Preseason Ranking Pits OU Highest Since '95

NORMAN, Okla. — Sixteen years ago the Sooners were coming off their second national championship and entered the season with a No. 3 ranking in Baseball America.

Since then they had yet to return to the preseason Top 5 until Thursday, when Baseball America pegged the Sooners as the No. 5 team in the nation to start the year.

The ranking marks the third straight year OU has been in the Top 10 by Baseball America at some point in the season, with only the 1984-87 streak topping that one.

"The consistency over a three-year period is rewarding in that [we] know we are doing things right," said OU head coach Sunny Golloway. "Sometimes you wonder if the things you are doing, day in and day out, are the right ways to approach the game. And maintaining a Top 10 program, hosting regionals and going to Omaha reassures that and is the reward. All of those things show how hard the coaches and players have worked along a tough road.

Not only that, but the ranking also serves notice that the expectations are through the roof for the 2011 campaign, not just locally but nationally.

"The challenge is maintaining that high level and that is also one of the most fun things about coaching," Golloway said. "I said it back in December and it will get repeated throughout the season, ‘it's not where you start that matters, it's where you finish.'"

Golloway said that back in December in response to OU's No. 6 preseason ranking in the Collegiate Baseball poll.

The USA Today/Coaches poll also put the Sooners in the No. 6 spot later Thursday after Baseball America ranked them in fifth.

A huge reason the expectations are so high is because of a 50-18 season OU turned in last year that culminated in a trip to Omaha, coupled with the fact that most of the starters are returning.

"The Sooners welcome back seven starters from last year's Omaha team," Baseball America released in its statement on the squad. "The versatile offense applies constant pressure with its aggressiveness at the plate, its ability to hit-and-run, sacrifice, use the gaps and bunt. The Sooners have a nice balance of lefties and righties, scrappy athletes ([Chris] Ellison, [Caleb] Bushyhead, [Eric] Ross) and physical mashers ([Garrett] Buechele, [Cam] Seitzer, [Max] White, [Cody] Reine, [Tyler] Ogle)."

Florida took the top spot in the Baseball America poll, while UCLA, TCU, Vanderbilt, and OU rounded out the Top 5.

Texas sits just outside it at No. 6, while No. 7 South Carolina, No. 8 Cal State Fullerton, No. 9 Connecticut and No. 10 Clemson complete the Top 10.

Also of note is the fact that four Big 12 teams are in the preseason Top 25, with No. 16 Baylor and No. 21 Texas A&M also in the poll.

OU opens up play at 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18 at L. Dale Mitchell Park against William & Mary.

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