baseball under head coach Sunny Golloway. The first part in the series features a general outlook and a glance at the Sooners' schedule.
Although Sunny Golloway enters his first full year as head coach of the Oklahoma baseball team, he is no stranger to the program with six years of prior experience on the Sooners’ coaching staff. Joining the coach in 2006 are 19 letterwinners, including 12 seniors, that finished the 2005 regular season with a 10-2 record under Golloway, then an interim head coach. That team closed out the regular season as one of the hottest teams in the Big 12 Conference and made the program’s second consecutive NCAA Regional appearance, a first since 1997-98.
Among the fresh faces this season are 11 newcomers and hitting coach/recruiting coordinator Tim Tadlock. The former head coach at Grayson County College led the program to two national titles and five conference championships.
“Probably the most exciting aspect about this year’s team is that we return so much experience,” said Golloway. “I can not ever remember having this many veterans returning for a season. We have eight position starters coming back, three hurlers who made regular weekend starts a season ago, our closer and a deep bench. I think history shows that teams that performed well in the power conferences, not only had talent, but a tremendous amount of experience.”
It might be hard for Golloway to remember a team with so many letterwinners because in the past 30 years, only four other OU teams (1998, 1990, 1989 and 1980) have returned that much experience. If those teams’ success is any indication of how the 2006 season will play out, Golloway and company could be in for a solid season. Those squads combined for a 150-89 mark (.628) and two of those teams enjoyed the NCAA postseason (1998 and 1989).
Among some of the key players returning this season are two 2005 MLB draft choices in Daniel McCutchen (12th round) and Ryan Rohlinger (21st round) and a freshman All-American (Baseball America) in Kody Kaiser.
“This team has a lot of potential stars returning,” added Golloway. “What really bodes well for our program is the experience they gained from playing in big games last year, whether it was in front of 10,000 fans at Bedlam, in the Big 12 Tournament, or at the NCAA Regional. These guys also have the experience of playing in 14 games against four different teams (Arizona State, Baylor, Nebraska and Texas) that made the trip to Omaha in 2005, including the national champs. Any time your season ends with the other team dog piling after the game, you know you are close.
“The biggest key is not only do they have the experience of playing in big games, but they have success in doing so. The 2005 team showed a lot of character by winning on the road at Kansas State in comeback fashion, winning the Bedlam Series and sweeping Texas Tech at home to close out the regular season. This team also has the experience of playing in the postseason in a hostile environment. The players on last year’s team made it all the way to the regional finals and ended up losing two games to a solid Mississippi team. With a good majority of that team returning in 2006, we have a tremendous opportunity to feed off that late-season success and make this a special year.”
Never a stranger to a challenging non-conference schedule, the 2006 season will once again test Oklahoma early and often at L. Dale Mitchell Park and on the road. The Sooners will play 23 games against NCAA Tournament participants from a year ago, including 12 against College World Series teams. In addition, the Sooners will host 26 games at L. Dale Mitchell Park and take part in tournaments hosted by Texas Pan American, Rice and Memphis.
The Sooners will face a total of six non-conference teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2005 including Rice, Long Beach State, Texas Christian, Wichita State, Notre Dame and Arizona State.
OU opens the 2006 season in Edinburg, Texas, at the UTPA Classic on Feb. 3, 4 and 5. The Sooners will square off against the host Broncs, in addition to Texas State and Lamar. After the UTPA Tournament, the Sooners will play their home opener against Western Illinois in a three-game series that begins on Friday, Feb. 10 and ends on Sunday, Feb. 12.
“We have once again put together a tough non-conference schedule in order to prepare our team for a very competitive Big 12 season,” said Golloway. “As a team, our goal is to contend for a Big 12 championship and get this program back to Omaha. We feel that this schedule will help us achieve those goals.”
The 27-game Big 12 schedule will feature home games against Baylor, Missouri, Kansas State and the defending national champions, Texas (March 31-April 2).
For the second consecutive year, the 2006 Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament will be held in Oklahoma City at the Bricktown Ballpark from Wednesday, May 24, through Sunday, May 28. Click here to learn about the format changes in this year's conference tournament.
“Overall, it is a very challenging schedule and if we play like we did at the end of the 2005 season, it will set us up to earn a high RPI and take us into the NCAA postseason for the third consecutive season,” added Golloway. “The Big 12 is always one of the best conferences in the nation and Nebraska, Baylor and Texas showcased that talent last year, as three of the eight teams at the College World Series.”