NORMAN – The University of Oklahoma baseball team was picked fourth in the Big 12 Preseason Poll as voted on by the league’s coaches and released by the conference on Thursday morning. The Sooners, under first-year head coach Skip Johnson, went 12-11 in Big 12 play last week and finished third in the nine-team league.
Texas Tech received five first-place votes to claim the top spot in the poll by one point over TCU, which received the remaining four first-place votes. Texas sits one spot and two points ahead of OU in third. West Virginia is two points back of the Sooners in fifth, while Kansas and Oklahoma State and tied for sixth. Baylor and Kansas State round out the poll in eighth and ninth, respectively.
In 2017, the Big 12 sent seven teams to the NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma earned the two-seed in the Louisville Regional and finished the season 35-24 overall. The Sooners were picked sixth in last season’s preseason poll and outperformed that pick by three spots; marking the second time in three years OU finished third after being predicted in the bottom half of the league.
Oklahoma returns all 59 starts on the mound from a pitching staff that Johnson worked with as the Sooner pitching coach a year ago. Junior right-hander Jake Irvin (Bloomington, Kan.) went 6-3 with a 3.53 earned run average last season. Senior right-hander Devon Perez (Ashburn, Va.) returned to Norman after being selected in the 21st round of the MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Angels. He went 6-2 with a 3.50 ERA in his first season at OU after transferring from Iowa Western.
Junior outfielder Steele Walker (Prosper, Texas) has been named a preseason All-American by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball News and D1Baseball.com. Walker, who spent the majority of his summer with the Team USA Collegiate National Team, hit .333 and slugged .541 with a .413 on-base percentage last season. OU also returns junior infielder Brylie Ware (Sedgwick, Kan.), the former NJCAA National Player of the Year and a 2017 Big 12 Co-Newcomer of the Year. Ware hit .298 and hit all five of his home runs in the final 14 games of the year.
The Sooners open the season on the road against Indiana in Myrtle Beach, S.C. on Feb. 16. OU’s home opener is Feb. 21 against Abilene Christian. The Big 12 opener comes on March 23 against West Virginia in Norman.