Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

February 14, 2014

Hughes set for OU baseball debut

NORMAN — Pete Hughes admitted two weeks ago that the pitching staff, which the first-year Oklahoma baseball coach labeled the deepest he’s ever coached, still presents quandaries.

Take guys like sophomore left-hander Jacob Evans and second-year sophomore Ralph Garza Jr. — are they more valuable in the starting rotation or out of the bullpen?

Starters can impact games once a week. Relievers can easily alter the outcome of every game in a three-game series if so needed.

The Sooners will get a sense when they face Seton Hall at 3 p.m. today in the season opener and the beginning of a three-game series at L. Dale Mitchell Park.

Evans, who was OU’s closer last season and named a freshman All-American after going 7-2 with nine saves, will move to that once-a-week spot.

The left-hander with the dominant change-up will take the mound today. Redshirt sophomore Adam Choplick will take the mound Saturday with freshman Jacob Elliot getting the ball in the series finale.

Moving into the starting rotation is a natural progression for college pitchers. Most start out in the bullpen and build their stamina. Then they become starters as sophomores and juniors.

“There’s about six or seven guys in there that are going to be our rotation guys,” Hughes said. “We’re not gonna call them our top three because sometimes the most valuable guy is the one in the bullpen.”

Garza, who went 5-1 in 24 appearances with a 2.76 ERA, remains in the bullpen and could very well be the glue for the entire pitching staff.

Neither he nor Evans lobbied for a shift to the starting rotation.

“It really comes down to being ready for whatever you’re needed to do,” Garza said.

The starting rotation is the biggest hole OU has to fill going into the season. The last two seasons Jonathan Gray and Dillon Overton filled two of those spots and they gave it one of the best 1-2 starting rotations in college baseball.

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