Sooners Welcome Dirtbags for 2017 Opener

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
FEBRUARY 16, 2017
February 17-19 | Norman, Okla. | L. Dale Mitchell Park
Long Beach State
Weekend Pitching Match-Ups
First PitchOklahomaLong Beach State
Friday, 4 p.m. RHP-Jake Irvin, So. (6-2, 4.47) RHP-Darren McCaughan, Jr. (10-1, 2.03)
>>>Last Start L, 3.2 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 4 BB, 2 K ND, 6.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K
Saturday, 2 p.m. RHP-Dylan Grove, So. (3-1, 3.77) TBA
>>>Last Start W, 7.0 IP, 4 R, 7 BB, 6 K  
Sunday, 11 a.m. RHP-Kyle Tyler, So. (1-0, 2.12) TBA
>>>Last Start W, 4.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 3 K  



A late change to the schedule brings opening weekend to L. Dale Mitchell Park for the University of Oklahoma baseball team. Originally scheduled to be on the road, the Sooners host No. 17 Long Beach State in Norman due to inclement weather in California. First pitch of game one is set for 4 p.m. on Friday and 2 p.m. and 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Video of all three games can be streamed at and the entire series will air on Sportstalk 1400 AM/99.3 FM.


The Sooners trail the all-time series with the Dirtbags, 4-2, after taking one of three at L. Dale Mitchell Park a season ago. Oklahoma's lone win came on a walk-off home run by Hunter Haley in the series finale. Friday's season opener will mark the first time OU has visited Long Beach. The two teams have played three contests on neutral fields, including the 1989 and 1997 NCAA Regionals in Tucson and Baton Rouge.


Oklahoma is coming off a 30-27-1 campaign with an 11-13 record and fifth-place finish in the Big 12 a season ago. Seven position players that started 30 or more games last season return, including sophomore outfielder Steele Walker. He is one of three Louisville Slugger Freshman All-Americans from 2016 and hit .290 with 17 doubles; tied for the second most on record by an OU freshman. Senior first baseman Austin O’Brien, who was an All-Big 12 Freshman Team performer in 2014, is the only four-year player under fourth-year head coach Pete Hughes. O’Brien enters his final season in Norman with 104 career hits and 10 home runs. In 2016, he hit .267 with a .424 slugging percentage on nine doubles and five home runs. Senior Jack Flansburg started multiple games at all four infield positions last season, including each of the first 47 games of the year before being sidelined with a hamstring injury. He earned All-Big 12 Honorable Mention as a .278 hitter with 32 runs scores and 29 driven in. Sophomore right-hander Jake Irvin finished his rookie campaign as the Friday night starter. He resumes that roll after posting a 6-2 record with a 4.47 earned run average in 2016.


Projected Starters
OU LineupBA/OBP/SLGStatsNotes
CF-Ben Hollas .229/.384/.294 18 R, 10 SH Provided two walk-off knocks in 2016.
2B-Kyle Mendenhall .183/.283/.233 23 R,  SB Summer 2016 Texas Collegiate League All-Star.
3B-Jack Flansburg .278/.401/.385 32 R, 29 RBI Missed final eight games of 2016 (hamstring).
1B-Austin O'Brien .267/.342/.424 5 HR, 28 RBI Enters season with 10 career HR, 59 RBI.
LF-Steele Walker .290/.352/.414 35 R, 17 2B Named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American.
C-Renae Martinez .246/.380/.415 20 R, 11 RBI Hit .423 in final nine games of 2016.
DH-Brady Lindsly N/A N/A Product of Keller (Texas) High School.
RF-Blake Brewster .250/.395/.375 6 RBI Walk-off hits vs. Texas and West Virginia in 2016.
SS-Brandon Zaragoza N/A N/A  


Long Beach State is coming off a 38-22 2016 campaign, which ended in a one-run loss to Miami (Fla.) in the Coral Gables Regional Final. The Dirtbags are ranked No. 17 in the USA Today and No. 20 in the Baseball America preseason polls.  Receiving 65 votes, in the Big West Conference 2017 preseason baseball coach’s poll, Long Beach is projected to finish second in the conference. First baseman Daniel Jackson was an All-Big West Second selection hitting a team-high .321 in 2016 with .491 slugging percentage and six home runs.  Right-handed pitcher Darren McCaughan comes into the season as the reigning Big West Pitcher of the year.  In 2016, McCaughan made 16 starts and finished the year with a 10-1 record, 2.03 ERA and 0.83 WHIP with 84 strikeouts in 111 innings pitched. He also became the 12th player in Long Beach State history to compete for the Team USA Collegiate National Team.


Under head coach Pete Hughes, the Sooners are 10-4 against schools from California. When playing against teams from the Pacific or Hawaii Time Zones, OU is 16-9. When playing in the Pacific of Hawaii Time Zones, Oklahoma is 13-4-1. Since 2014, the Sooners have played seven of the 11 Pac-12 schools and posted a 3-4 record.


Sophomore right-hander Jake Irvin is scheduled to start on the mound for the Sooners on opening day. He will become the fourth sophomore to get the ball in game one in the last six season and third in four season with Pete Hughes at the helm. Irvin also becomes the third consecutive righty to start on opening day following three years in a row of lefties getting the nod.


Since 1962, Oklahoma is 36-19 on opening day and 24-3 when playing the first game of the season at home, including 23-2 at L. Dale Mitchell Park. All-time in home openers, the Sooners are 49-6 going back to 1962, including 33-2 at L. Dale Mitchell.