NORMAN — When the Oklahoma coaching staff changed not long after last season, Sheldon Neuse never gave it a second thought.
“It was 100 percent I’m coming here,” Neuse said. “Nothing else ever crossed my mind.
“I still wanted to play with this group of guys that was going to be here. Everything worked out.”
It definitely has, both for Neuse and the Sooners.
The freshman from Fort Worth hit .290 with seven home runs and 40 RBIs, led the Big 12 with seven triples and finished second in the league with 117 total bases.
Neuse is The Oklahoman’s Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
“Coming in my freshman year and being able to start, it was an awesome experience,” Neuse said. “We had a good group of guys. Even though the numbers didn’t show it all the time, I felt like we played pretty good ball this year. We had a lot of games where we really competed and battled, it just didn’t go in our favor. That’s kind of how the season’s shaped up.”
The Sooners enter this week’s Big 12 Tournament needing to win it to extend their season.
“I think we’re competing harder than we ever have and hopefully it pays off for us,” Neuse said. “My freshman year’s been awesome. I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
After an adjustment period early in the season, the Sooners’ starting third baseman settled into his role as one of the most consistent offensive threats in the lineup.
“Once I slowed the game down, it was like any other thing that I’ve done — any other ball that I’ve played,” Neuse said. “The biggest thing was just getting out there and attacking the baseball instead of letting the ball attack you.
“When that pitcher’s in control, it’s really hard to hit. It’s really hard to do to begin with and even harder when you’re letting the guy on the mound attack you.”
Even with his successes this year, Neuse is already thinking ahead to what he needs to improve on his game next year.
At the top of that list is defense.
“My footwork defensively,” Neuse said when asked about his top priority over the offseason. “I want to get back to the middle of the field and be the starting shortstop next year.”
Neuse hadn’t played third until he arrived in Norman.
There’s also plenty of room to improve on the offensive end, in his eyes at least.
“I’m going to get in and I’m going to work on my offspeed pitches, staying a little bit more to the middle of the field,” Neuse said. “I felt like I got away from that this year but the biggest thing for me is just getting my footwork and trying to get back to the middle of the field defensively.”