OU baseball: Brandon Zaragoza's leadership — and his bat — heats up
NORMAN — Coming off the field after the fourth inning of Sunday’s game at Kansas State, Oklahoma junior shortstop Brandon Zaragoza felt a malaise coming over his team.
The Wildcats had just taken a 2-0 lead, and Zaragoza didn’t see much energy from his team.
“I knew how important the game was for us as far as heading into this week and for Big 12 play and just from a confidence standpoint,” Zaragoza said. “And I knew that we had the opportunity to take care of business at that moment. I just felt like we weren’t really seizing that moment.”
So Zaragoza came back to the dugout and lit into his team, immediately giving them an energy boost.
“He’s not one of the rah-rah type guys, but he got after it,” Sooners third baseman Brylie Ware said. “He started yelling, and he was getting after us. That just shows how much he’s grown just in this stretch.
“He’s definitely one of the biggest leaders on this team, whether it’s vocal or whether it’s leading by example.”
The Sooners scored three runs in the eighth and then three more in 10th to take the series and enter this weekend’s home series having won five of six after a 3-9 stretch before that.
Zaragoza went 2 for 3 in Sunday's game, extending his hitting streak to 12 and his streak of reaching base safely to 18 consecutive games.
“When we did wake up, it was an ambush,” Zaragoza said. “Hopefully whatever I said worked.”
After being a mainstay in the No. 2 spot for the Sooners for most of the season, Oklahoma coach Skip Johnson dropped him to seventh after Zaragoza went 3 for 32 (.094) over an eight-game stretch.
“If he hit .000 he’d be the starting shortstop at the University of Oklahoma if I’m the head coach,” Johnson said. “Because his defense is gonna outweigh any offense that he has. When he struggles offensively and he takes that to defense, then we’ve got issues. He hasn’t done that.”
Zaragoza quickly responded to his new spot further down the order, going 3 for 4 against TCU in the opener of the April 5 game. He’s hitting .358 since being moved down in the order.
“Early in the order, a lot more bunting, getting guys over,” Zaragoza said. “Now, I might have two guys on and two outs. I know that I’m going to have to come up there with my stick and get guys in.
“Those guys are expecting a lot from me and I expect a lot from myself.”