NORMAN — The NCAA's legislative curveballs have crippled some college baseball teams.
Few programs have rolled with the changes as well as the Sooners, who have transitioned flawlessly from power ball to small ball, big bats to big arms.
One of just seven teams posting 40 wins in each of the past four seasons, OU is positioned for another run at that lofty victory total — maybe more — behind a pair of aces, solid defense and a station-to-station offensive approach.
It's not how the Sooners rolled into Omaha in 2010, when Garrett Buechele and Co. bashed their way to the College World Series. But that way is outdated, with the NCAA's deadening of the bats forcing teams to adapt or else.
“Especially now, since the ball's not going to leave the yard, it's more important to be good at the little things,” OU coach Sunny Golloway said. “We have to get guys in scoring position. If you want to sit and wait on either of two things, that's the home run or the defense to mess up, I'd argue by saying the BBCOR bat is not going to let you wait for the home run. You're going to be old and gray.
“And two, if you're waiting on the defense to mess it up, sure, some of your opponents are going to, but those are going to be the teams you handle anyway. We're trying to prepare ourselves to beat the very good teams.
“Clearly, our goal is to get back to Omaha. I try to tell our guys every day how important skill and bunting are.”
Following the 2010 trip to Omaha, OU has been in the NCAA Tournament each of the two seasons since — despite heavy personnel losses — including a Super Regional appearance last spring.
Going into this season, which begins Friday with the opener of a four-game series at home against Hofstra, the Sooners carry the Big 12's favorite tag and a national ranking as high as No. 14 among the four polls.
Their appeal is based on those little things Golloway preaches about, but also two big assets: starting pitchers Dillon Overton and Jonathan Gray.