NORMAN — Skip Johnson likes to see the bigger picture.
OU’s sixth-year baseball coach is in a business where success is judged by the win column, but that’s not his top priority. Johnson takes pride in developing his players, which is why 11 Sooners were selected in the latest MLB Draft.
“To tell you the truth, it’s not about winning or losing,” Johnson said. “It’s about how you develop those young men. … That’s what it’s really about at the end of the day.”
But Johnson also wants to win, and that desire has only intensified since last season.
OU reached the championship round of the College World Series, but its improbable run ended in a clean finish at the hands of Ole Miss.
OU has retooled by adding 25 newcomers to the roster for this season, which kicks off on Friday with the start of a three-game home series against Cal Baptist.
And while Johnson intends to develop his newly acquired players, he’s also on another mission.
“Do I want to win a national championship?” Johnson said. “There’s no question about it. This burns a hole in my soul every time I go out to exercise. I’m focused on doing it.”
Here’s a look at the Sooners’ roster heading into the season:
Junior redshirt, Oklahoma City: The right-handed pitcher changed allegiances last offseason when he moved from OSU. Davis went 1-1 last season with a 4.25 ERA. He recorded 56 strikeouts in 26 appearances. Only two of those appearances were starters, but Davis should have a bigger role on an OU team that saw star pitchers Cade Horton and Jake Bennett picks in the latest MLB Draft.
Junior, San Antonio: Right-handed pitcher should have immediate impact. Carsten posted an 18-3 record with a 3.35 ERA in two seasons at McLennan Community College. The junior college program has been good with the Sooners lately. Two contributors to last season’s OU team, Jimmy Crooks and Brett Squires, spent time at McLennan. Both players are now in the MLB farm system.
Graduate student, Miami, Okla.: A former Wyandotte High School champion, Douthit has spent the past two seasons at Lamar. The right-handed pitcher started all 15 appearances last season and went 6-2 with a 3.65 ERA. Douthit also racked up 76 strikeouts along the way. OU has a few other capable starters, but Douthit’s experience makes him a star candidate.
Sophomore, Oklahoma City: Similar to Davis, Thomas is another Oklahoma City native who started his career with a Big 12 foe. The former Heritage Hall champ spent his freshman season at TCU, where he pitched four innings in seven games and finished with a 4.50 ERA. A right-handed bowler, Thomas held his opponents scoreless in five of those seven appearances.
Redshirt elder, Prosper, Texas: Carmichael is a rare player in the OU bullpen. The left-handed pitcher returned for his third season with the Sooners and is hoping for a rebounding campaign. After going 6-3 with a 5.03 ERA in 2021, Carmichael went 3-2 with a 9.00 ERA last season.
Freshman, Oak Park, Ill.: Johnson is known for giving freshmen midweek starts, and Hachem is sure to get a nod if that trend continues. Perfect Game rated the Oak Park, Illinois native as the #1 left-handed pitcher in the game. 37 in the class of 2022. He will have an opportunity to contribute right away, as will fellow freshman Carson Turnquist.
Graduate student, Schoolcraft, Michigan.: Moving to Virginia, Bales was one of OU’s biggest additions in the final offseason. The right pitcher went 3-0 with a 0.71 ERA in 38 innings pitched in 2021, and was named one of 10 finalists for the NCBWA Stopper of the Year award. OU needs a reliable neighbor following the departure of Trevin Michael, and Bales appears to be the best option.
Sophomore, Magnolia, Texas: Hitt is another intra-conference transfer. The left-handed pitcher spent the past two seasons at Texas Tech, where he went a combined 1-3 with a 7.14 ERA. Hitt made three starts for the Red Raiders. And while he might break up the early spin in Norman, he’ll at least provide some depth.
Sophomore, Pearland, Texas: Calhoun pitched 12 innings in 12 games last season. He posted a 6.00 ERA and nine strikeouts. Rated by Perfect Game as the No. 1 right-handed pitcher. 38 in the class of 2021, Calhoun thinks he has a bigger role this time around.
