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Pitching Needs To Catch Up With Hitting For A True Run At Omaha

Oklahoma needs more performances like the one Rocha gave on opening day.
Oklahoma needs more performances like the one Rocha gave on opening day.

Oklahoma has been wearing out the wood aluminum from behind the plate while scoring more runs in baseball than a certain football team from Austin could post on the scoreboard. Against William And Mary last weekend the Sooners outscored the Tribe 42-12 and then in a two game mid-week series the Sooners outscored Arkansas-Pine Bluff 39-8. Oklahoma can put the ball in play and get on base for sure!

The Sooners are tops in the Big 12 in homeruns with 12 over six games. They're the best in the conference in runs scored and in overall hits with an eye popping 81 in each category. For some perspective, Texas is second in the Big 12 in runs scored with 39 and Nebraska is second in hits with 51. Two Sooners (Chris Ellison and Evan Mistich) have more runs scored (10) than the Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri teams. Garrett Buechele leads the conference in homeruns (4) and hits (11). Now, pitching is a different story. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that Oklahoma's pitching is bad. The Sooner bullpen has a combined 3-0 record with 16 strikeouts and a 1.56 ERA. Five of Oklahoma six starting pitchers have lasted at least five innings and Jordan John has a 2-0 record while leading the conference in strikeouts with 12. Oklahoma's pitching has been good but outside of Michael Rocha's performance last week it hasn't been dominating like the offense.

Rocha went seven innings allowing just 1 hit while striking out 7 batters with no runs scored. He was every bit as advertised but out of Oklahoma's starting rotation he's pretty much the only one to do so. Bobby Shore fell behind 3-0 in the first inning and gave up a total of 5 runs in 5.1 innings before being pulled with an 8.44 ERA in Oklahoma's second game. JUCO transfer Burch Smith looked outstanding in the first inning of his Sooner debut but was rocked for three runs in the second and was finally pulled in the fifth inning with the Sooners trailing 0-4. Freshman Dillon Overton was more than solid in his debut with a seven inning performance in which he only gave up one run on four hits. However, two of Oklahoma's four starting weekend pitchers left the mound without being in position to pick up a win.

Ryan Gibson had the worst start of any Oklahoma pitcher last week. He only lasted 3.1 innings and gave up four runs on 5 hits. Then came Jordan John's performance on Wednesday evening. He went seven innings, allowing just 1 run on 6 hits while striking out 9 batters.

The point I'm trying to make is that Oklahoma's pitching has been all over the place the first week of the season and the Sooners can thank a strong bullpen for half of their wins at this point. Now Sunny Galloway has to figure out a rotation that's going to properly compliment Oklahoma's offensive explosion. This weekend's series against Oakland is the perfect opportunity to play with the rotation a bit before the Sooners head to San Diego next week for the University of San Diego Tournament.

No. 4 OU (6-0) vs. Oakland (0-0)
 Game 07  Friday, Feb. 25 (3 p.m.) Starting Pitcher: Michael Rocha
 Game 08  Saturday, Feb. 26 (12 p.m.) Starting Pitcher: Bobby Shore
 Game 09  Sunday, Feb. 27 (1 p.m.) Starting Pitcher: TBD
 Location   Norman
 Series History  This weekend will be the first time the two teams have met
 Radio  Sooner Sports Network | KREF 1400 AM

Sunday's starting pitcher has yet to be named and I think that Jordan John would have had a chance to move into the weekend rotation had he not been on three days rest. The fact that Galloway is leaving the spot open is an indication that he's at least thinking about shaking some things up with the rotation. 

The problem is that at some point this season Oklahoma is going to be in a pitcher's duel with a guy who has the ability to shut down their potent offense. If the Sooners can't answer with a guy who is equally nasty off the mound then they're in trouble. Right now Rocha is that guy but Shore, Smith and John all have the potential to be on par with him. They just need time to find their stride so to speak and get back into the habit of making clutch pitches. Time is something the Sooners can enjoy now with the way their stroking the ball.