Tahlequah Daily Press

February 27, 2014

OU baseball heads west in search of consistency

By JOHN SHINN
CNHI

— This weekend’s weather forecast is calling for rain, sleet and possibly snow in Norman. That’s what Oklahoma’s baseball team will return to. The Sooners will be more worried about having an ample amount of sunblock as they open play in the College Baseball Classic in Surprise, Ariz.

After eight games, Oklahoma isn’t where it wants to be. The starting pitching has been inconsistent. Errors have been an issue. Scoring just four runs in the final two games of last week’s UCF tournament left a lot to be desired.

The pitching rotation has been juggled for the four-game series. Corey Copping (1-0, 0.00 ERA) gets the start when the Sooners face Manhattan (1-3) at 5 p.m. today. Jacob Evans (1-1, 3.75 ERA) gets the start against Santa Clara (5-4) at 5 p.m. Friday. Left-hander Adam Choplick (1-1, 4.66 ERA) goes against Arizona State (3-4) at 5 p.m. Saturday.

It’s that Sunday start against Gonzaga (2-6) that is up in the air. Jacob Evans (0-1, 7.36 ERA) could get the start. But the sophomore left-hander epitomizes the Sooners’ starting pitching struggles. He’s logged a lot of innings dating back to his freshman season. Starting, however, is different.

“Part of the maturation process for pitchers is being able to pitch in pressure situations with runners on base and figuring out how to get out of it,” OU coach Pete Hughes said. “… There’s a learning curve with all these guys figuring out new and expanded roles.”

Both Evans and Choplick have had problems in those occasions this season. Evans has given up two runs in an inning three times in just 7 1/3 innings pitched. It was three-run fourth inning that doomed Choplick in last week’s 4-1 loss to Central Florida.

Of course, the pitching staff doesn’t shoulder the blame for the offensive issues.

“We know we’re going to go somewhere and just get out and play,” Hughes said. “You can say all you want about bullpens and groundball work and hitting in the cage. You have to play games to get better. When you’re a young club with 22 underclassmen, you have to get out there and play in game situations at game speed.”

In that sense, getting four games against some quality competition is something the Sooners need.