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Golden Eagles Ready to Defend League Title

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Originally Published: Feb 17, 2010 7:49 PM CDT

Seniors Ready to Carry Load at ORU | ORU Must Overcome Early Injuries

Bobby Lewis
Oklahoma Sports Mobile Journalist

TULSA, Oklahoma – All of Oklahoma has felt the sting of mother nature since winter rolled around, but the Oral Roberts baseball team didn’t skip a beat. The ability to workout inside a beautiful new indoor practice facility during winter weather has the Golden Eagles poised for another run at college baseball’s biggest prize.

“Expectations are always high for me,” said head coach Rob Walton, the 2009 Summit League Coach of the Year. “Obviously (we want to) win the conference, win the regional and try to get to the World Series. Those are always going to be our goals, to try to get to Omaha, and once we’re there, find a way to win it.”

The team fell short of reaching its goal of playing in the College World Series last season, but did win its twelfth straight Summit League championship after finishing 16-2 in league play. Pitching carried ORU to the regional round of the postseason tournament, before the team eventually fell to Arizona State 8-3 in the Tempe Regional.

“I honestly think one of the next three years we’ll go. We’ll find our way to Omaha and find our way to the World Series,” said Walton. “We’ve really been knocking on the door. A pitch here, a pitch there, a hit here. Just one extra play will give us an opportunity to go to the World Series.”

Walton says this year’s crop of athletes will look much different than the one that made it within a handful of wins, of making it to Omaha, Neb., sight of the sport’s annual championship series. The 12th-year coach said this season he will rely on heavily on his offense to carry the early season load.

“We’re going to have to do some unconventional things from a pitching standpoint,” said Walton. “We’ll see. It can get very interesting the first month, for sure.”

Last season’s team held its regular season opponents to a .242 batting average while striking out 498 batters. They hit just 43 batters and walked 173. Those numbers were a product of very experienced arms on the mound. Some of the younger players say they want to prove their worth in 2010.

“I think we’re eager to start,” said sophomore pitcher Drew Bowen. “We’ve been putting a lot of hard work in and we’re ready to get the season rolling.”

On offense, the Golden Eagles fared well. They hit .303 as a team, scored nearly nine runs per game and helped lead the team to a 33-15 overall record. Those numbers could have been higher had the team not missed over a dozen contests were cancelled due to weather.

“We can really hit. That’s what I know. So, I’m excited to see what our lineup can do,” said senior P.J. Sequiera. “We try not to think about it, but we did lose three extremely good starters. We know we’re going to have to hit, at least in the beginning until the pitchers find their rhythm a little bit.”

A handful of Golden Eagles will miss the first part of the season while recovering from minor offseason injuries. Some players will still be able to participate in limited preseason activities leading up until the season opening week of the season. Walton said he hopes nagging injuries won’t be much of an issue this year because of the depth on his roster.

The eight Summit League head coaches unanimously voted Oral Roberts as the league’s top team, picking the Golden Eagles to repeat as champions and claim a 13th consecutive crown. ORU collected seven first-place votes for a total of 49 points. Centenary came in second with 39 points.

Oral Roberts kicks off the season on the road February 26-28 against Florida International. The Golden Eagles’ first home game is set for 3 p.m., Tuesday, March 2nd against Central Arkansas.
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