TULSA, Okla. - The Oral Roberts baseball team will hit the road for a three-game series at Auburn this weekend. The final two games in the series will be broadcast live on the SEC Network/WatchESPN. Geoff Haxton will also have the radio call as the series opens Friday at 3 p.m. The entire series can be heard on 1550 AM in the Tulsa area and around the world for free through ORUAthletics.com.
This weekend marks the first meeting between the two programs.
LOOKING AT AUBURN
The Tigers are currently riding a four-game losing streak, most recently at the hands of undefeated Georgia Tech. Auburn has played ten games in the friendly confines of Plainsman Park while playing three neutral site contests during the Cox Diamond Invitational in Pensacola, Florida.
Picked to finish sixth in the Southeastern Conference's Western Division, the Tigers also sport one All-SEC First Team member in outfielder Anfernee Grier who led the team in 2015 in average (.323), runs scored (41), hits (82), doubles (22) and triples (3).
Grier picked up where he left off last season, already batting at a clip of .460 entering the weekend with 23 hits in 50 at bats. The speedster has also made a name for himself on the base paths with 11 steals in 13 games.
Golden Eagle fans watch ORU take three-of-four from Little Rock last weekend in the team's first home series of the season. With the wins, Oral Roberts moved to over .500 on the year for the first time. Sophomore Matt Whatley (.556) and redshirt junior Nick Rotola (.526) each saw a nice jump on the offensive side as the duo hit over .500, respectively.
COACH GETS 100
Oral Roberts Head Coach Ryan Folmar eclipsed the 100-win mark over the weekend with a 14-5 victory over Little Rock. With a 101-79 career record over three years with the Navy and Gold, he became the sixth coach in program history to reach 100-wins.
For the second time this spring, Oral Roberts picked up a Summit League sweep of the League's weekly awards. Matt Whatley earned Player of the Week honors after hitting .556 with seven RBI and two doubles while redshirt senior Nick Wood earned Pitcher of the Week accolades with a five-inning shutout in his first win of the season.
Sophomore catcher Matt Whatley has been named to the 2016 Johnny Bench Award Watch List as announced by the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission. Whatley was one of 74 catchers named to the watch list for the Johnny Bench Award which is given annually to the top Division I collegiate catcher. Whatley was the only catcher from the Summit League to be named to the prestigious list. The watch list will be narrowed down to the semifinalists on May 18 followed by the announcement of the three finalists on June 6. The Johnny Bench Award will be presented on June 30 in Wichita, Kansas at the 19th Annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet. The award honors Cincinnati Red Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench, who was not only one of the greatest catchers of all time but revolutionized the position. He was the first catcher to use a protective helmet in the field, popularized catching one-handed and kept his throwing hand behind his back.
THEY HAVE THE SPEED
A little different than teams in the past, this year's squad has showed its speed on the base paths. In 2015, the Golden Eagles stole just 52 bases on the season. This year, the Golden Eagles have 12 steals in 11 games. Junior outfielder Michael Hungate leads ORU with five swipes in six attempts while the speedy shortstop Trevin Sonnier has three stolen bases.
The Golden Eagles have been keen to getting out of trouble this season, turning the double play 13 times. Last weekend, ORU was able to turn nine in the series. The team ranks 21st in the nation in the category and first in the league.
WEATHER NOT SO NICE
The Golden Eagles have not had Mother Nature on their side over the last three weeks as the team has been forced to alter or cancel midweek games. ORU's season opener at J.L. Johnson Stadium against Wichita State was moved back a day as was the teams' midweek matchup with Missouri State the week after. Heavy rains in the Dallas area forced a cancellation of the Golden Eagles' game against Texas Tech in Frisco this week.
If you haven't paid much attention this year, you may be a little lost when you look on the field. That is because there are 20 new faces to the program this season, including eight freshmen. It marks the largest turnover in the program since Ryan Folmar took the reins during the 2013 season. The Golden Eagles lost 12 seniors off of last year's Summit League Champion team, as well as five draftees in 2015.
Oral Roberts has been tabbed to repeat as Summit League baseball champions in a poll of the league's head coaches. The Golden Eagles are looking to extend on their record 15 regular season titles and 16 tournament championships in 2016. ORU received all five of its possible first-place votes. Fort Wayne, last season's tournament runner-up, was picked second, its highest preseason ranking in program history. South Dakota State was slotted third with the final first-place tally, followed by Omaha, North Dakota State and Western Illinois. The Golden Eagles finished the 2015 season with a 41-16 overall mark and 25-5 in The Summit League, advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the 25th time in program history.
2015 MLB DRAFT
Five Golden Eagles were selected in the MLB First Year Player Draft last spring. Anthony Sequeira was drafted in the 23rd round (Pick: 684) by the Phillies; Audie Afenir was taken by the Yankees in the 25th round (Pick: 753); Xavier Altamirano went in the 27th round (Pick: 818) to the Athletics; Guillermo Trujillo went to the Orioles in the 35th round (Pick: 1063) while senior Jacob McDavid was selected with the final pick of the draft (Pick: 1215) by the Angels. This 2015 class was the largest since 2009 when six Golden Eagles were taken.
PLAYING TO THE COMPETITION
In six games, five against nationally-ranked teams in 2015, ORU posted a 5-1 records, beating Oklahoma, No. 12 Texas Tech and No. 10 Oklahoma State on the road. ORU also took down the Cowboys and Red Raiders at J.L. Johnson Stadium.
TWO-STRAIGHT, 30-WIN SEASONS
The 2015 squad topped the 30-win plateau for the second straight year. The two-straight 30-win seasons were accompanied for the first time in as many years with a berth to the NCAA Tournament.
The Golden Eagles will continue their road trip as they travel to Jacksonville State and Mississippi State for single games Tuesday and Wednesday.
For the latest information on ORU baseball, follow @ORUBaseball on Twitter or go to www.ORUAthletics.com. Fans can also receive updates on the team by downloading the Golden Eagles Front Row App at ORUAthletics.com/frontrow or in the App Store.