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Oklahoma baseball: Pete Hughes and his staff trying to make coaching transition a smooth one

Despite losing 44 starts from the pitching rotation, including two of the best starters in the country in Jonathan Gray and Dillon Overton, two of their best hitters in Max White and Matt Oberste, and most of their infield, Pete Hughes is looking forward to his inaugural season with the Sooners.
by Ryan Aber Published: February 13, 2014

photo -  New Oklahoma baseball coach Pete Hughes. PHOTO BY STEVE SISNEY, THE OKLAHOMAN
New Oklahoma baseball coach Pete Hughes. PHOTO BY STEVE SISNEY, THE OKLAHOMAN


Coach: Pete Hughes, first season.

Last year: 43-21, 13-11 Big 12 (third).

Glad he's back: Hector Lorenzana made a big impression on both offense and defense last season. At the plate, Lorenzana hit .274 with 42 RBIs and 33 runs scored. He also came up with several critical hits during the Big 12 Tournament and NCAA Regionals. Lorenzana is also expected to anchor the infield at second base.

Most missed: Jonathan Gray turned into one of the best starters in the country last season and was rewarded as such in the draft, being picked third overall by the Rockies. Gray was 10-3 with a 1.64 ERA, 147 strikeouts and 24 walks in 126 1/3 innings last season. Gray isn't the only big-time starter the Sooners must replace. Dillon Overton was 9-3 with a 3.02 ERA.

Major addition: Freshmen Niko Buentello (Lewisville, Texas) and Austin O'Brien (Owasso) figure to platoon at first base, and both have the ability to spend time at designated hitter when the other is in the field. Both could be middle-of-the-order hitters right off the bat.

On the spot: As a freshman, Ralph Garza was one of the most consistent bullpen arms for the Sooners, with a 5-1 record and 2.76 ERA. Garza will remain in the bullpen for the most part but will like assume a more critical role with last year's closer, Jacob Evans, moving into the rotation.

X-factor: Junior Mac James has been more than solid during the spring, allowing Hughes the flexibility to use him behind the plate on a regular basis to give Anthony Hermelyn some much-needed time off from behind the plate. Hermelyn said that James would be able to keep him fresh, especially in the heat late in the season.

Touch 'em all: The Sooners were the favorites in the Big 12 last season with Gray and Overton at the top of the rotation. There isn't nearly as much pressure this season as Hughes settles in and has a much younger team than a year ago. The coaches picked the Sooners to finish fifth. If the Sooners are to exceed those expectations, they'll have to have several unproven pitchers emerge and be solid defensively. Offensively, they likely won't be one of the top power teams in the league. However, with Craig Aikin, Hermelyn and Lorenzana back, the Sooners should be able to produce runs even without a lot of long balls.

by Ryan Aber
OU Athletics Reporter
Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The...
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