Q&A: Johnson Recaps First Fall as OU Skipper
NORMAN – University of Oklahoma baseball head coach Skip Johnson and the Sooners wrapped up the fall season at the end of October with their Red & White Series. Johnson, who was named the 10th head coach in program history this past summer, is now just under three months from filling out the lineup card for Oklahoma first game against Indiana on February 16, 2018 in South Carolina.
Following the introduction of his first signing class a week ago, Johnson sat down for a Q&A with SoonerSports.com to recap his first fall as the OU skipper.
Q&A With Skip Johnson
What was your primary objective this fall?
“The biggest thing we did in the fall was evaluate and condition. It was important to get the guys acclimated to our system and develop a familiarity between the players and coaching staff.”
What were some of your biggest takeaways from fall ball?
“I think the fall ended on a really good note with our fall series. The last two games of the series were really competitive. Game four went into extra innings and the last game came down to a diving catch in the last inning.
“The team developed some really good camaraderie. It was on display at the Halloween game. We got to take an opportunity to kind of step back and observe our team beyond what they’re asked to do every day at game-speed.”
How would you evaluate the state of your pitching staff?
“We’re looking at a draft year for nine junior pitchers. We want those players to be able to separate the season from the draft and make it about the team. The more you have that concept, making it about the team, then the draft will take care of itself.
“This being my second year working with them as their pitching coach, I’ve seen guys make leaps and bounds. Grove walked one guy in the fall. We expect we know what we’re getting from guys like Irvin and Perez, who got out there to get going and get their innings for us.”
What are some of the team’s strengths defensively on the diamond?
“We’ve got depth at catcher; they can do a lot of things. Lindsly can play the corner infield, DeRenzo and Mitchell can play outfield. Cooke is a switch hitter and can play first.
“It’s a comfortable feeling to know that Zaragoza and Mendenhall are back up the middle. We’re just making sure they get their work in. Having the middle back is really big.”
What did you see from Steele Walker after playing for Team USA?
"Having Steele back in our outfield, no matter where he plays, is huge. He had a great summer that helped him from a leadership perspective. Anytime a kid goes out and plays international baseball, you see him come back with a different edge."
Which young hitters stood out during the fall?
“Cavalli and Hardman made a lot of headway as the fall went on with their approaches at the plate. Both of them have got a lot of raw power. They’re both very routine-oriented. Additionally, Cavalli is a two-way guy. He’s really special. We didn’t have him throw the first couple weeks, but rather wanted him to get comfortable hitting and fielding.”