Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

May 23, 2013

New job for Jake

Former Keys standout Jake Fisher has excelled as a starter for Oklahoma after Dillon Overton suffered an arm injury earlier this season.

Coming off of a three-game sweep of New Orleans in late April, the Oklahoma baseball team seemed to be figuring things out. Another non-conference contest against Arkansas was going to be proof that the Sooners were on the up-swing.

However, Oklahoma's game in Fayetteville, Ark., was canceled due to poor weather conditions. And that wasn't even the worst thing to happen to the Sooners in the final full week of April.

A day before Oklahoma was slated to host Texas Tech in a three-game set, the Sooners found out that starter Dillon Overton would miss several starts due to inflammation in his throwing elbow.

All of a sudden, Oklahoma was left searching for a solution. Someone — anyone — had to surface quickly to keep the Sooners' NCAA tournament hopes alive.

Enter, Jake Fisher.

"I knew someone had to step up," said the former Keys standout, "and I was hoping it would be me."

In the mind of Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway, Fisher was his best alternative. And losing wasn't an option.

"Coach Golloway called me [prior to the Texas Tech game] and asked me if I'm ready to pitch," Fisher recalled. "I said, 'yes, I am. I'm ready to go out there and give you my best.' And (Golloway) said, 'I don't want your best; I need you to win.'

"So that's what I did."

In fact, Fisher made it look easy.

Fisher turned in one of his best collegiate performances, throwing 7 1/3 scoreless innings while scattering seven hits on 117 pitches. He also recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts while not allowing a walk.

Not bad for someone who had been used primarily out of the bullpen during his junior season last year and now-senior season this year.

"It's something I've done before in my career," Fisher said by phone in an interview with the Tahlequah Daily Press. "It's something I'm comfortable with."

Since the Texas Tech game, Fisher has started games against West Virginia, Oklahoma State (in Tulsa) and at Manhattan, Kan., against Kansas State. Fisher took the loss in a 9-3 setback against West Virginia, but he followed that up with a no-decision after 4 2/3 innings of work against the Cowboys at ONEOK Field in Tulsa.

"Starting at ONEOK was amazing," said Fisher, who allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits against Oklahoma State.

"It was a surreal feeling."

This past weekend, Fisher led the Sooners to their only victory against Kansas State, giving up only two runs on nine hits in seven innings of work against the Wildcats, the Big 12 champions during regular-season play.

"I thought we played well, and I thought Jake Fisher did a really good job," Golloway said following Fisher's outing against the Wildcats, which helped him improve to 2-2 on the season.

Fisher is now sporting a 2.22 earned run average with 43 strikeouts in 18 appearances (44 2/3 innings) this season.

"I feel like I've progressed a lot [this season]," said Fisher, a 5-foot-10, 178-pound left-handed hurler. "My mindset is still the same out of the bullpen of in the starting rotation."

Now Fisher and the Sooners (36-19, 13-11 Big 12) will prepare for Big 12 tournament play in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma will take on Baylor (Thursday), Texas Tech (Friday) and Kansas State (Saturday) in pool play, and the winner of round-robin play will advance to the finals on Sunday.

"The Big 12 tournament is always huge, and it's also a fun time," Fisher said. "There might be a chance we have to win the Big 12 tournament. We just have to go in comfortable and do what we can do."

While the Sooners appear headed for the NCAA tournament after this weekend, Fisher's baseball career will likely extended beyond his college years. But he's waiting to turn that page when the time comes.

"I've heard some stuff," Fisher said the prospects of a professional career for himself.

"I try not to think about it. That's the last thing I'm worried about. I'm just trying to help my team go to Omaha (for the College World Series). I'm going to do what I can to play professional ball, but that will come later."

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