Sooners looking for the right arms

OU heads to Big 12/Pac 12 Challenge looking to find its rotation

If the first five games of the Oklahoma baseball schedule were about finding arms and giving them experience, then the next five days are about finding the right arms and giving them the right experience.

After opening the season with five games this past weekend, the Sooners head to the Big 12/Pac 12 Challenge with games against Arizona State, Washington, Washington State, Oregon State and Utah – one game every day starting Wednesday.

Oklahoma coach Pete Hughes used 15 pitchers in the first five games, trying to get experience and innings for his young staff. That’ll be the plan again.

With a little bit more scrutiny as Hughes looks for his potential weekend rotation.

“Everything is off starting pitching,” Hughes said. “Everything is predicated off starting pitching. We have to figure out what our rotation is going to be, and we have to get guys better. The only way you can do that is play.”

One of those spots already seems filled.

Oklahoma (3-2) used Jake Elliott as its opening-day starter. Hughes said he’ll be the pitcher with the ball in his hand on Friday night. At least that’s the case right now.

Elliott, who Hughes said has the ability to be the Sooners’ Friday night starter, allowed just two hits in seven innings and struck out four. Elliott returned the second-most innings this year, just behind Jacob Evans, who will likely be the Sooners’ closer.

This week is big for him as well – a chance to prove his worth against top non-conference competition.

“We’re playing a lot harder teams this week,” Elliott said. “It’ll really show where we are as a team right now and where we have to be come May or when Big 12 starts. . . . I’d rather face the best team in the nation than a team that’s not that good. That way, I know that I’m facing the best. In order to be the best, you have to beat the best.”

Everything about Oklahoma’s non-conference schedule was planned out strategically. Hughes wanted a lot of games early to load up on innings.

The Sooners have a single game in Dallas next Tuesday and a trip to Hawaii in the second week of March. Other than that, Oklahoma has just one road non-conference game the rest of the season and plays just five mid-week non-conference games after Big 12 play begins.

There still more experienced to be gained this week.

“We’re going to throw a lot of arms out there again,” Hughes said. “It was strategically scheduled that way. We got a lot of junior college kids some valuable experience. The idea is to get experience, have success and build a bunch of confidence heading in to Big 12 play.”

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