College baseball: What we learned about OU, Oklahoma State over the weekend
Welcome back, college baseball.
The season got into full swing last week with both OU and Oklahoma State off to a strong start. Here is a look at how the week went and what’s ahead for each team:
Long ball fuels Cowboys
OSU coach Josh Holliday was curious leading into the first games at O’Brate Stadium just how it would play.
The early results show the Cowboys can hit the long ball there, and from any part of the lineup.
OSU hit six homers in the weekend sweep of Illinois State — three each Saturday and Sunday — and now have nine on the season.
Catcher Brock Mathis caught fire Saturday and Sunday, hitting a homer in each game. He was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week, batting .462 and slugging 1.154 on the week while driving in five runs over four games. He also doubled and scored three times in a win at Wichita State.
Also on Sunday, freshman Nolan McClean and Jake Thompson each homered. On Saturday, Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Cade Cabbiness homered.
For the weekend, OSU had 19 total hits. Five of those were doubles. On the season, OSU is batting .260 with 25 extra-base hits.
But even with the long ball so prominent, don’t overlook the start of others.
McClean is batting .389 with four walks in his first five collegiate games. Veteran Alix Garcia — the first Cowboy to homer in the new stadium — is batting .375 with a homer and six RBIs. His slugging percentage is .708.
Crooks making his mark early for Sooners
While OU’s offense has had a bit of a shaky start to the season, redshirt freshman Jimmy Crooks has started off strong.
After not starting the opener, Crooks has been in the starting lineup in each of the last six games, with three starts at catcher and three at designated hitter.
The transfer from McLennan is hitting .364 with a .548 on-base percentage and .683 slugging percentage, leading the team in all three categories.
Crooks’ biggest game came in Friday’s 4-3 win over Auburn where he went 3 for 3 with a run and drew three walks.
He led off the eighth inning with a single and ultimately came around to score to pull the Sooners within one. His ninth-inning single set up a sacrifice fly a batter later that helped OU force extra innings. Then he worked a walk in the 10th that loaded the bases for Tyler Hardman’s two-out walk-off hit in the next at-bat.
Only two other Sooners’ hitters are batting better than .300 — Peyton Graham (.333), who didn’t play in Sunday’s 9-3 Round Rock Class finale win over Baylor, and Conor McKenna (.320).
The Sooners are last in the league in slugging percentage at .336, with just seven doubles and four home runs.
OSU’s rotation off to strong start
Through six games, the Cowboys’ starting rotation has allowed just five runs to score.
Veteran lefty Parker Scott allowed one run in two starts, freshman Bryce Osmond allowed two in his two starts and newcomer Justin Wrobleski allowed one in his only start. Even freshman Justin Campbell allowed a single run in the stadium opener.
Scott has been particularly effective, striking out 13 batters in 11 innings.
The Cowboys couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season from the rotation.
But the bullpen has been nearly as strong.
Outside of a hiccup by Heritage Hall graduate Roman Phansalkar and a blown save by veteran Brett Standlee, the Cowboys have mostly been lights out.
Phansalkar allowed four runs and did not record an out Monday at Wichita State, but he recovered with two shutout innings Sunday.
Standlee blew a save Friday, allowing a tying single to highly regarded catcher Hayden Jones. But Standlee picked up the win on a walk-off single by Campbell.
Overall, the Cowboys enter the week with a 2.17 ERA.
OU's bullpen coming through
While OU’s offense hasn’t been sharp at times so far, the Sooners’ pitching staff has been solid, with a 3.57 ERA over the first seven games with 67 strikeouts and 31 walks in 63 innings pitched.
The bullpen is where OU has really shined, with a 2.27 ERA compared to the 5.27 ERA of the Sooners’ starters.
Jason Ruffcorn has yet to record a save this season but has been excellent in relief, with three scoreless appearances, allowing just one hit in three innings pitched.
Ruffcorn needs just one save to tie Jacob Evans and Jarod McAuliff for third in Sooners’ history with 17 career saves.
The Sooners have had just one potential last-inning save situation, though, and that one — the 8-5 win over Omaha on Feb. 22 — didn’t become a save situation until there were two outs in the ninth. Skip Johnson elected to stick with second-year freshman Christian Ruebeck to get the final out there after Ruebeck had given up a pair of runs already in the inning.
Jaret Godman hasn’t allowed a run in 7 1/3 innings, with six hits and one walk. Carson Carter also has a 0.00 ERA in 7 innings of work.
While most of the positive momentum has come from the back end of the pitching staff, left-handed pitcher Jake Bennett has been strong in his two starts so far, with a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings pitched.
Bennett has been effective in different ways, striking out 10 in five innings in a no-decision over Omaha.
In Saturday’s 9-3 win over Baylor, Bennett wasn’t overpowering with just two strikeouts in five innings, keeping the ball down and allowing his fielders to work behind him.
The approach worked, though defense hasn’t been crisp to start the season.
A year ago, the Sooners didn’t commit an error until their eighth game and had just nine in the pandemic-shortened 18-game campaign.
Through seven games, OU has 10 errors. The defense was better late in the week, though, with just three of those coming in the last four games.
Last year, Justin Mitchell and Tyler Hardman combined for 219 putouts and 13 assists without an error. Each has committed two errors so far this season.
So far this season: 4-3
Over the weekend: 2-1 (Beat Auburn 4-3, lost to Texas A&M 8-1, beat Baylor 9-3 at Round Rock (Texas) Classic)
This week: at Frisco College Baseball Classic in Frisco, Texas. vs. Arizona, 2 p.m. Thursday; Arizona, noon Friday; Missouri 7 p.m. Saturday; Dallas Baptist, 6 p.m. Sunday.
So far this season: 6-0
Over the weekend: 3-0 (Beat Illinois State 3-2, 8-2, 6-0)
This week: at Missouri State, 3 p.m. Tuesday; vs. Grand Canyon, 4 p.m. Friday 4 p.m. and Saturday, noon Sunday.
Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The... Read more ›
Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the... Read more ›