Texas Series: Three Big Questions

The No. 9 baseball team is starting a crucial series against the No. 7 Texas Longhorns at 6:30 p.m. today at L. Dale Mitchell Park. Even though the Sooners (22-3, 3-1) are off to a great start, they have some big questions to address if they want to win their first season series in the Red River Rivalry since 1998.

1. What kind of performances will we see from Zach Neal and J.R. Robinson? Neal has been inconsistent as the opening game starter, and Robinson is making is first weekend start since the second weekend series of the season. Neal is coming off a very good start against Nebraska, in which he lasted seven innings and struck out 11 batters, but will he be able to repeat his performance against Texas or will we see another sub-five inning outing from the right hander? If Neal doesn't have a quality start and OU loses the series opener, then the Sooners will have a very difficult uphill climb to win the series. Robinson is in the same boat in the sense that he's been inconsistent. He'll show how high his potential is one start, and then he'll leave everyone scratching their heads in his next start. Robinson will be starting the series finale, a game the Longhorns have not lost during conference play this season.

2. Will Cameron Seitzer stay on fire and help jump start the Sooners' lineup against Texas' solid pitching staff? It's not a secret that Seitzer is OU's hottest hitter. He's raised his batting average to .416, hit for the cycle Tuesday and went 6-for-8 with two home runs and six RBIs in the first two games of this five-game home stand, but as of late he hasn't gotten much help from many of his teammates. Garrett Buechele and Caleb Bushyhead's batting averages have decreased over the past few weeks, and the only other consistent hitter in the lineup is Max White. White has taken advantage of his opportunity since becoming a regular face in the starting lineup, and he's provided some security out of the five-hole for cleanup hitter Seitzer. If Seitzer and White can get off to a good start in this series, then hopefully the rest of the lineup will respond by forcing Texas' pitchers to worry about more than just two hitters.

3. Will the Sooners have a home field advantage? There will be season-highs in attendance during this series at home, but with this being Easter Weekend a lot of OU students are heading home to be with their families. Sunny Golloway said in a radio interview he wants to see a type of crowd at home like he saw in Austin when the Longhorns swept the Sooners last year. Texas' home crowd changed the complexion of that series, and if Sooner fans show up in droves and are rowdy then maybe they'll be this weekend's X-factor in a series where the two teams are so evenly matched.

We'll see if the Sooners can answer these questions en route to a series victory, but the odds are against them even though on paper they have a slightly better team. The last two games of the series will be at 6:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday, weather permitting. Bobby Shore, OU's most consistent starting pitcher, will be on the mound Friday.

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