The Batter's Box - Putting The Ball In Play Has Been Oklahoma's Key To Success

USA Today Sports

The Sooners have scored a Big 12 best 46 runs through the first six games of the season. What makes this feat even more special is an understanding of Sunny Golloway's lineup. He has a strong group of newcomers, made up of freshmen and JUCO transfers, that must produce immediately along with a group of veterans that must lead by example. So far both groups are doing just that, as the gel together as a team, but something that they are specifically doing with the ball has been key to early success.

Matt Oberste's two home runs are the most in the conference but even more impressive is his Big 12 leading 12 RBI because it is a team effort. Putting runners on before a power hitter adds value to a base hit or a home, run and Oberste is slapping the ball around the park at the most opportune time. However, he's doing it as a part of a team concept. Let's look at the mid-week series against Arkansas-Pine Bluff as an example of what Oklahoma is doing from the plate.

Oklahoma's Veterans vs. UAPB Pitchers

Oberste and Max White had more at bats than any other players on the team and they responded by knocking seven base hits (including one home run) in 16 combined at bats. Oberste led all the veterans with three RBI. While it was an impressive performance by the veteran leadership of the team it wouldn't have been complete without the efforts of the newcomers.

Oklahoma's Newcomers vs. UAPB Pitchers

Hector Lorenzana and Hunter Haley have been solid through Oklahoma's first two series. Craig Aikin isn't hitting the ball as well now as he will later on in the season but his speed has paid off once he gets on base.

The main difference between the newcomers and the veterans is the number of walks. The returning players are being much more aggressive at swinging the bat while the new guys are showing more reserve. It actually creates a nice balance for the team.

All Sooner At Bats vs. UAPB

Here's what Oklahoma has done extremely well this season. When you look at the outs you see a lot of pop up and fly outs as well as a lot of ground outs. Take Oberste and White for example. Between the two of them they had a combined eight outs that came from a pop up, fly ball or grounder. However, take a loot at their strike outs as well. Only one of the seven veterans was punched out in the two games against UAPB. The newcomers weren't that far off either with just two of them striking out.

The Sooners are putting the ball into play and as a coach, or fan of the team, that's what you want to see. Oklahoma's team batting average (.323) is the third highest in the Big 12 and their on base percentage (.443) is the second highest. Matt Oberste is second in the conference in hits (10) and the Sooners have four of the top nine in the conference in runs scored. When you look at total bases within the Big 12, Oklahoma has four of the top six and the Sooners have three of the top seven players in the conference to draw walks.

Baseball is about getting on base and scoring runs. As much of a plus that solid pitching can be it doesn't score any runs. What the Sooners are doing is attacking opposing pitchers by patiently waiting for good pitches and then putting the ball in play once it comes across the plate in the strike zone. So far it has worked and as the season moves on you have to believe that the team is only going to get better at swinging the bat.

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