He has never won 10 games in a row, but he’s been pretty close this season as the Sooners have put together seven victories in the past eight games, including a 22-0 victory against Arkansas-Little Rock on Tuesday.
The highest single-game offensive output by Oklahoma since 2011, which included a school record six hits by lead-off hitter and center fielder Craig Aikin, came as a surprising relief for the Sooners.
Not only did Oklahoma, which has only lost to UALR six times in program history, snap a four-games losing skid against Trojans, but the Sooners also showed success in the midweek – something they didn’t have last season.
“It’s a big turnaround from last year,” said Oklahoma third baseman Sheldon Neuse, who hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the first against the Trojans. “We lost a lot of games midweek in the non-conference, when we shouldn’t have. We came out. It’s a different story this year. We have a new team.”
Oklahoma (10-5) has played a lot of games through the first three weeks of the season. That was always the plan. Watching his team play well has been a bonus for Hughes.
The Sooners have beaten major conference competition, posting a 3-2 record in a west coast road trip, and taken care of the trap games with three decisive victories against mid-major opponents with a combined 40-2 score in the three games.
“That was our mindset going in but we talked about as a staff (Tuesday) morning saying, 'I can't wait to see what kind of team we're going to have this year,’” Hughes said. “Midweek really tells you what kind of guys you have. They run through someone, they never stop. They never know what day it is. They just want to win and hopefully we can't keep building on that.”
Now, Oklahoma finally returns home. A three-game series against Purdue, which has continued its multi-year freefall since winning 45 games in 2012, begins on Friday. It’ll be the first true home series for the Sooners this season.
“Playing at home, you sleep in your own bed, you have your own routine,” Aikin said. “You head out to the field, go to the clubhouse, get in your own shorts, do your own thing. Getting in a routine is big.”
Purdue (4-7) has allowed at least five runs in eight of its 11 games, and the Boilermakers three projected starters have yet to win a game all season. The Sooners have a chance to add to that total – wins and runs allowed.
A lot has changed for Oklahoma in just a year. The Sooners’ ERA is down and the pitching staff is performing at a high level, leading the Big 12 in strikeouts. Oklahoma’s bats have come alive with 15 home runs through 15 games and already halfway to last season’s total of 30.
Oklahoma is the only team in the Big 12 to post a four-home run game.
More than statistics, the mentality is different for the Sooners this season.
“No one wants to go through a season like that again,” Neuse said of last year. “We unperformed 70 percent of the time last year. I think we could have done this last year. Just coming in and working all fall and working at the beginning of the season, saying, ‘We’re not going to go through that again. Let’s do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen.’
“We’ve done that so far.”