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March 5, 2013It didn't take long for Sunny Golloway to find what he was looking for.
After watching his squad strand 11 runners in their first loss of the season less than 24 hours prior to the series deciding rubber game vs. Pepperdine Golloway didn't hesitate in declaring the match up 'a battle' he would be looking forward to.
Thanks to a four run bottom of the fourth and a second consecutive solid start out of redshirt freshmen Adam Choplick Oklahoma didn't disappoint winning the game 8-1 and more importantly clinching a series victory over a nationally ranked program in Pepperdine.
"This was our first opportunity to play a good opponent in a true three game series," said Golloway. "Pepperdine going into College Station and beating Texas A&M two out of three. We knew they were going to be a very good opponent."
Improving to 11-1 on the season Oklahoma will play its next four games on the road starting tonight and ending with a trio of games over the weekend in Los Angeles.
"I was pleased. I would have been disappointed had we not responded but it would have been something we would have worked on fixing but it's nice to know things you feel good about. The character of your club you can kind of go and turn the page and start focusing on some of the other important things," said Golloway.
Oklahoma turns the page this evening when they kickoff the four game roadtrip facing UT-Arlington at Clay Gould Ballpark.
Howard College transfer Ethan Carnes (0-0 3.86 ERA 4.2 IP 1 BB 6 SO) will make his first start as a Sooner after making two relief appearances out of the bullpen earlier this season in Corpus Christi at the 2013 Kleberg Bank College Classic.
Picking up midweek victories will be important if Oklahoma holds hope of earning a top eight national seed and hosting a Super Regional come time the NCAA Tournament rolls around in June.
Despite a lofty top five preseason ranking in 2011 Oklahoma posted just a 7-3 non-conference midweek record with lack luster wins over St. Gregory's, Arkansas Little-Rock and a doubleheader sweep of Arkansas Pine-Bluff. When a pair of losses to Arizona State and a midweek hiccup versus Dallas Baptist mounted the NCAA Tournament committee sent Oklahoma on the road for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
An eventual two and out in 2011 serves as a reminder to Golloway of the importance in playing well between the grind of weekend conference series.
"It'll be as important as any individual game out on the west coast and we'll make sure our guys understand that," said Golloway.
"If you want to host regionals. If you want to have the potential to be a national seed to host a Super Regional you better win your midweek games. That's all there is to it."
Choplick dominates, Copping improving
Though the numbers weren't better than his first career outing the victory meant so much more.
Throwing 92 pitches in Oklahoma's series clinching victory over Pepperdine Adam Choplick continued to make a case for himself as the Sooners permanent Sunday starter.
"Definitely felt like I had better stuff (today) than my first start," said Choplick after throwing 5.1 of one run ball en route to his second victory of the season.
"It's a lot more difficult to come and pitch in a game like this than a midweek but we came out prepared. The team really had my back today hitting the ball really well and the defense played well behind me."
The 6-foot-8 Denton (Texas) Ryan product made Sunday's start in place of true freshmen Corey Copping who Golloway says continues to be monitored after missing a February 14 start versus New Mexico.
"We had him get on the mound and throw lightly (Sunday) and we didn't like what we saw so we backed off but again it's just rest and he's going to be ready," said Golloway.
Perhaps no Oklahoma pitcher took a bigger step over the weekend than junior Billy Waltrip. Tabbed as the Sooners No. 3 starter at Media Day it appears Waltrip could now be headed towards a role filled by the likes of Michael Rocha, Jordan John, and most recently, Steven Okert.
"We like him more out of the bullpen now and he's starting to figure it out," said Golloway.
"Coming out of the bullpen when you don't have time to think about it you've got to get loose and go. (Steven) Okert was really special last year in that role for us and that's what I'm thinking I'm seeing out of Waltrip."
The handful of scouts on hand Sunday saw the same thing as Golloway as the 2012 No. 12 round Baltimore Oriole selection delivered his best outing of the year in 3.2 innings striking out a season-high seven batters.
The biggest selling point for Golloway and pitching coach Jack Giese will be the fact that Okert parlayed his success out of the Sooners bullpen to a fourth round MLB selection.
"(Okert) was a fourth rounder coming out of the bullpen so being a bridge the gap (guy) could be big for Waltrip. It's too early to know for sure exactly where he's going to sit. We'll just let that play its self out."
Sooners rising in polls
No. 10 - Collegiate Baseball (lst. week No. 10)
No. 12 - USA Today (lst. week No. 12)
No. 14 - NCBWA (lst. week No 15)
No. 17 - Baseball America (lst. week No. 18)
No. 18 - Perfect Game (lst. week No. 19)
Tonight vs. UT-Arlington 6:30 p.m.
March 8 vs. *Southern California 8 p.m.
March 9 vs. *UCLA 4 p.m. (at Jackie Robinson Stadium)
March 10 vs. *Notre Dame noon (at Jackie Robinson Stadium
* games played in Los Angeles