Inside the Sooners' Struggles

NORMAN, Okla. -- Since starting a program best 16-0 out of the gates this season, OU has gone just 11-11 in its past 22 games, begging for an answer to exactly why it has slumped so mightily of late, which Sooners Illustrated provides right here.

1. Inconsistency in the lineup--Head coach Sunny Golloway has mixed up the lineup in a number of different fashions throughout conference play and none have quite proved to be the perfect fit. OU hitters dominated their non-conference slate with a combined .354 batting average but have tailed off since entering the Big 12 portion of the schedule. Sooner hitters are 62 points lower in conference play, hitting just .292 in their 7-7 start, though they are still tied for the league lead in batting average with Oklahoma State. But despite leading the conference in batting average, OU has been ineffective at times in manufacturing runs on the table. Some of that can be attributed to better pitching, but a lot of it is simply the result of a poor approach at the plate and lack of execution. There's obviously a ton of pop in the lineup with power hitters such as third baseman Garrett Buechele, catcher Tyler Ogle and first baseman Cameron Seitzer, among others, but overall a truly stacked lineup hasn't really meshed in conference play despite belting the ball early on, although many statistical categories would suggest so.

2. Questionable performance from the starting rotation--Again, the talent is here. There's no arguing that. But outside of Friday night starter Michael Rocha (3-1, .099 ERA), no one has really shown any type of consistency on the bump. Freshman Dillon Overton has split rotation duties with Bobby Shore, and Overton, who's 1-3 in Big 12 play, is allowing opponents to hit .355 against him throughout 15 innings of work on his way to a 4.20 ERA. Shore has been battling tendinitis and although he's held opponents to just a .224 batting average over 16 1/3 innings, Shore has managed just a 4.41 ERA and 0-1 record. And Burch Smith isn't quite mowing down opponents either, posting a 5.06 ERA throughout 21 1/3 innings of Big 12 work. He's credited with three wins and only one loss, but at the expense of this high ERA. OU has the third best ERA in conference play, but again, those numbers are skewed by Rocha's ridiculous 2011 run to date.

3. Mental mistakes--Most of these show up in the form of fielding percentage, where the Sooners rank just sixth out of 10 teams in the Big 12 throughout conference play. OU owns a .973 fielding percentage, just two percentage points ahead of seventh-ranked Kansas State. The Sooners have the fifth most errors in Big 12 games, committing 14. As previously mentioned, too, OU has had a poor approach in many situations at the plate. Chalk this down as another example of mental miscues. And the Crimson and Cream lead the conference in balks. OU has committed three of those, and each one has been huge, perhaps most notably one at Kansas State, which helped the Wildcats to explode for five runs in a huge sixth inning of that rubber match loss. These are just examples of the types of mental issues that have led to seven conference setbacks and 11 overall.

4. Living off last year's success--Golloway said it in his postgame after the Kansas State series loss: A lot of the guys on the team are walking around like they're entitled to success based off what happened last season. As everyone knows, the Sooners had a terrific postseason in 2010 en route to an appearance in the final College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium. But other than preseason expectations, that run really has no bearing on the 2011 campaign. Players are acting like it does and thus seem to be going through the motions at times. This can't happen, especially in a conference as tough day-in and day-out as the Big 12.

So, these are some of the reasons why OU has struggled after getting out to a scorching hot start.

If OU can work out some of these issues, it could still end up as a season culminating in Omaha yet again.


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