The University of Oklahoma baseball team launched the Skip Johnson era with the beginning of fall ball, while several alums are locked in the NL Wild Card race. The Sooners took the field at L. Dale Mitchell Park for their first official team practice on Sunday, September 17. It marked the opportunity for Johnson and first-year assistant coaches Clay Van Hook and Clay Overcash to evaluate the team OU takes into the 2018 regular season. Oklahoma will continue its fall practices, which are open to the public, until the end of October. The Sooners wil host their annual "Scout Day" on Wednesday, October 17.
NOTES FROM THE FALL
Recruiting Class Ranks
For the second time in the last three years, Oklahoma welcomed a top-20 recruiting class as ranked by Baseball America. The Sooners brought in a 15-player class consisting of 13 freshmen and two junior college transfers. Oklahoma's 2017 recruiting class was slated No. 20 by Baseball America and also earned the No. 12 slot at Collegiate Baseball News. Among OU's 2017 class that arrived on campus, four players were selected in the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Rockies, Brewers Battle for Wild Card
The Colorado Rockies and the Milwaukee Brewers are separated by 1.5 games in the National League Wild Card standings with only six games left on the docket. Former Sooner right-hander Jon Gray (2012-13), a first round pick of the Rockies in 2013, was sidelined for over a month early in the season before returning to the Colorado rotaion on June 30 and eventually returning to form as the ace of the staff. Gray is 9-4 with a career-best 3.62 earned run average and has struck out 107 batters in 104.1 innings of work. After striking out eight over six in a win at San Diego on Sept. 22, Gray is scheduled to pitch again on Thursday against the Miami Marlins in Denver.
Chase Anderson (2008-09), who has also battled injuries this season, has had a career-year in the Brewers' rotation when healthy this season. Milwaukee's nominee for the MLB Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, Anderson is 11-4 in his second season with the Brewers to go with a 2.81 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 134.1 innings pitched. He will get one last start in the regular season on the road against the St. Louis Cardinals in the final series of the season.
Center fielder Steele Walker enters his junior season after a summer with the Team USA Collegiate National Team. Most Valuable Player of Team USA's series against Cuba and Chinese Taipei, Walker also spent parts of his summer with the Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod Baseball League. Only the sixth Sooners to wear the Red, White & Blue, he was second on the team with a .333 batting average and slugged .514. Walker was identified as the 30th best prospect on the Cape and later the 60th ranked draft prospect by D1Baseball.com heading into 2018.
Texas League Title
A pair of former Sooners, Sheldon Neuse and Corey Copping, met up in the championship series of the Double-A Texas League this month. Neuse, who was traded by the Washington Nationals to the Oakland Athletics this summer, made a quick moved quickly through the ranks of the A's farm system to reach Double-A Midland and help the Rockhounds to a league championship. He homered and tripled in the series to cap off an 18-game stint at Double-A with a .373 batting average. For the year, Neuse hit .321 with 16 home runs and 79 RBI. Copping, who served as the closer for the Tulsa Drillers, afiiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, totaled two-scoreless innings across two appearences in the series. He finished the year with 18 saves and a 5-2 record in 49 games pitches.