OSU/OU Baseball Update – Bedlam Preview

Post by Matt Meyer – @Bluto51 on Twitter

Final week of the regular season in college baseball and two old friends get together in Norman beginning on Thursday. Both Oklahoma State and Oklahoma have plenty to play for, making a terrific rivalry all the more intriguing.

Last weekend, OSU took 2 of 3 from a solid Kansas State team in Stillwater. Cowboys did not get a good start from their ace, Juaron Watts-Brown, who allowed 6 ER in 4 innings in Friday’s 10-9 loss. Nolan Schubart did his part, going 4-5 with a HR and 4 RBI’s, and the Pokes made it interesting in the bottom of the 9thย with a pair of runs before the Wildcats finished it off. OSU’s offense left no doubt the next two days, as the Cowboys won 19-5 on Saturday and 12-2 in 7 innings on Sunday. In game 2, Tyler Wulfert had a 4-4 day with 2 RBI’s and 3 runs scored, while Chase Adkison went 3-4 with a triple, HR, and 4 RBI’s, and Marcus Brown went 3-5 with a pair of RBI’s and runs scored. Pokes continued the onslaught in game 3 to claim the series. Five different Cowboys had a pair of hits and Schubart drove in 3 of OSU’s 12 runs. Carson Benge turned in a solid start on the mound, allowing 2 ER in 5 IP, while standout reliever Isaac Stebens struck out 3 Wildcats over 2 scoreless innings.

Oklahoma traveled to Spokane, WA and swept Gonzaga last weekend. Zags have been to the NCAA Tournament the last couple of seasons but aren’t as good this year as they have been. Still, it was exactly what the Sooners needed to keep their tournament hopes alive. On Friday, Braxton Douthit rebounded from a pair of less than stellar starts, allowing 1 ER in 5 innings. Carter Campbell and Will Carsten combined to allow 1 ER over the final four frames, and Kendall Pettis was 2-4 with a pair of RBI’s to lead the Sooners to a 5-2 win. Everyone, and I mean everyone got in on the act in Saturday’s 19-12 victory. Rocco Garza-Gongora went 4-6 with 3 RBI’s and 4 runs scored out of the 9 hole, Jackson Nicklaus went 3-5 with 4 runs scored, and Bryce Madron drove in 4 runs to support Braden Carmichael, who tossed 6 innings of 3 run ball. OU won 9-1 on Sunday behind a terrific start from James Hitt, who allowed only 1 run in 7 innings. Anthony McKenzie went 3-3 with 2 walks, 2 runs scored, and a run driven in, while Madron went 3-5 with an RBI and a run scored.

Neither OSU nor OU played in the midweek this week. Cowboys weren’t scheduled to play, while the Sooners and Texas Arlington agreed to cancel their game on Tuesday night. Not crazy about that. I understand that the game was probably a no win situation for Oklahoma, as a win wouldn’t help their RPI much and a loss would’ve led to a sizable drop, and by not playing, you allow your pitching staff to rest a bit. However, if you schedule it, you ought to play it, and you owe it to your players to play 56 unless the weather gets in the way.

Entering the weekend, Cowboys are 35-15, 13-8 in league play and in second place, 2 games behind West Virginia, with an RPI of 22. Sooners are 29-22, 10-11 in the conference and in a tie for sixth with Texas Tech, with an RPI of 35. This week, D1Baseball.com projects the Pokes to host a regional as the 14th overall seed, while they have the Sooners as the third to last at large team in the tournament. Baseball America has OSU as a 2 seed and OU as a 3 seed. Translated, the Cowboys are solidly in the field with a chance to host, while the Sooners need to play well down the stretch to get in.

These teams have played once this season, a 19-8 Oklahoma State romp on April 18th at O’Brate Stadium. David Mendham went 3-5 with 5 RBI’s to lead the attack for the Cowboys, while Michael Benzor, Ryan Bogusz, and Stebens kept the Sooners scoreless over the final 2 2/3 innings. Biggest key to this weekend’s series is Oklahoma’s ability to throw strikes. When these teams played in April, OU walked 13 Cowboys and hit a pair of Pokes. Nobody can afford to do that against this offense. Cowboys have too much power throughout their lineup, ranking 3rd nationally in doubles, 7th in slugging pct., 11th in runs per game, 16th in HR’s, and 20th in batting avg. You can’t just lob batting practice fastballs either; you have to throw quality strikes, and far too often this season, OU has been on the wrong side of that fine line. However, if you allow OSU free passes on base, eventually you have to throw a strike, and the Cowboys will make you pay no matter who is at the plate.

OSU still needs more consistent starting pitching, even from their ace in Watts-Brown. If OSU can get a lead to the back end of their bullpen with Stebens and others, normally they’re in pretty good shape. I’m also interested to see if and how Josh Holliday and Rob Walton use a healthy Nolan McLean. He was having a fantastic season as OSU’s closer before his injury, and since getting healthy, McLean has made one appearance on the mound, throwing 3 innings and allowing 1 ER in the middle of a blowout win over East Tennessee State. OU’s bullpen, while not as deep, has gotten better results from Carsten, Campbell, and Carson Pierce lately. Sooners must get quality starts from Douthit, Carmichael, and Hitt if they’re going to win this series.

One of the more overused cliches in all of athletics, pick your sport, is when someone says that a key for a team is “to get off to a good start.” No kidding…who doesn’t want to do that? In the case of OU’s offense, getting a lead is important because it allows you more freedom to steal bases, sac bunt, hit and run, and take more chances on the basepaths, all facets that Oklahoma relies on offensively. If you’re behind, traditional thinking is that you can’t do as much of that because you don’t want baserunners getting thrown out. Keep an eye on Adkison, the Cowboys’ catcher. Kansas State entered last week’s series in Stillwater with 101 SB’s, good for 17th in the country. The Wildcats only managed 3 SB’s last weekend. Adkison and the pitching staff’s ability to slow the Sooners’ running game is a huge key to this series as well. Helps to have a lead, which OSU enjoyed the majority of the series against KSU and the majority of the game earlier this year against OU.

Cowboys take 2 of 3 this weekend, improving their chances to host, while the Sooners will need some wins at the Big 12 Tournament in Arlington next week to feel good about their postseason chances.

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