Justin Hite - Scout

Oklahoma Sooners have ridden a up-and-down season looking for first NCAA Tournament appearance under Hughes

A surprise on the mound has helped Oklahoma turn around from a sluggish start to the year

It’s a must-win season for Oklahoma baseball coach @Pete Hughes, who began his third season as the Sooners head coach in March still looking his first NCAA Tournament appearance with the team.

Oklahoma hasn’t missed the NCAA Tournament in three-straight seasons since 1971, when the Sooners missed the tournament 14-straight seasons. The Sooners started the season needing to replace more drafted players than any other program in the nation and hoping that an RPI-driven road schedule would translate into an NCAA Tournament appearance.

Now that the Final Four run is finished and spring practice concluded Saturday with the Red-White game, the baseball team comes into focus as much as ever.

Oklahoma goes on the road to face Wichita State on Tuesday. Here are three things to know if you are playing catch-up with the season:

 

1. Oklahoma is turning things around at the right time

After the Sooners started the season 5-9-1 with a grueling West Coast road trip, they’ve turned it around during the Big 12 season. Oklahoma is now two games over .500, having won four of the last five and six of the last eight. At 4-5 in the conference, the Sooners are just two games out of second place.

The bats are heating up, too.

Outfielder Hunter Haley was named Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week after he hit .429, recorded eight RBI and hit three home runs last week – a three-week win for the Sooners.

Oklahoma has allowed three or fewer runs in five of its last eight games following a sweep at the hands of Texas Tech, which is four games clear of the rest of the Big 12.

After a one-game set against the Shockers, Oklahoma faces TCU and West Virginia around a weekday Bedlam matchup with Oklahoma State.

 

2. Winning in walk-offs and going yard

The Sooners have definitely been thrilling this season.

Oklahoma has won four games with walk-off hits and has closed the last three weekend series with walk-off winners, including a win in the rubber match with Baylor last weekend. The Sooners won twice against Baylor on the last at-bat and didn’t lead in either game until the final run.

Oklahoma is banging around at the plate as well. This weekend against Baylor, the Sooners hit four home runs, the most in a series this season.

 

3. Pitching surprises

Alec Hansen came into the season as a potential top-5 pick in the MLB Draft. He has lost four games in six starts and has a 7.29 ERA. Oklahoma ace Jake Elliott hasn’t earned a decision all year and is allowing opponents to hit .315 this season.

Oklahoma still has the fourth-best team pitching numbers in the Big 12.

Freshman Chris Andritsos has been a major bright spot. He has a 2.70 ERA and four wins in seven starts. Andritsos is allowing just a .186 opponent batting average – second in the conference.


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