NORMAN — Hector Lorenzana loves stepping to the plate with runners in scoring position.
He can't quite explain why, but Oklahoma's junior second baseman has thrived in those big moments as far back as he can remember.
“I remember my first national tournament in Joplin, Mo.,” Lorenzana said. “I was hitting third as an 8-year old. It's just who I am. It's how I was built. ... I lock myself in when I see a runner on second or a runner on third. I just change my whole mindset. I love it.”
As the Sooners prepare for Friday's NCAA regional opener against Coastal Carolina in Blacksburg, Va., coach Sunny Golloway continues encouraging Lorenzana to adopt that mindset in every situation. The OU coach can only imagine his second baseman's ceiling if that happens.
“One of the things he has to learn is to bring that game every day,” Golloway said. “When you're playing nonconference early in the season and they're kind of no-brainers, try to bring that same intensity. But he has played really big in big games.”
In early April, Lorenzana's eighth-inning double scored the go-ahead run in OU's 4-2 win at Texas that secured its first series win in Austin since 1998.
Oklahoma dropped two of three games to Oklahoma State, but Lorenzana's play the entire weekend was superb. He accounted for nine of the Sooners' 11 runs with six RBIs and three runs scored.
As OU rallied from a 4-1 deficit in its lone Bedlam win, Lorenzana doubled in one run and scored one later.
Lorenzana began his college career at San Diego City College, where he hit .390 and was the team's MVP as a freshman. He transferred to Howard College in Big Spring, Texas, and before his sophomore season even began, he signed with Oklahoma in November 2011.
Lorenzana rotated between shortstop, third base and second base at Howard, but didn't play as much as Golloway thought he would.
“We signed him early, thinking he would be their everyday shortstop, but he didn't play much,” Golloway said. “When you sign someone and they're not playing much, you get concerned that you might not have the right guy. We were convinced he was the right guy and probably could've been playing more.”
Lorenzana was originally expected to slide into Oklahoma's shortstop position, where he'd replace graduated three-year starter Caleb Bushyhead. But Golloway realized after working with Lorenzana that he was better suited for second base.
“I went back and looked, and out of high school he was projected as one of the top second basemen in the country,” Golloway said.
He flipped Lorenzana and senior Jack Mayfield, who started 65 games at second base last season, and “when we did that I saw a very confident Lorenzana start to emerge,” Golloway said.
“I just made it a point every day to go up to him and tell him, ‘You don't know how good you are. If you ever figure out how good you are, you're gonna make a big impact.' He probably got tired of hearing that, but it's the truth.”
Lorenzana has batted a team-high .385 with five extra-base hits and 11 RBIs in Oklahoma's 10 neutral-site games this season. The Sooners certainly hope he'll perform at that level Friday.
“I get a high from watching these guys get rattled up in the dugout when I'm at second base, you know, when I score two runs or something like that,” Lorenzana said. “It's awesome being part of this squad and being in those situations.”
OU vs. Coastal Carolina
When: Noon Friday
Where: English Field, Blacksburg, Va.