The Oklahoma Sooner Baseball team is welcoming 14 new faces this season. First year head coach Pete Hughes is excited about the influx of new talent.
“We couldn’t be more excited about this year’s newcomers,” said Hughes. “I am extremely happy with the depth and the overall talent of this class. We certainly expect several of our newcomers to be major contributors in the 2014 season.”
The Sooners will have to replace the on-mound production of standouts Jonathan Gray, selected third overall in the MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies, and Dillon Overton, a second round selection of the Oakland Athletics. With seven new arms, they are poised to do just that.
Left-handed sophomore Jeffrey Curran, who played for Fullerton College in 2013, pitched his way to a 9-2 record and a 2.25 ERA, anchoring a conference championship team. He is joined by fellow lefty Octavio Rodriguez, a freshman and El-Paso, Texas native who earned All-State honors in 2013 and was named 2012-2013 Perfect Game All-American, while pilling up more than 200 career strikeouts.
The 2013 class is loaded with righties as well.
Jake Elliott, 6-foot-7 freshman, earned four letters at Coppell (Texas) High School and is a two-time District Pitcher of the Year. Elliott was also named Louisville Slugger Second Team All-American and Associated Press Second Team All-State in 2013.
Freshman Tyler Gibson of Wister, Okla. is a two-time All-Conference player and led Wister to the 2011 2A State Championship.
In his senior year, freshman Alec Hansen was dominant at Loveland (Colo.) High School. He struck out 71 and had an ERA of just 0.91 for the season. He is joined by junior Connor Buchmann, who spent two seasons at Howard College in Big Springs, Texas and sophomore Chad Nelson who spent the 2013 season with Oklahoma City University.
The Sooners are welcoming a wealth of offensive talent as well.
Fort Worth, Texas native Sheldon Neuse was named District MVP as a junior and as a senior at Keller Fossil Ridge High School. Neuse, an infielder and right-handed pitcher, hit 30 career homeruns and was named District Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore.
The 2013 Gatorade Oklahoma Baseball Player of the Year, Austin O’Brien also signed with the Sooners. O’Brien, an infielder, hit .402 with 36 RBI for an Owasso team that won the state championship and became the first Oklahoma 6A team to go undefeated. O’Brien was named to numerous All-American teams and was the recipient of the 2013 Oklahoma Coaches’ Association Jim Thorpe Award.
Sooner fans will recognize the name Cody Thomas. The freshman outfielder from Colleyville, Texas also plays quarterback for the Sooner football team. Thomas batted .482 with 15 home runs and 51 RBIs as a senior at Colleyville Heritage. He was also a 30th round draft pick of the New York Yankees this past summer.
Oklahoma also landed junior college standout Keach Ballard. A utility player, Ballard was named a 2013 NJCAA All-American and bolstered a Murray State team that won the 2013 NJCAA Division II World Series. Ballard hit .352 with 10 home runs, 47 RBI and scored 61 runs in 2013.
Freshman infielder Taylor Neitsch hit .404 for Lovejoy High out of Allen, Texas while being named First Team All-District. He is joined by fellow infielders Joshua Ake and Niko Buentello. Ake, a junior college transfer from Howard College, hit .278 in 36 games played in 2013. He was originally drafted out of high school in the 29th round by the New York Mets in 2011. Buentello, a freshman from Lewisville, Texas, hit 30 career homeruns for Lewisville while being named All-District all four years of high school.