The Oklahoma baseball team will begin play in the Big 12 Baseball Tournament tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. against Missouri. Under interim head coach Sunny Golloway, the Sooners are 10-2 and go into the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country.
Outside of Wichita State, they haven't played a team in the Big 12 with a record in the upper division, but they did play an equal opponent in Oklahoma State and beat them two out of three. The bottom line is that OU has beaten the teams on on their schedule and they will try to continue that trend in the Big 12 Tournament.
At Big 12 Coaches Media Luncheon today in Oklahoma City, Coach Golloway sat down with OUInsider.com to talk about the events of the last month.
JH: How is Coach Cochell doing?
SG: Coach Cochell is doing well and he is in good spirits. As you know, he has some health issues and right now he is doing a lot of exercising for his health and his heart, and that looks good right now.
JH: Since the incident with Coach Cochell your team has played its best baseball and gained a lot of momentum. In cases such as this that is not always the case as some teams head in the opposite direction, but OU has actually improved. Can you pinpoint how?
SG: I think that we are playing very, very confident right now. I can't really put my finger on it even though I have been around them every second of almost every day. They are just different. These young men have changed their attitude and it was immediately positive through all of this. I know that their heart is in the right place regarding this. There are a lot of things that go a lot more in-depth than I am alluding to, but that is really to protect a lot of people and a lot of young men. I can just tell you that it is basically their attitude and it has gone the right way. They are terrific young men and they have shown that through this.
JH: For most of the season you could say that this team underachieved. But is it safe to say that at this point this team is finally playing up to its potential?
SG: I don't think it is an unfair statement to say that we were underachieving. I think we have to be able to recognize that and take the good with the bad. I know that Texas A&M, for example, had a lot of hitters who were returning from very good years a year ago. I think a lot of times some teams around the conference caught us at bad times. The pitching around the conference has just been outstanding, and therefore it has made some of the teams look not as effective offensively. What I am looking forward to is seeing our team advance to the NCAA and do very well. All year you have heard all the coaches in the Big 12 talk about how strong the pitching staffs are throughout our conference, and we want that to be a reality. We want the rest of the country to know what we already know about our young men in the conference.
JH: Isn't it better to be a pitching conference than a hitting conference?
SG: There is no question that pitching and defense are what takes you a long ways in post-season. If all of those coaches in the Big 12, including myself, know what we are talking about we should be represented very, very well in the NCAA Tournament.
JH: One of the keys for OU has been the fact that the offense has turned it around. It has been a little bit slow in coming, but now you are clubbing the ball and executing small ball as well. It seems like you have all aspects of your offense going at the same time don't you?
SG: Our guys have really picked p on the 'let it fly' attitude. We don't want our young men to be restricted at the plate. Chuckie Caufield hit a two-strike pitch out of the yard, and for Chuckie to do that tells me that our kids are loose and they are letting it fly. That is what we want them to do because we know that the pitching is tough. Hitting is such a negative thing to begin with when you fail seven out of 10 times, yet you are called successful with a .300 average. We want our young men to be confident and let it fly. They have really picked up on that theme and I am happy for them. They joke with each other all the time about who can let it fly the best. (Ryan) Rohlinger has picked up on that very well. You have seen that because when he was up there with bases loaded he wanted to let it fly.
JH: Didn't you give Chuckie the home run sign with two strikes?
SG: Absolutely. I gave him the ‘Let it Fly' sign. I have that one down!
JH: A big key for you at this point is Russell Raley. Can he play for you Wednesday against Missouri or at any time in the Big 12 Tournament?
SG: We held him out of the Tech series and he is still very, very sore. He has a lot of discomfort. Russell is a tough young man and I know it is very tough on him to not be out there with his teammates. We talked again today and he didn't work out with us. He is still day to day. When Russell is ready to go he will let me know. He is a veteran in this conference and I trust his opinion on his injury, so we are just going to play it day by day. We also feel that we have made a strong campaign to get into the NCAA Tournament and we don't want to rush Russell because we want him for that NCAA Tournament.
JH: It is a toe injury?
SG: Yeah, he does have a stress fracture and I think it is on his third toe on his right foot. So, coming back is going to be based on his comfort level.
JH: Will you continue to go with Rohlinger at second and Kevin Smith at third?
SG: Yes, we will continue to go with Kevin Smith at third and Ryan Rohlinger at second. Kevin was a third baseman in junior college and Ryan was a second baseman in junior college, so they are comfortable there and we seem to be playing pretty good defense right now.
Golloway hopes Sooners 'let it fly' in OKC
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