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Oklahoma Baseball Season Preview

The 2023 Oklahoma Baseball team looks to build off their unbelievable 2022 season in which the Sooners fell in the College World Series to Ole Miss. Last season, the Sooners put the entire country on notice as they won the Big 12 tournament and had a remarkable run all the way to Omaha. Once again, many are doubting the Sooners as they are once again left out of the way too early Top 25 predictions.

The Sooners are in a tough position heading into the 2023 season as they had 11 players get drafted in the 2022 MLB Draft, the most in the country. The Sooners lost their 3-weekend starters to the draft. Those being RHP Cade Horton, 7th overall to the Chicago Cubs; LHP Jake Bennett, 2nd Round to the Washington Nationals; and RHP David Sandlin, 11th round to the Kansas City Royals. All three starters played big roles in the Sooners’ run to Omaha. Horton tallied his career-high in strikeouts on two separate occasions in Omaha. He tallied 11 strikeouts against Notre Dame, then in his next start, 13 strikeouts in the College World Series against Ole Miss. Horton’s performance on the big stage soured him up on the MLB draft boards as he was taken 7th overall.

Oklahoma will have to turn to new faces this year in starting rotation. However, there should be no doubt in who Manager Skip Johnson puts on the mound. Johnson is one of the best pitching coaches in the country and the Sooners’ success on the mound led them all the way to Omaha. Last season alone, 7 of Oklahoma’s pitchers were selected in the MLB draft. Over the course of Johnson’s career, over 50 of his pitchers have been selected in the MLB draft.

Oklahoma also lost their elite 2022 closer, RHP Trevin Michael, who was drafted in the 10th round by the Detroit Tigers. Oklahoma did, however, gain a really good relief pitcher this offseason in the transfer portal, in right-handed pitcher Blake Bales from Virginia. In 2021, Bales had a 0.71 ERA while tallying 54 strikeouts in 38 innings of work out of the pin. Bales was not the only transfer pitcher that Oklahoma picked up. The Sooners also picked up James Hitt, a left-handed pitcher from Texas Tech. Hitt is currently rising on the MLB draft boards and he could be a star for the Sooners this year.

The 2023 lineup will look a lot different than the 2022 CWS runner-ups. 4 Sooners from the 2022 lineup were selected in the MLB Draft. Those being SS Peyton Graham, 2nd Round to the Detroit Tigers; C Jimmy Crooks, 4th Round to the St. Louis Cardinals; 1B Blake Robertson, 7th Round to the Tampa Bay Rays; and OF Tanner Tredaway, 10th Round to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Sooners also lost OF Brett Squires as an undrafted free agent to the Kansas City Royals. Oklahoma will have an uphill battle to get back to Omaha this season, but one thing is for sure, this team will turn a lot of heads once again. Last season, no one expected the Sooners to make the run that they did. Not only did the Sooners pull off a magnificent run to Omaha, but they also did it with all the odds stacked against them.

After winning the Big 12 Tournament, the Sooners were not rewarded with getting to host a regional. So Oklahoma had to head to Gainesville and fight their way to the Super Regional. The Sooners’ season was saved by a rain delay, as they came out of the delay swinging, punching their ticket to the Blacksburg Super Regional. The Sooners then defeated the #4 ranked Virginia Tech Hokies in the Super Regional, winning the series 2-1. Once the Sooners got to Omaha it was all about the long ball in Game 1 vs #5 Texas A&M, with Jimmy Crooks hitting a 3-run bomb and Jackson Nicklaus hitting a grand slam. The Sooners carried their momentum all the way to the College World Series final.

The good news for the Sooners is that 3 of their most impressive bats from last season were freshmen. So to get OF John Spikerman, 3B Wallace Clark, and 2B Jackson Nicklaus back after impressive freshmen seasons, will be huge for the Sooners going forward. All 3 of the Sooners’ starting freshmen were extremely dominant in Omaha for the Sooners, so with a full offseason for these guys they will be even better this season. The Sooners also return 2 impressive outfields, Kendall Pettis and Sebastian Orduno, be on the lookout for both of these guys to make plays with their bats and their gloves in the outfield.

The possible return to Omaha will not be an easy path for the Sooners. The Sooners’ 2023 schedule features 7 opponents that made the NCAA postseason last year. The Sooners’ schedule is extremely balanced as the Sooners scheduled a non-conference home series vs Stanford. Last year, Stanford was the #2 seed in the NCAA tournament. This 4 game series right before the Sooners begin the heart of conference play will show just how good this 2023 Oklahoma team is.

Photo courtesy of @OU_Baseball on Twitter.

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