TULSA, Okla. - Oral Roberts baseball returns to J.L. Johnson Stadium for its 2017 season opening weekend against Little Rock with a three-game series starting Friday at 3 p.m. A 2 p.m. game is slated for Saturday afternoon and the series finale taking place Sunday at 1 p.m.
After the game Sunday, and every Sunday for the entire season, fans will be allowed to come onto the field and meet their favorite players to get an autograph and run around the bases.
THE STORYLINE: The Golden Eagles have high hopes for the 2017 season after winning their 16th Summit League regular season championship in 2016. ORU reached the NCAA Regionals for the 26th time in program history, but ended with an early exit in the TCU Regional. The 2017 campaign gets underway with four-straight games at J.L. Johnson Stadium as the team shows off its new AstroTurf infield installed in the offseason.
FACING THE TROJANS: ORU has faced Little Rock 15 times in the all-time series holding a 12-3 mark against the Trojans. The Golden Eagles won three of four games in early March last season and have an 8-2 record when hosting Little Rock at J.L. Johnson Stadium.
OPENING DAY BLUES: Under Head Coach Ryan Folmar, the Golden Eagles have lost three of their four games on opening day with the lone win coming at home in 2015, a 3-1 decision over Memphis. ORU is 31-17 all-time in season openers.
SEE US NATIONALLY: Thirteen ORU baseball games will be available nationally on ESPN3 with nine home games televised. Al Jerkens will have the live play-by-play call, while former ORU pitchers, George Frazier and Jeremy Hefner will provide color commentary. Road games at Alabama, Feb. 24-26, also will be streamed live via the SEC Network+ and ESPN3 as will the Golden Eagles' game Feb. 28 at Kansas.
PUSH THE STREAK: Oral Roberts is in search of extending its league record of 16-straight regular season championships and 17 tournament titles after sweeping the league in 2016.
SUMMIT LEAGUE POLL: The Golden Eagles were tabbed to repeat as Summit League baseball champions in a poll of the league's head coaches receiving all five possible first-place votes.
RETURNING SUMMIT HONOREE: Senior Brent Williams is the lone major award winner returning from The Summit League. Williams captured Newcomer of the Year honors in his first year at first base hitting .297 with 55 RBI.
WECLCOME BACK ALL-LEAGUERS: After earning 11 total all-league honors a year ago, ORU first teamers Matt Whatley (.363, 42 R), Noah Cummings (.364, 18 2B) and Brady Womacks (1.22 ERA, 14 SV) are welcomed back to the roster in 2017. Fellow returners Nick Rotola (.326, 32 BB), Bryce Howe (6-5, 84 K) and Cale Tims (6-2, 3.71 ERA) were all named to the All-Summit League Second Team in 2016.
PRESEASON ACCOLADES: Senior Brady Womacks was named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Preseason All-America Third Team as well as landing on the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Watch List heading into 2017. The Pevely, Missouri, native led the Golden Eagles with 29 appearances out of the bullpen a season ago totaling 14 saves and a 2-2 record with a 1.22 earned run average. His 14 saves ranked second in ORU single-season history. Womacks allowed a run in just four outings in 2016 and posted 18-consecutive scoreless appearances. The right hander also struck out 29 batters in 37 innings of work.
WHATLEY WATCH: Junior Matt Whatley was named one of the 10 best catching prospects for the 2017 MLB Draft by HERO Sports Baseball. The Claremore, Oklahoma, native was a 2016 ABCA/Rawlings All-Midwest Region Second Team selection hitting .363 for the Golden Eagles. He also was named to the Johnny Bench Award Watch List last season holding opponents to 31 stolen bases and gunning down 14 potential base stealers.
RETURNING DEPTH: ORU boasts one of its most experienced lineups in recent history welcoming back 20 letter winners, including six starters in the field and three starting pitchers. Those players back in the navy and gold accounted for more than 70 percent of the run and hit total from 2016, including all but seven of the team's home runs. The pitching staff, behind 12 pitchers back on the roster, returns its winning pitcher from 30 of its 38 victories.
DAUNTING SCHEDULE: ORU again faces a daunting schedule in 2017 taking on three NCAA Tournament teams from a season ago, including two games against Oklahoma State, a College World Series participant. In total, the schedule features seven teams that ended the 2016 campaign ranked in the nation's top 85 by RPI.
POWER FIVE TILTS: Coach Folmar and the Golden Eagles have not shied away from playing some of the region's best teams from the top conferences. Over the last two seasons, ORU has posted an 11-4 mark against the Power Five, going 9-2 when facing a team from the Big 12. That includes a home-and-home sweep of Oklahoma State and wins over the SEC's Auburn and Mississippi State in 2016. ORU is an even 15-15 against teams in Power Five conferences during the tenure of Coach Folmar.
HOSTING THE BEST: The top four teams in the league's regular-season standings will qualify for The Summit League Baseball Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As defending champions, ORU is set to host the four-team event at J.L. Johnson Stadium from May 24-27.
EXTENDED HOMESTAND: An 11-game homestand from March 10-26 gives the Golden Eagles a chance to show off recent renovations to the infield, bullpens and graphics behind home plate. ORU starts by hosting 2016 NCAA Regional participant Dallas Baptist for a three-game set and caps the stretch against Summit League foe South Dakota State.
For the latest information on ORU Baseball, follow the Golden Eagles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or go to www.ORUAthletics.com. Fans can also receive updates on the team by downloading two mobile apps, ORU Golden Eagles Live and ORU Front Row, available on the App Store and Google Play.