Feb. 8, 2012
Sooners No. 14 in NCBWA poll
OU No. 15 in USA Today/ESPN Coaches' poll
Baseball America lists OU at No. 19
Collegiate Baseball has Sooners at No. 16
What are some of this club's strengths?
When you look at the strength of this team its clearly our pitching staff. The pitching staff has an opportunity to be really good. When you think about our pitching staff and our potential starters, we have a large group that has been drafted. How hard those young men work under our new pitching coach Jack Giese's guidance is going to be a key for this club. It all starts with our two left-handed starters from last year in Dillon Overton and Jordan John. They lead the way while we add in some talented newcomers in Jonathan Gray, Steven Okert and Damien Magnifico.
What are some of this club's weaknesses?
I don't know that we really have a weakness but we have things to improve upon from last year. I think offensively, we just have to be more fundamentally sound. We won 40 games last year, 50 games in 2010 and 40 some games in 2009. The difference between last year's offense and the College World Series team was how we executed. You are always going to have the talent at the University of Oklahoma, but when you are facing good quality pitching, you have to be able to manufacture runs. You have to be disciplined at the plate and you have to execute.
How important are the improvements being done each year to L. Dale Mitchell Park for this program?
When you look at the amenities here at L. Dale Mitchell Park, the renovations continue year in and year out to assist in recruiting and to help our fan base grow. We are very thankful for our administration and the attention to detail they provide to our student athletes is second to none. We started with the practice facility, added the video board and more chair back seating, and we lowered our seats down to the actual playing surface. It gives our fans the feeling that they are almost right on the field. We want our fans to have that experience and feel like a part of our program.
How has the transition been with the new coaches?
A lot has been asked about our staff with Aric Thomas returning to OU and Jack Giese bringing his professional experience. It's a new coaching staff but the same program, and that's what I've told people. Oklahoma baseball is still about our mental toughness as we fight for every pitch. We strive to play the game smart, play the game with passion, and expect to win. I think the coaches and new players coming into the program are very accepting of the Oklahoma baseball philosophy and they fit the mold of what we were looking for. So its been a very easy and smooth transition.
After the program's success over the last six years, what do you think is the current perception around the country about the Sooner program?
The stability of our program is the key. I think the perception of Oklahoma baseball is that we are a consistent top 25 team and we take pride in being a club with a chance to get to Omaha every year. We are proud to win 40-plus games in three straight years and finish in the top three in the Big 12 standings, that is special. We expect to win at least 40 games every year and host NCAA Regionals. I've said on numerous occasions, to have a really good season, you win at least 40 games and then to be great, you get 50 wins. That plateau gets you that much closer to Omaha. The fact that we have been a consistent model over the years is key, and its not easy to do, especially in this league.
NORMAN, Okla. -- In preparation for the 2012 baseball season, which begins on Friday, Feb. 17, SoonerSports.com will release a three-part preview that will break down the team by position. OU opens the campaign on the road at Pepperdine before returning to Norman for the home opener on Feb. 24 against Hartford.
The first installment of the season preview focuses on the team as it builds off last season's 40-win season and the program's 34th NCAA Tournament appearance. It also takes a brief look at the 2012 schedule.
Click the links to the right to learn more about the 2012 Sooners and read a brief Q&A with OU Head Coach Sunny Golloway.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a look at the Sooners' pitchers and catchers while the final installment on Friday will look at the infielders and outfielders.
In 2011, the Sooners put together an impressive season that a lot of programs around the country dream of. OU started the season ranked in the top five and climbed all the way to No. 2 after a program-record 16-0 start, won 41 games for the third straight season and appeared in the program's 34 NCAA tournament.
However, despite making its fourth straight appearance in the postseason, Oklahoma players and coaches ended the season with a sour taste in their mouths, dropping two straight games in the NCAA Fort Worth Regional. While the Sooners were disappointed for not making back-to-back appearances in the College World Series, head coach Sunny Golloway and company recognize the positives from last year and like the high expectations that have become the norm in Norman.
"Anytime you are ranked high in the preseason and projected to be one of the College World Series teams, and you don't get to Omaha, its going to be a disappointment," said Golloway. "But it doesn't take away from the fact that we had a special season.
"We like the fact that Oklahoma now prides itself as a team that should get to Omaha, and when it doesn't, we are disappointed. It reminds me a lot of what Bob Stoops says about our football program, if we aren't playing in the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) and we aren't competing for championships, it's a disappointment. And really, that's what happened for us last year."
