NORMAN, Okla. — OU baseball coach Larry Cochell and his staff are working very hard in an effort to get the Sooner baseball nine back on the winning track.
Thus far the draft has only cost the Sooners Justin Garza from Seminole Junior College. Garza would have been OU's starting shortstop next year. Last year's starter - Denver Kitch - has decided to transfer to OCU and that was just fine with OU, who wasn't going to start him at short this year. This has put the Sooners a little behind the eight ball at short, but they have already signed a couple of potential shortstop's and they are still recruiting another one or two.
The Sooners have signed Randall Clay, a highly regarded prep infielder from Raton, Okla. The Sooners also inked the starting shortstop out of Northern, JC by the name of Herrera, who is a slick fielder and a spray hitter.
There is also a chance that former OU football player Bobby Klinck could join the OU baseball team. Klinck has contacted Coach Cochell and told him of his desire to resume his baseball career. In 2001 Klinck was an outstanding shortstop for Jenks High School. In fact, if Klinck can get back in the grove in baseball he will join Tyler Gooch and Eric Thornton, who were three of the five best players in Tulsa area back in 2001. Gooch will be tried at third base, outfield and as a closer. Klinck would get a crack at short, second base and third, while Thornton is a first basemen. Of course, the two football guys haven't played football in a couple of years, but they are young and are now working hard this summer to get their baseball skills back.
Russell Raley will be moved to second base for next year and is a certain starter. Matt Bose will be back for his junior year and has become a very solid utility player. He will play either third, first or catcher. Keystone Hughes, from Midwest City, is a middle infielder who redshirted last year. He has an outstanding glove, but his hitting is questionable right now.
Also at first the Sooners have signed Oley Shelton, a junior college first baseman out of Arizona. He may be the Sooners best power hitter next year, but Thornton can really hit as well. One could DH or Thornton could play third.
OU returns Spencer Wyman at catcher and highly regarded Port Neches, Texas high school catcher Josh Stinson is already on campus at OU and playing in the Jayhawk League. Stinson has a good chance to win the starting catching job next year. Brandon Lance is also back to provide depth at catcher. OU may pick up former Norman High catcher Brian Big as well.
In the outfield squadmen Tyler Johnson and Greg Kish have decided to not return to OU. Johnson is giving up on baseball to concentrate on providing for his family. Kish has decided to transfer to a school in California, which would be closer to home.
OU has signed centerfielder Simon out of Rose State, who is blessed with blazing speed. Scaderi is another JUCO outfielder out of Arizona who has great speed.
LaFringe Hayes showed that he is going to be an outstanding D1 player and he will be back for his sophomore year. Blake Hurlbutt redshirted last year, but the OU coaches are very high on the former Enid star. Andrew McGuire played a limited role last year in the outfield and will be back to for his senior season.
Early on the Sooners signed Aaron Ivy out of Putnam City North, who has great speed and who is a great athlete. Many of you will remember that he was one of the best wide receivers in the state for the past two years, but just didn't have the size that many D-1 programs were looking for. Bryant Beavers of Henryetta is a pitcher/outfielder that the coaches feel can be a good player in time. He will probably be on the mound as his fastball has been clocked in the 92 MPH range.
And then you also have Brandon Jones, who still plans on giving baseball another shot next year, but that could change if he explodes on the gridiron.
Ryan Mottern if antoher utility infielder out of Palestine, Texas. He stands 6-2, 190, but has good enough feet that he has played the middle infield.
As far as pitching, the Sooners look like they are going to be in good shape. OU lost No. 3 starter Buddy Blair to the pros, but thus far it looks like David Purcey is going to be back. Purcey was tremendous in his first two starts in the Cape, but threw terrible in front of the New York Yankees in his third start. Purcey was drafted in the 17th round by the Yankees, but they have not been back since that disappointing start. It doesn't look like Purcey is going to get the first or second round money he was looking for to leave OU. Mark Roberts will be back as well and Casey Brown, who started toward the end of the year will be back for his senior year.
OU wants to make closer Jarod McAuliff a starter and they feel he can be dominant because he has three outstanding pitches. Prized signee Charles Benoit out of Southlake Carroll, Texas is dead set on coming in giving the Soones another hard throwing lefthander on the roster. Benoit is good enough to be in the starting rotation as a freshman, but it will be tough with Roberts, Purcey, McAuliff and Brown coming back. The Sooners have also signed Ryan Rogers, a soft tossing lefthander out of Bartlesville, who the Sooners feel can get D1 hitters out. Nick Pesco, a 6-6 righty from of Consummer River CC in California played alongside another Sooner righthander Charlie House, who is also back. Ben Pinkston out of Muskogee is still trying to find his nitch at 1B or on the mound.
In a sad note, lefthander Curtis White tore an ACL knee ligamet playing pick up basketball and he is out for the year.
OU is still looking for a power-hitting right-handed hitting outfielder and a big time shortstop. If Gooch can close they feel their pitching staff could be very good.
I am sorry that I don't have complete names or information on many of the recruits, but OU still has some important recruiting to do and they have not put out any information on guys they have signed. I hope this helps many of you OU baseball fans at least for the time being.
RECRUITING: Cochell begins the rebuilding process
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