In the two starts he made after his return, Elliott threw eight innings, allowing one earned run and just five hits.
“It created a depth problem in our bullpen because we had to move a bullpen guy into our rotation,” Hughes said of Elliott’s absence. “It’s been big. Anytime you know you’re going to get a quality start out there, it helps you. It gives your team a peace of mind that they can get settled into a game and know they’re going to get a quality start.”
Elliott likely would’ve pitched longer in Friday’s eventual 2-1 loss to OSU but was limited by a pitch count so he could be ready for the tourney opener against the Cowboys.
“We’ve seen them a bunch so we should know how to attack them and how to exploit their weaknesses,” Elliott said. “They lead the Big 12 in walks and they also lead the Big 12 in home runs. They’re very selective but they will make you pay if they get a hitter’s count so it’s very important to get ahead and stay ahead throwing strikes.”
The Sooners’ confidence can go out the door quickly if the opener doesn’t go their way, though.
“It all depends on Game 1 and getting out of the gates,” Hughes said. “That’s the pivotal game. You’ve got to win Game 1. You don’t want to be in the losing bracket in this thing. It’s a tough way to live.”