But looking around the dugout Tuesday night as his team stayed together despite a 22-run loss against Oklahoma State, Hughes knows how much better this year’s team is at handling the emotional swings of the game.
“I got the right group of guys in that dugout,” Hughes said of his team that has won four conference player of the week awards. “We were a really good team before (Tuesday) night. We are today. You want to feel sorry about yourself and go to Austin and get beat twice because of one game? No.
“We’re ready to go. It’s called perseverance. It’s called adversity. It’s called the life of a season.”
Having won five straight before being dismantled by Oklahoma State, the Sooners open a series Friday against a Texas team that is going in the opposite direction.
The No. 25 Longhorns (18-15, 5-4 Big 12) had lost seven straight, including a sweep at the hands of Oklahoma State, before holding off a late rally by Wichita State on Tuesday.
“Playing at their place is one of the hardest parks for us to play in,” shortstop Sheldon Neuse said. “We’re going to get heckled. It’s going to be a fun environment. Once you start paying attention to that crowd, you lose focus and lose sight of what’s going on – on the field.”
More than any other series, Oklahoma (22-13, 6-3) needs to keep its emotional reserve against Texas – especially with a chance to separate from the Longhorns for the No. 3 spot in the Big 12 standings.
Part of that will be recovering emotionally from the drubbing in Stillwater, something Hughes said won’t be as much of an issue as it might have been last season. With a more veteran clubhouse, the Sooners will lean on its top pitching duo this weekend and moving forward.
Jake Elliott, who struggled in his last outing, will need his even-keel attitude when facing the Longhorns, who recruited the Texas-native, on Friday. Now pitching with confidence, Alec Hansen has turned into an upper-level No. 2 starter and leads all Big 12 pitchers with 64 strikeouts – and boasts just a 3.04 ERA.
The Oklahoma offense leads the conference in hits and home runs and is second in slugging percentage, but it has done it recently without its best player.
Neuse is 10-for-43 against Big 12 opponents since the start of the Big 12 schedule.
“I think he’s trying to do too much for a team that doesn’t need him to,” Hughes said of Neuse. “. . . He’ll get there. That’s part of maturing as a lineup and maturing as a guy that hits in the middle of the order.”
In the immediate practice after Tuesday’s loss, the Sooners took to a makeshift homerun derby, something that seemed to have a relaxing effect.
“We can’t let (the loss) derail us,” right fielder Taylor Alspaugh said. “. . . We can’t let just one bump in the road stop the whole train in general.”