Sophomore, Santa Clara, Utah: It will be difficult to replace the production of Crooks, who was OU’s starting catcher for the past two seasons, but the BYU Strong move should help. He started in eight of his 12 appearances for the Cougars last season and allowed just three passed balls.
Freshman, Prosper, Texas: Carmichael is another young option behind the pot. Perfect Game rated him the #34 catcher in the class of 2022. Carmichael swung the bat well as a senior at Prosper High School in Prosper, Texas. He batted .375 and recorded 39 hits to go along with 23 RBI.
Redshirt Juniors, Mansfield, Texas: Fletcher didn’t play for OU last season, but spent the previous two seasons at Paris Junior College in Texas. He batted .250 with 30 RBI and four home runs in 2021.
Freshman, Laredo, Texas: Despite being ranked by Perfect Game as the No. 30 outfielder in Texas, Garza-Gongora could end up being OU’s starting first baseman this season. He would replace Blake Robertson. Garza-Gongora batted .471 as a senior at Alexander High School in Laredo, Texas and also recorded 22 stolen bases. He should fit in well with the Sooners, who emphasized being aggressive baserunners last season.
Sophomore, Overland Park, Kan.: Nicklaus made the All-Big 12 Freshman Team last season. He batted .288 and finished with 61 hits, 36 RBI and 11 home runs. Expectations are high for Nicklaus, who was recently named to the preseason All-Big 12 Team. He will be a leader for the OU at second base.
Junior, Houston: Mackenzie spent the past three seasons at Sam Houston State. He batted .213 with 38 RBI and five home runs during his time with the Bearkats. Mackenzie could find a home at shortstop, where he would have big shoes to fill. It’s a position filled last season by star player Peyton Graham.
Junior, Land O’Lakes, Fla.: Harris is also in contention for the starting job at shortstop. The Polk State College (Florida) transfer is an outstanding player on defense. He was named Suncoast Conference Defensive Player of the Year as both a freshman and sophomore, and was named a Rawlings Gold Glove last season.
Sophomore, Tulsa: Clark started in 42 of his 48 plate appearances last season and batted .257. He had 39 hits and 27 RBI, which helped him make the All-Big 12 Freshman Team. Clark plans to spend most of his time at third base, but he might take a look at the catcher if OU’s newcomers struggle.
Junior Red Shirt, Chicago: Pettis caught fire during OU’s 2022 postseason run. He was named the Gainesville Regional Most Valuable Player after blowing out for eight runs and three RBIs in the four round games. Pettis is OU’s top base runner and is also a dynamic playmaker in left field.
Sophomore, Montgomery, Texas: Spikerman joined Nicklaus on the preseason All-Big 12 Team following a stellar freshman campaign. He batted .317 and recorded 15 RBI to go along with two home runs. Spikerman will hold him down in center field. And while OU has question marks in some positions, he can take comfort in knowing that he has a strong outside duo of Pettis and Spikerman.
Junior Red Shirt, San Pedro, California.: Orduno batted just .240 last season, but posted an on-base percentage of .408. The redshirt junior has proven to be someone who finds a way onto base, making him a trusted designated hitter option.
Junior, Blanchard: Swinging the club is no problem for Madron. He spent the past two seasons at Cowley College in Kansas, where he batted .418 with 135 RBI and 24 home runs. Madron earned All-Region Second Team honors last season and should start in right field for OU this season.
Freshman, Grand Prairie, Texas: Nicknamed “TV” for his entertaining style of play, Vaughns has the skills to make an impact as a freshman. Perfect Game rated him the #1 outfielder. 37 in the class of 2022. Vaughns hit .429 with five home runs, 28 hits and 16 RBI as a senior at Cedar Hills High School in Grand Prairie, Texas.
Fifth year, Rockwall, Texas: OU has 25 newcomers in its squad which only makes Muniz more valuable. The fifth-year senior has spent his entire career with the Sooners and his veteran guidance will be needed this season. Muniz batted .259 with 24 RBI and 18 runs last season.
—Justin Martinez, staff writer