The Oklahoma Sooners were scheduled to open their season on the road for the first time since 2013, but predicted weekend storms (in Southern California — go figure) have altered the gameplan for OU and its first opponent of 2017, the Long Beach State Dirtbags.
Besides having possibly the best nickname in college sports, the Dirtbags are no joke on the field and this will not be a simple series win for Oklahoma. Long Beach State made the postseason last year and returns a lot of talent. They are known for scheduling aggressively in the non-conference to boost their RPI, and the Sooners continue that trend.
The (Probable) Matchups
Friday: Jake Irvin vs. Darren McCaughan, 4 p.m., SoonerSports.TV
Saturday: Dylan Grove vs. A.J. Jones, 2 p.m., SoonerSports.TV
Sunday: Kyle Tyler vs. John Sheaks, 11 a.m., SoonerSports.TV
Friday’s 4 p.m. game will pit Sooner Jake Irvin against Dirtbags ace righty Darren McCaughan. McCaughan held opposing batters to a .173 average last season per D1Baseball, which is terrifying, so there will be no grace period for the unproven OU offense.
Sooners fans will get their first look at veterans Austin O’Brien, Jack Flansberg, Steele Walker, Ben Hollas and Kyle Mendenhall for the year. Mendenhall especially will be a guy to keep an eye on, as he’ll have to improve significantly on last season’s .183 average for the team to thrive.
The Long Beach State lineup features
a bunch of Dirtbags guys like first baseman Daniel Jackson, left fielder Brock Lundquist and DH Luke Rasmussen, the team’s top three hitters from last season (who posted an average OPS of .852 between them).
Possible Saturday starter Jones is an athletic JUCO transfer, and Sheaks is yet another JUCO righty with a low-90s fastball who LBSU will likely try on Sundays to start the year. Pete Hughes will call on Kyle Tyler to make just his fourth career start in the crimson and cream. He posted a 2.12 ERA in 17 innings last year.
OU lefties like Hollas and Walker will need to carry the team against the Long Beach State starters.
Long Beach State is a regional-quality team this year, and OU just might not be there yet. Despite the venue change, I think the Dirtbags will take the Friday and Sunday contests to give OU a 1-2 start to 2017.
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