Texas Baseball Heads to Norman to Take On Oklahoma

Photo courtesy of Schoolly_D

The Horns lacked punch in Tuesday's 7-2 loss to Rice. Texas will have to settle for winning the season series as they move on to a critical series in Norman.

And for the Indians, that's one run on, let's see...one hit? That's all we got? One goddamn hit?

The only positive to come out of Tuesday's 7-2 loss to Rice is this blogger's ability to refer to one of my favorite lines from Major League. Texas managed to score twice on just one Ben Johnson single on Tuesday night as Rice dominated a game where just about every Longhorn struggled. It's hard to beat a good team three times and Rice desperately needed this win. Kudos to them, let's move on. The only actual good thing to come out of the loss was a walk to Mark Payton extending his reached base streak to 73 games.

A sweep would have been fluff for the Texas postseason resume but a season series victory will do just fine by me so long as the Horns get over their hangover by the time they land in Norman for a critical series with the Sooners.

Oklahoma is 23-11 on the year but 4-2 in conference play after consecutive series victories over the state of Kansas. OU isn't ranked by any major poll and Boyd's World puts them at 55th in ISR with a strength of schedule of 168 (OSU has a conference "leading" 169 SoS). The Sooners have no wins over a top 40 ISR team this season largely because they haven't played any, and OU has as many wins against teams ranked 250th or worse as Texas does against teams in the top 20 (5 each).

The Sooners beat Kansas State three weeks ago largely on the backs of a pair of big crooked numbers on Friday and Saturday. Oklahoma put up 8 in the bottom of the 5th on Friday to turn a 3-1 deficit into a big 9-3 lead and added 8 more in the 8th on Saturday to turn a 3-2 game into a blowout.

You'll forgive Oklahoma's easy schedule when you realize they lost six players to the MLB draft including aces Sonny Gray and Dillon Overton. They've only played six conference games, but it's still somewhat surprising to see OU leading the conference pack in both hitting and pitching. On offense they have been led by junior Mac James (.403 BA, 1.059 OPS), sophomore Haley Hunter (.352 BA, 1.015 OPS), and freshman Sheldon Neuse (.314 BA, 0.941 OPS). Those three have combined for 67% of OU's home run total, 77% of their triples, 44% of their doubles, 41% of their RBI and just 26% of the team's total strikeouts. Mac James has only three freaking strikeouts on the year. How can that be possible? Is this a typo? It's like the hanging chads in Florida all over again.

Oklahoma's pitching hasn't been as great as in years past, but that's to be expected when you lose the likes of Gray and Overton in an offseason. Corey Copping has been OU's best Friday starter, but his numbers (3.06 ERA, 19 K, 11 BB, .277 opponent BA) aren't particularly intimidating. Ralph Garza has been great as the Oklahoma closer (0.71 ERA, 24 K, 12 BB, 25.1 IP, 7 saves) though their bullpen can be gotten to.

Where the glaring differences between Texas and Oklahoma becomes obvious is on defense. The Sooners have committed an astounding 30 more errors than Texas in 2014, including eight by senior shortstop Hector Lorenzana.

The Sooners haven't faced a squad that can pitch quite like Texas though they were able to beat Kansas in two of three hotly contested pitchers duels. If the Texas pitchers can throw strikes and the Texas hitters stay reasonably warm then Texas has a good chance of leaving Norman with another series victory.

This series marks the midway point of the conference schedule. A series win would give Texas some serious momentum and just a bit of breathing space down the back half of the schedule. A series loss would reignite feelings of offensive inadequacy held dormant over the last three weekends.

Texas is in position to fight for a national seed. If the Texas Longhorns of the season's first half show up in the second half then the Horns are in excellent position. Baseball America has the Horns as their #4 national seed as of now. Let's hope they keep it going.

Game one is Friday at 6 PM on Fox College Sports, game two is Saturday at 4 PM, game three is Sunday at 2:30 on ESPNU.

Parker French on the mound for Texas tonight, this'll be your open thread. Hook 'em!

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