NORMAN, Okla. -- At the midway point of the conference season, the Sooner baseball team (22-18, 6-9) will look to snap a three-game skid against the No. 6 team in the nation, Nebraska (34-8, 10-5), in a pivotal series at L. Dale Mitchell Park this weekend.
OU is currently seventh in the Big 12 standings, just behind Texas Tech (7-9) and Oklahoma State (9-9) and ahead of Kansas State (6-12) and Texas A&M (6-12). The Cornhuskers are tied for second with Missouri (10-5) and sit ahead of Texas (11-6) and behind Baylor (13-5).
The three-game series between OU and Nebraska will be broadcast live on KOKC (1520 AM) with Chuck Kelly calling the play-by-play. The pre-game show will start 15 minutes prior to the scheduled first pitch. Each of the games will start at six minutes past the hour with the ESPN Family televising the entire series. Friday’s game will be shown on ESPN (Oklahoma City-Cox Ch. 29) and be followed by the final two games of the series on ESPNU (DirecTV Ch. 609) with play-by-play announcer Gary Thorne and color analyst Kyle Peterson covering each of the three games. All times and availability are subject to change. Live stats will also be available through SoonerSports.com.
-Overall Record: 34-8, Big 12: 10-5
-Rankings: No. 6/8 (Baseball America and Sports Weekly/ESPN)
The Cornhuskers have been tough on the road, compiling a 10-3 mark this season. However, two of those losses have occurred in Big 12 play against two of the conference’s lower-tier teams, Kansas and Texas A&M. After losing back-to-back games to No. 1 Texas (NU’s longest losing streak this season), the Huskers have gone 8-2 in their last 10 outings. Suffering defeats to Baylor and Texas A&M. Nebraska defeated Wichita State, 4-2, in Wichita on Wednesday night.
Six different regular starters are currently batting over .300 and all but one of those hitters have driven in 20 or more runs in 2005 (three with 35+). Alex Gordon stands out with a .401 average to complement his 14 home runs and 41 RBI. He was voted the Big 12 Player of the Year, by the league’s coaches, last season as he hit .365 (18 homers, and 75 RBI.
Nebraska is expected to throw Joba Chamberlain in the opener and Zach Kroenke on Friday. Saturday’s starter is yet to be determined, but Brian Duensing has started in every conference series this season for NU (in game 3). Chamberlain is putting up impressive numbers with a 6-0 record, a 1.84 ERA and 83 strikeouts (second in the Big 12). Chamberlain is 2-0 in Big 12 play with a 2.78 ERA. Kroenke has started nine games (one less than Chamberlain) and is 4-2 in 2005 with a 3.11 ERA (Big 12: 2-2, 3.77). Duensing has started eight games and is 5-0 with a 3.38 ERA (Big 12: 2-0, 5.06).
Since 1963, OU leads the series with Nebraska, 82-59, and owns a 41-16 mark at home. Seven of those losses have come since 1999. It was in that season, that OU won its last home game against Nebraska, who has won the last seven meetings at L. Dale Mitchell Park. The last time OU defeated Nebraska in a home series was in 1997, a three-game sweep. Under head coach Larry Cochell, the Sooners are 27-19 against the Huskers and 15-9 at home.
2004 MEETINGS WITH NEBRASKA
After splitting the first two games of the series in Lincoln, the rubber game came down to the wire with OU coming out on top, 2-1. With two Huskers in scoring position with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Oklahoma’s Daniel McCutchen closed out the game for the victory over Nebraska in both team’s regular season finale.
OU took the opener of the series, 6-4, after McCutchen nailed down the save. Nebraska came back to win the second game by shutting out OU en route to a 1-0 victory. Russell Raley led OU with two hits in the finale of the series and led all Sooners with six hits in the three-game series. Eric Thornton, Ryan Rohlinger and Matt Bose collected three hits apiece against Nebraska in 2004.
McCUTCHEN IS CLUTCH
Since blowing a save against Nevada on March 6, Daniel McCutchen has returned to being a starter for the Sooners. McCutchen has spent most of the season in the bullpen with some struggles. But McCutchen has redeemed himself with two solid starts in the last two weeks, his first starts since the second game of the season against then-No. 12 Arizona State. Since the game against Nevada in the KIA Klassic, the hard throwing righty has lowered his ERA from a 13.03 to its current total of 5.15. In his last three appearances, two of which were starts, the Norman, Okla., native has allowed just three runs (one earned) in 20.1 innings tossed. Also in that span, McCutchen has posted 25 strikeouts and allowed just 12 hits and six walks. Unfortunately, the hurler has not recorded a decision in the last three contests (Kansas, No. 1 Texas, No. 17 Missouri).
