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NORMAN, Okla. – The University of Oklahoma baseball team ended its season-opening, five-game homestand with an 11-0 shutout of Arkansas Pine Bluff at L. Dale Mitchell Park, Wednesday afternoon. The Sooners improved to 4-1 on the young season, while the Golden Lions dropped to 0-6.
For the second straight game, Oklahoma jumped out to an early lead in the first inning as freshman shortstop Sheldon Neuse (Fort Worth, Texas) hit a home run down the left field line, his second of the season, to give the Sooners a 3-0 lead. Sophomore center fielder Craig Aikin (Coppell, Texas) led off the inning with a base hit up the middle, followed by sophomore left fielder Hunter Haley (Nacogdoches, Texas) reaching on a hit by pitch.
“Yeah, you want to get the bats going midweek so you feel good about your club, and so the guys feel good about their weekend play,” stated head coach Pete Hughes. “I like the way we swung our bats. It gets infectious. I do know on both ends, positively and negatively. Our guys still have to do it. They have to do it with two strikes, and two outs, and clutch [get] RBIs, we saw a lot of that stuff. It was spread one through nine too. It makes me happy.”
Two more runs came in for OU in the second as Aikin delivered a bases loaded fielder’s choice and Haley hit into a RBI groundout. Oklahoma scored for the third straight inning when junior catcher Mac James (New Braunfels, Texas) drove in senior second baseman Hector Lorenzana (San Diego, Calif.) with a double to left. Lorenzana reached on a single to right with one out and moved into scoring position on his second career stolen base.
Sophomore right-hander Corey Copping (Temple City, Calif.) earned the win in a four-inning effort. Copping was held to a 60-pitch limit as he went 63 and allowed just four hits and struck out two. As a unit, the Sooner pitchers gave up six hits, struck out 11 batters and didn’t surrender a walk. Neuse finished the game with his first pitching appearance of the season. He moved to the mount from short and struck out two of the four batters he faced.
“That was our goal going in, a lot of pitchers, our key bullpen guys,” continued Hughes. “We wanted to get Sheldon Neuse on the mound for the first time. We wanted to play clean baseball. I didn't feel great about that win yesterday. You never apologize for winning, but I want to win clean, and if we want to go to Omaha and play great in our conference, you've got to play clean baseball. You have to limit the extra base runners, cut down your walks, and cut down your errors.”
Oklahoma’s biggest inning of the day game with a five-run fifth. Freshman first baseman Niko Buentello (Lewisville, Texas) got the scoring started with a two-run home run to left; the first of his career. James then drove in a pair on a double down the left field line and came around to score on a UAPB error.
Lefty Jim Ploeger (0-1) lasted four innings in the loss for the Lions. He gave up six runs, five earned, on six hits and a walk, while striking out three. Catcher Mike Weiland went 2-for-4 at the dish.
Neuse and James each finished the game with three RBI. Neuse went 2-for-3, while James went 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
The Sooners are on the road for the first time this season at the UCF Tournament in Orlando, Fla. The action gets started with an 11:00 am contest against The Citadel on Friday, February 21.
· In the sixth and seventh, three Sooner pitchers combined to strike out five straight batters. Jonathan Gray was the last OU pitcher to strike out five in a row against Texas Tech on April 27, 2013.
· OU holds the all-time series against UAPB, 14-0.
· Oklahoma’s last shutout was against Texas Tech in the Big 12 Tournament on May 24, 2013.
· The Sooners have scored double-digit runs in three consecutive games, doing so for the first time since sweeping New Orleans in April, 2013.
· OU has scored two or more runs in an inning 14 times and three or more 11 times.
· Drew Krittenbrink has tossed 21 career shutout innings.