As the first ever Super Regionals for Virginia Tech Baseball approaches, the Hokies are preparing for an Oklahoma team that has been red hot lately thanks to winning the Big 12 Tournament and then winning the Gainesville Super Regional in a thrilling winner-take-all comeback win over #13 Florida.
While Oklahoma has plenty of strengths, the biggest one may be their aggressive baserunning and the high success they've had on the basepaths. That shows with how the Sooners have 3 players with 22+ stolen bases including team leader Peyton Graham who is 32-34 this season plus Tanner Tredaway who is 23-27 and Kendall Pettis who is 22-29.
Additionally, it helps that Graham and Tredaway are talented all-around hitters with Graham being the run producer leading the way with 19 home runs and 68 RBIs plus a .339 batting average. Tredaway is proving to be an ideal table setter and quality run producer himself. leading Oklahoma with a .367 batting average plus 6 home runs and 57 RBIs.
When asked about the early scouting report for the Hokies on Oklahoma, John Szefc mentioned the baserunning directly in addition to how hot the Sooners have been plus their left-handed ace starter Jake Bennett.
"They run well, they're pretty aggressive on the bases. Their pitching is probably similar to ours," Szefc said. "They have one pretty good left-handed starter, but most people do. They're a pretty hot team, they just beat Florida, they beat Texas in the Big 12 Championship. But then again, most of the teams we play this time of year are going pretty good. And they're going pretty good and I think we're going pretty good."
While Szefc said that Oklahoma's pitching is similar to Tech's, the stats don't back that up as much with Tech's team ERA being at 4.21 on the season compared to a 5.45 team ERA for Oklahoma. However, Bennett has been a high-level lead starter for them going 8-3 this season with a 3.69 ERA with 112 strikeouts in 97.2 innings plus hitters only hitting .232 against him.
Safe to say, Bennett should be a strong test for the Hokies, but Tech has faced plenty of tough pitching throughout the season to date and held up well. Combined with a hot offense and this has the potential to be a very intriguing matchup to open the Super Regional on Friday.
Regardless of the pitching, the speed for the Sooners is still one of Oklahoma's biggest strengths and something that Tech will have to be ready for. However, starting catcher Cade Hunter says that it will largely be business as usual for how he manages the game from behind the plate albeit with a more watchful eye when runners are on than he might usually have.
"I don't think we really necessarily change anything. Obviously, we want to make sure that we are switching up our looks and our timing to the plate. With a team like them with speed, you just can't let that affect making pitches and getting guys out. Not necessarily anything is going to change just maybe keep a closer eye on the guy at first," Hunter said.
There's no doubt that Oklahoma should provide a stern test from Bennett leading the way to the all-around star duo of Graham and Tredaway to the fact that Oklahoma, like any opponent this time of year, is hot. However, John Szefc is confident that the preparation from playing in the ACC should be of great benefit in this series and going forward.
"As far as individual stuff that would concern us; outside of the fact that they got a lot of guys that can run, I can't really say that there's anything that we really haven't seen throughout the whole year in the ACC."