PATTERSON SPELLS RELIEF
Left-hander Garrett Patterson has adjusted to his new role as a reliever in the Sooners’ bullpen by recording a save (Kansas) and a win (Missouri) in his four relief appearances since his last start on March 18 against Arizona State. Patterson left that game with a lower-abdominal strain, but has since returned and pitched effectively in relief. In 10.2 innings pitched, Patterson has allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits and nine walks. In addition, the McAlester, Okla., native has struck out 18. In has last appearance, Patterson finished off a suspended game against Missouri to pick up on Saturday what Daniel McCutchen started on Friday. Patterson threw 80-plus pitches in 4.2 innings of one-hit ball. The two hurlers combined to strike out a season-high 15 batters in the ten-inning win (2-1) over No. 17 Missouri.
GAME TICKETS AND PROMOTIONS
OU Baseball fans can enjoy a new ticket package for this weekend’s games versus Nebraska. The new Triple Play Pack includes a reserved seat, a hot dog and a drink for only $10 per game. With a limited number of reserved seats at L. Dale Mitchell Field, Triple Play Packs are subject to availability. The Triple Play Pack may be purchased at the gate on game day, however, due to limited availability fans are encouraged to order in advance. Tickets can be purchased by calling the OU Athletics Ticket Office at (800) 456-GoOU or by visiting Soonersports.com. The gates will open an hour and a half before game time. Promotions for the weekend include:
Thursday, April 28th 6 p.m.
-First Pitch - Men’s Gymnastics Head Coach Mark Williams - 2005 NCAA Coach of the Year
-First 250 fans will receive OU AM/FM portable radios
Friday, April 29th 6 p.m.
-University of Oklahoma Alumni Night
-First Pitch - Oklahoma Wrestler Teyon Ware - 2005 141 lb. National Champion
Saturday, April 30th 1 p.m.
-Military Appreciation Day (Local military branches will be honored during the game)
-Fan Zone (11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.)
- inflatable interactive games
- live music
The Sooners improved to 17-3 at home after recording an 11-6 win over UTA on April 19. In its 20 games played at L. Dale Mitchell Park, OU is hitting .348 as a team and has significantly outscored the opposition, 207-112. All but four of the Sooners’ 22 home runs this season have been hit in their home park. Twenty-seven of Kevin Smith’s 32 RBI have come at home. The junior is hitting .357 with a .543 slugging percentage in the 20 games. Left-handed pitcher Garrett Patterson has also enjoyed playing in front of the home crowd. The junior is 3-0 with a save in three starts and two relief appearances at L. Dale Mitchell Park. The lefty has 31 strikeouts in 23.2 innings pitched and a 1.90 ERA in games played in Norman.
ROHLINGER STAYS HOT
Junior Ryan Rohlinger continues to lead the Sooners offensive charge this season as he is tops on the team in batting average (.365), hits (57) and RBI (34). Rohlinger hit .282 last year with six homers and 32 RBI. Rohlinger has moved up and down the lineup this year, not to mention being moved from shortstop to third base, and is currently been hitting out of the three-hole. The West Bend, Wisc., native is currently riding a five-game hitting streak and he has hit safely in ten of the last 12 games with a .422 batting average in that span. He has also collected six multi-hit games in the last 12 contests to go along with two home runs, nine RBI and a .622 slugging percentage.
TOP 25 OPPOSITION
The Sooners face six different schools throughout the season (combined 17 games) ranked in either the Baseball America or Sports Weekly/ESPN top 25 polls this week (two in the top 3). All but five of those contests occur in Big 12 competition as Texas (1/1), Baylor (11/16), Nebraska (8/6) and Missouri (14/24) are all currently ranked in the top 25. The Sooners have already played seven ranked opponents in 2005 after defeating then-No. 14 Texas A&M in two games, then-No. 22 TCU, Missouri and Baylor in one game each. The Sooners were swept by Texas, lost two games apiece to Baylor and Missouri and dropped a single game to No. 2/2 Cal State Fullerton. The Sooners lost all four meetings with Arizona State this season, but the SunDevils were only ranked in the first game (2/12).
LOOKING BACK A YEAR AGO
After 40 games last season, the 2004 Sooners were 26-14 overall (15-9 home / 7-4 away) and 13-3 in Big 12 play. That same OU team was hitting .282 (386 hits) with 27 homers, 212 RBI and 245 runs scored. On the other side of the ball, the Sooners’ pitching staff held a 3.79 ERA.
In 2005, OU is 22-18 after 40 games (17-3 home / 3-12 away) and 6-9 in conference action. This year’s Sooners are hitting .295 (416 hits) with 22 home runs, 243 RBI and 287 runs scored. In addition, OU hurler’s in 2005 have a combined ERA of 4.73.