The high expectations have come after Golloway's clubs have won 40 or more games in four of his six full seasons, including 50 wins in 2010. In addition, OU advanced to two NCAA Super Regionals (2006 and 2010) and the program's 10th College World Series (2010) in the Golloway era.
Those results have once again drawn attention from around the country with the release of the preseason polls. Oklahoma is ranked in the top 25 preseason polls for the fourth straight year, with its highest recognition coming from the National Collegiate Baseball Writer's Association (NCBWA) at No. 14. OU is also ranked No. 15 by the USA Today/ESPN Coaches' poll, No. 16 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 19 by Baseball America.
"I like the fact that we are starting out ranked in the 15-20 range, depending on what poll you reference," said Golloway. "We like where we are sitting right now, we feel like we are right in the mix and we have nowhere to go but up."
The Sooners return 15 letterwinners and seven starters (five position players, two pitchers) from the 2011 team and in the offseason, the coaching staff signed a class of 21 players that were ranked as high as No. 4 (Collegiate Baseball) in the recruiting rankings.
"This is a relatively new club and I like the eagerness and the excitement, and I like the veterans sprinkled in," added Golloway.
Two of those veterans are Caleb Bushyhead and Max White (pictured above). The duo are just two of the players that have helped OU return its status to one of the nation's elite programs over the last 2-3 years. The Oklahoma natives are joined by seniors Cody Reine and Erik Ross and juniors Drew Harrison and Jack Mayfield as part of the club that helped OU return to the College World Series in 2010.
"People look a lot at the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft and the fact that we had 11 players drafted, but we still return a lot of experience from last season," said Golloway. "We have a good core back from the 2010 College World Series team."
While the program looks to fill the holes left by veterans Garrett Buechele, Tyler Ogle, Michael Rocha and Cameron Seitzer, it is optimistic about the 2012 campaign. The Sooners are hungrier than ever to add a championship to the program's rich tradition and they will have to do so through another challenging schedule.
The Sooners will host 30 games at L. Dale Mitchell Park in Norman, including Big 12 series with Texas, Kansas State, Missouri and Baylor and non-conference games with Oral Roberts, Arkansas, Dallas Baptist and TCU.
Oklahoma will battle through a schedule that features 12 opponents, for a total of 28 games, that participated in last year's NCAA tournament in order to make the program's 35th postseason appearance and earn a return trip to the College World Series. Eight of the 12 NCAA participants finished the year ranked in the top 25,
while seven of the teams recorded 40 or more wins a year ago. Texas and Texas A&M both played in the College World Series while Connecticut, Dallas Baptist and Oregon State advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals.
In terms of the preseason polls, OU will face five ranked teams in Arkansas, Oregon State, TCU, Texas and Texas A&M.
"We feel like we have an extremely challenging schedule," said Golloway. "Our non-conference slate has a variety of quality programs from around the country that will help us gauge where we are at early in the season."
The Sooners will kick the 2012 campaign off on Feb. 17 for a three-game series at Pepperdine. The series in Malibu, Calif., is the first of three road trips in the first four weekends of the season. OU also travels to Albuquerque to play New Mexico and to Oregon to participate in the Nike Showcase against Connecticut, West Virginia, Oregon and Oregon State.
The 24-game Big 12 schedule begins at home against Red River rival Texas (March 16-18) and the Sooners also welcome Kansas State (March 30-April 1), Missouri (April 13-15) and Baylor (May 11-13) to Norman.
The Big 12 road series include Texas Tech (March 23-25), Texas A&M (April 5-7) and Kansas (April 27-29), while the Bedlam Series, presented by Oklahoma Farm Bureau, will be held May 4-6. Game one between OU and Oklahoma State is set for May 4 in Tulsa at ONEOK Field and the teams return to Oklahoma City for the final two games of the series slated for May 5 and 6 at RedHawks Field.
"The Big 12, as always, is going to be a tough challenge for our team which no doubt helps prepare us for the postseason run we aim to make," added Golloway.
The postseason run starts with the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship, held in Oklahoma City in Bricktown (May 23-May 27).
The NCAA Tournament begins on campus sites with the NCAA Regional (June 1-4) and NCAA Super Regional (June 8-11). The College World Series gets underway at TD AMERITRADE Park for the second straight year in Omaha (June 15-26).