Friday, June 11, 2010

series preview: Oklahoma

After two weekends of screwing around with the pitching rotations, it's time once again for a straight-up weekend duel. Best two out of three; winner goes to Omaha. It's that easy. Here's a look at an opponent that we Hoos aren't that familiar with.

Possible lineup:

CF Chris Ellison (.329-4-30)
LF Max White (.307-14-40)
3B Garrett Buechele (.387-16-62)
1B Cameron Seitzer (.317-14-51)
C Tyler Ogle (.308-8-40)
RF Cody Reine (.333-6-31)
2B Danny Black (.339-5-47)
DH Ricky Eisenberg (.306-3-12)
SS Caleb Bushyhead (.329-5-35)


RHP Michael Rocha (7-1, 3.50)
RHP Zach Neal (8-3, 4.42)
RHP Bobby Shore (9-4, 4.23)


RHP Jeremy Erben (7-1, 3.90)
RHP Jack Mayfield (4-0, 2.03)
LHP J.R. Robinson (2-3, 4.61)
RHP Ryan Duke (3-1, 3.51, 11 SV)

The Sooners shifted their lineup a lot during the course of the season, but that's the one they finished up with - it stayed that way during both the Big 12 tournament and last week's regional games against Oral Roberts and UNC. Since lefty Danny Hultzen is taking the mound tomorrow, you may see some changes in that lineup: right-handed Kaleb Herren, for example, could step in at the expense of the left-handed Cody Reine in right field. Oklahoma has a lot of left-right flexibility, so expect a lot of pinch-hitting to nullify any matchup advantages that Brian O'Connor might want to try and exploit.

Regardless of who subs in and out, there's one thing you won't see in the lineup: weak spots. It's too late in the season for that. Even St. John's with their very scary middle, had some really lame hitters at the bottom. None of that for Oklahoma. And their home park, Mitchell Field, is a pitchers' park with dimensions even larger than those of Davenport, so they won't suddenly find themselves with warning-track power.

In order to beat them, our pitchers will need to have their off-speed stuff on point. The Sooners' bats like to swing, and they're prone to missing. They're tops in the Big 12 in strikeouts. Just don't hang a curve: they also lead the Big 12 in slugging %.

As for the pitching, there's another thing you'll see missing: lefties. That's a positive for our lineup, and hopefully some of our spark plugs like Jarrett Parker and Keith Werman can have a big weekend. Michael Rocha is the announced starter for Oklahoma against Danny Hultzen; Rocha has been a reliever most of the season, but against Kansas in the Big 12 tournament, he showed the ability to pitch deep into a game, going eight innings for the win.

The Sooner arms are about like their bats, really: mostly not eye-popping, but solid and without weak points. It should work in our favor that any lefties they might put on the mound are either seldom-used, hittable, or both. Still, the bats will need to be on their best behavior all weekend, because Oklahoma has a good, deep bullpen and won't have any qualms about pulling a struggling starter and choking off any rallies.

The game 3 matchups are TBD, because that always depends on who the coaches bring in to relieve. In our case, that basically means that Branden Kline will start on Monday if we didn't use him on Saturday or Sunday. Oklahoma's Bobby Shore is a safer bet to get the nod, as he's been strictly a starter all year and the Sooner pen is deep enough that he shouldn't be needed in any emergency duty.

Tough weekend - in other words, just like being back in the ACC regular season. If the pitching holds up (translation: if Hultzen pitches like Hultzen and Morey pitches like Morey) then this thing is UVA's to win. After all, the Hoos won 9 of 10 ACC series. If not, it could be an interesting series full of double-digit scoring. Two more wins to Omaha.

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