Oklahoma baseball: Sooners go into Texas Tech series with positive vibes

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - APRIL 30: David Dahl #26 of the Colorado Rockies flies out in the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on April 30, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - APRIL 30: David Dahl #26 of the Colorado Rockies flies out in the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on April 30, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Over the course of a 50- or 60-game season you are bound to go through some peaks and valleys. Oklahoma baseball has experienced both this season.

Currently, though, the Sooners (30-15, 8-7) are on an upward trajectory, right where they should be at this late stage of the season.

OU began the 2019 college baseball season roaring out of the gate to a 21-4 start and a No. 19 national ranking through the first 25 games. The Sooners were delivering on the diamond and everything was coming up roses…until it wasn’t.

Over the next 13 games, a period from March 26 to April 16, Oklahoma went just 4-9 and won just three of 10 games against Big 12 opponents. Since then, the Sooners have rebounded, winning two consecutive series and five of their past seven games.

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Oklahoma is back home at L. Dale Mitchell Park this weekend for the first time since April 9. Texas Tech is the Sooners’ opponent in what will be an important series for both teams.

The 12th-ranked Red Raiders are 30-14 overall and currently in second place in the Big 12 standings with an 11-7 record. They have won seven of their last eight games, including a three-game sweep of Oklahoma State last weekend.

The Sooners lead the all-time series against Texas Tech with a 48-38-1 record, but the series has been much closer since the Red Raiders became members of the Big 12 in 1996 (34-32-1 in favor of OU). Oklahoma has won two of the three games the last three times Texas Tech has come to Norman.

OU and Texas Tech have played four common opponents in Big 12 play this season (Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State and West Virginia), and both went 7-5 against those four teams.

What you need to know about Oklahoma

  • Pitching continues to be the strength of the Sooners’ this season. Three starters have at least six games and the team ranks 13th nationally with a staff ERA of 3.31.
  • Freshman Jason Ruffcorn leads the Big 12 in saves with 10.
  • The probable Sooner starters for the Texas Tech series are freshman right-hander Ben Abram (6-1, 3.21 ERA), junior right-hander Nathan Wiles (7-2, 3.71) and sophomore left-hander Levi Prater (6-4, 2.54).
  • Freshman reliever Wyatt Olds has pitched 20 scoreless innings in 25 appearances this season.
  • OU averages 5.7 runs per game; Sooner pitchers are yielding an average of 3.7 runs per game.
  • Sophomore first baseman Tyler Hardman is the only Sooner player hitting above .300, with a .309 batting average. Hardman also leads OU in hits (56), RBI (33), total bases (84) and slugging percentage (.464)

Scouting report on Texas Tech

  • As a team, Texas Tech is hitting .306, second best in the Big 12 behind Baylor (.316).
  • Five Red Raider regulars are hitting above .300, led by junior second baseman Brian Klein with a batting average of .355.
  • Texas Tech leads the Big 12 in on-base percentage, reaching base in 41 percent of their plate appearances.
  • Right fielder Gabe Holt leads off most of the time for the Red Raiders and is another of the Tech hitters batting over .300. He gets on base a lot, and that is double trouble for opposing teams because he leads the Big 12 with 23 stolen bases.
  • Senior first baseman Cameron Warren wields the power bat in the Red Raider lineup. He is second in the Big 12 with 11 home runs, and leads the conference with 56 runs batted in.
  • Right behind Warren in the RBI department are three other Red Raiders: shortstop Josh Jung (44), center fielder Dyan Neuse (43) and Klein (40).
  • Junior right-hander Caleb Kilian is the best of the Texas Tech starters. He has a 7-2 record in 11 starts, with an ERA of 4.22.

The bottom line

Oklahoma and Texas Tech are two of the three Big 12 teams that have reached 30 wins this season (Baylor is the other) and both are playing well right now. Pitching will be the key in this series. If the Sooner pitching can hold down the hot-bats that loom throughout the Texas Tech lineup, OU will have a good chance of winning the series, which means taking at least two of the three games.

If not, this series could doom Oklahoma chances of finishing in the top half of the conference standings. The Sooners have series remaining against Oklahoma State and Texas.

Next. Sooners get by Kansas State for 2nd straight series win. dark

All nine of OU’s remaining nine regular-season games, including the three with Texas Tech this weekend, are against teams that rank in the top 50 of the NCAA RPI. Texas Tech is No. 13, Oklahoma State is No. 24 and Texas is No. 48 in the latest RPI rankings. Oklahoma is in the middle at No. 36.