OU off to a strong start

Sooners pitch three one-run outings to earn a trio of victories on opening weekend

The Oklahoma baseball season started out, in second-year coach Pete Hughes’ words, “as good as it gets.”

After five games against Notre Dame and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville in a two-day span, it leveled off to feeling pretty good about the Sooners.

“I think our guys feel really good about our team right now,” Hughes said after the Sooners capped a five-game stretch with a 3-2 record to open the season. “I know our staff does. It will be really important for us going out to Arizona.”

Oklahoma, which opened the season with a big win against Notre Dame and then split the final two days, heads to Arizona for the Big 12/Pac 12 Challenge. In five days, they’ll play Washington, Washington State, Utah, Arizona State and Oregon State.

“I’m glad we’re playing five games,” Hughes said.

At home after a disappointing first season under Hughes, Oklahoma showed that its pitching is far from the wreck it was a season ago.

The Sooners allowed more than five runs just once – a far cry from the 6.29 ERA that Oklahoma’s top five usage pitchers had last season. Oklahoma allowed just one run in three of the first five games.

It started with the perfect outing from sophomore right-hander Jake Elliot.

“That is as good as it gets,” Hughes said after his starter’s two-hit performance through seven innings. “. . . Elliott allowed everyone to get settled in.”

Elliott started a demanding weekend for the Sooners’ pitching staff, which used 15 different pitchers and only closer Jacob Evans more than once. None averaged more than a run per inning and only two pitchers gave up more than one run as Oklahoma finished with 18 runs allowed – and 36 runs scored.

“Everything comes off a good start, and we got a really good one (Friday),” Hughes said after Oklahoma’s season-opening 6-1 victory.

There was good at the plate as well.

Center fielder Craig Aikin extended his hitting streak to 17 games and seven different players drove in at least two runs. Anthony Hermelyn, who made his first career start as third base this weekend, drove in a team-high seven runs and batted .333.

Aikin and Craig Wise each scored eight runs in a weather-beaten weekend.

“We’ve prepped for it and most of these kids are local kids, and they understand how the weather fluctuates,” Hughes said after the Sooners concluding 9-1 victory against Southern Illinois. “We practice out in this stuff. I thought our guys handled it pretty well. I thought we had a lot of quality at-bats. . . . We have to be disciplined and hit line drives and ground balls. We have to execute the short game and change our offense a little.”

Oklahoma’s next challenge starts Wednesday.


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