Getting to know Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Sooners have been on a tear in recent weeks with Big 12 Tournament and NCAA Regional Championships. They will bring a stellar pitching staff with them when they travel to Baton Rouge to face off with LSU in their next step on the road to Omaha. TSD's Austin Cooper breaks down the 2013 Oklahoma Sooners and what their strongest areas are heading into the weekend.

The Baton Rouge Super Regional will feature two of the hottest teams in the country in No. 4 national seed LSU and Oklahoma. With the series beginning this weekend, TSD's Austin Cooper breaks down every facet of the Oklahoma game and which players are standouts where. The Sooners currently rank among the best in the country in several different aspects with pitching being their backbone.

Overview

Overall record: 43-19
Big 12 record: 13-11

Oklahoma will be traveling to Baton Rouge to take on LSU in the Super Regional stage of the NCAA Tournament. The Sooners got to this point by defeating Coastal Carolina, Connecticut and Virginia Tech to win the Blacksburg, Va., Regional. They had a very good showing over the weekend and they certainly raised some eyebrows about their potential to get to Omaha and play for all the marbles.

The Sooners had a very good regular season. Perhaps their top non-conference victory of the 2013 season came over nationally seeded UCLA in Los Angeles. While their win over the Bruins is impressive, Oklahoma lost several games to non-tournament qualifiers this season, including two to each of Dallas Baptist, West Virginia and Baylor. Still, their regular season was impressive.

Oklahoma wasn't able to win the Big 12 regular season title, as they finished third behind Kansas State (44-17, 16-8) and Oklahoma State (41-19, 13-10). However, they did end the season on a hot streak that carried over into the Big 12 Tournament, which the Sooners won in four games. Ever since that point, the Sooners have been on a roll. They have won eight games in a row dating back to May 19th and will look to continue that this weekend against LSU.

Pitching

Top starter: Junior RHP Jonathan Gray – 10-2, 1.59 ERA, 138 SO
Team ERA: 2.94

It has been known for quite some time that the Sooners sport one of the most devastating pitching duos in all of college baseball. Oklahoma currently maintains a 2.94 team ERA and are solid in both the starting and relief pitching departments.

Ace Jonathan Gray has been nearly flawless throughout 2013 and has played himself into potentially being the top pick in the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft. Gray is power arm that collects strikeouts like it's going out of style, as evidenced by his 138 strikeouts in 119 innings pitched. Hits are also to come by off of Gray with him only allowing 78 throughout the season.

No. 2 starter Dillon Overton has been equally as impressive as Gray in 2013. The 6-2 160 pound junior left-hander has compiled a record of 9-2 to go along with an ERA of 2.91. Overton has done all of this over 86.2 innings while only allowing 84 hits and striking out 76. Overton isn't quite the power arm that Gray is, but he gets outs on a consistent basis. He is very crafty on the mound and is well-known for his ability to keep hitters off-balance at the plate.

The Oklahoma bullpen also features yet another excellent arm. Freshman left-hander Jacob Evans stepped right in and contributed in a big way for the Sooners in his first season on campus. Throughout 2013, Evans compiled a record of 7-2 with nine saves in 52 innings of work. He has also allowed just 36 hits while striking out 41.

The pitching staff is definitely the strong point on this Oklahoma squad and they will definitely make the Sooners a competitive team no matter who they are facing off against. The effectiveness of the Sooner staff coupled with the pitching staff that LSU features should be a great sight to see this weekend in Baton Rouge.

Offense and base running

Top hitter: Junior 1B Matt Oberste - .376, 11 HR, 60 RBI
Team batting average: .286

With how good the Oklahoma pitching staff has been in 2013, it was not necessary for the Sooners to have a stellar offense. They compiled a team batting average of .286 throughout the season. The Sooners are currently averaging 5.7 runs per game as an offense, compared to just the 3.7 that they allow per game.

Without a doubt, they are led at the plate by junior first baseman Matt Oberste. The right-handed stick is currently hitting .376 with 11 homeruns and 60 RBI and has been one of the few sources of power for the Sooners this season.

The only other player hitting over .300 for the Sooners is senior center fielder Max White. The right-hander is more of a contact hitter as he has an average of .313 with three homeruns and 32 RBI.

Even though the Sooners only feature two hitters over the .300 mark and have only hit 32 homeruns as a team, they are still a very dangerous group and can deliver a timely hit.

On the base paths, Oklahoma is very aggressive and it has resulted in some not-so-good efficiency in the steals department. As a team, the Sooners have stolen 60 bases, but have been caught stealing 32 times. Individually, freshman left fielder Craig Aikin leads Oklahoma with 16 steals.

This will be a very important aspect of the weekend for the Sooners because LSU sports one of the best defensive catchers in the country in junior Ty Ross. If the Sooners can move runners on the base paths, producing runs won't be a problem for them.

Defense

Top fielder: Junior 1B Matt Oberste
Team fielding %: .972

Defense can make or break a team during tough matchups. Oklahoma has been fairly efficient in this department for the better part of the 2013 season. They have produced a team fielding percentage of .972. The Sooners have committed 68 errors as a team this season, with 22 of them coming from shortstop Jack Mayfield.

They are led on defense by first baseman Matt Oberste with a fielding percentage of .995. It will be imperative that Oklahoma plays good defense this weekend against an LSU team that puts the ball in play, as defense has been a cause of spotty play by the Sooners at times in 2013.


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