Conference Play Already?
If you’re like most of us, you’re still blurry-eyed and a little confused. March brought more than its fair share of confusion and action, with the Pokes missing the NCAA Tournament by a hair, followed by a deep run in the NIT, and finalized by a heartbreaker at home. So I don’t blame you if you’re not sure who the Friday starter is, or what the exact record of the baseball team is. That’s why we’re here.
The Cowboys come into this game a healthy 10-8-1 after a midweek victory at home against Central Arkansas. This is a Cowboy team that certainly has the ability to do great things down the stretch; they’ve been competitive in every series and have yet to be swept in 2018. However, the Pokes’ losses seem to come in streaks, as they failed to find a win for over a week, starting with a loss at home to Eastern Michigan (03/09), and ending with a win vs. Missouri State (03/17). Streaky-yet-talented play has been the hallmark of the 2018 Baseball Season.
This is acclaimed Head Coach Josh Holliday’s 6th season in Stillwater, where he’s put together an impressive 210-114-1 record. Under Holliday, the Cowboys have had 5 straight NCAA Tournament berths, and two Big 12 Championships. During Holliday’s tenure the Pokes have the second highest win total in Big 12 play, and remain constant contenders for Big 12 acclaim. Additionally, OSU has owned this matchup over the past few years, going 8-4 in the past 12 meetings between UT and the Pokes.
Who: Texas Longhorns (13-9, 3-0 Big 12)
Where: Disch-Falk Field, Austin, Texas
When: Friday 7 p.m. CT II Saturday 2:30 p.m. CT II Sunday 1:30 p.m. CT
TV: Longhorn Network
Radio: KSPI 93.7 FM
Live Stats: okstate.statbroadcast.com
Know Your Enemy: Texas Longhorns
This UT Austin team is currently sitting at 13-9 and on a 4 game winning streak. Just like the Cowboys, the Longhorns have held a season of streaks. After 5 losses in a row, Texas was able to put it together against Big 12 Opponent Kansas last weekend, and No. 25 Sam Houston State earlier this week.
The Horns as a team are batting .272 with a .386 OBP. Averaging a shade under 6 runs per game, Texas has outscored their opponents 126-111 this year. They are led by Juniors Kody Clemens (.370 BA, 22 RBI) Masen Hibbeler (.333 BA, 12 RBI) and RS Freshman Zach Zubia (.297 BA, 23 RBI). Clemens was named Big 12 Player of the Week after a 2HR, 7RBI performance, and reached base safely in all 22 games this year. This trio has carried the Longhorns through the early season, and look for them to make an impact this weekend.
Additionally, SO RHP Duke Ellis, SO OF Blair Henley and JR Catcher DJ Petrinsky have all played above their statistical average in the month of March, and are contributing at a high level.
Texas is coached by David Pierce, who is in his second season in Austin after two brief stints at Tulane and Sam Houston State. He holds a 53-33 record at Texas, and a 250-142 record over 7 seasons as a head coach.
The expected starters for this weekend are as follows:
Friday: RHP Nolan Kingham — 3-2, 4.28 ERA; 28 K, 8 BB in 33.2 IP
Saturday: RHP Blair Henley — 3-1, 1.80 ERA; 20 K, 10 BB in 30.0 IP
Cowboys To Watch
This year comes with high hopes for Holliday and OSU; after winning the Big 12 Tournament (over a Texas team featuring two Clemens brothers, no less) the Cowboys are looking to repeat success and claim dominance in the Big 12. Here are some key players to keep on eye on during the #OrangeTakeover2k18
This former All Big 12 Catcher/DH had an excellent sophomore season in 2017, after being 3rd in the conference in RBIs (40) and slugging (.492) and hitting 11 HRs. “The Tank” is currently leading the team with in a plethora of categories, including a .347BA, 26 hits, 8 doubles, 5 HRs, 19 RBIs and slugging .653.
Oh, and if those numbers didn’t make it clear, the kid hits dingers.
The Stillwater native has evolved into the most prolific Cowboy pitcher on staff right now. A former walk-on, now scholarship athlete, Teel has the ability to big things in the Big 12, and still has a year of eligibility remaining. The Junior turned down the Boston Red Sox last June to continue his college career, and is currently leading the Big 12 in ERA at 1.05, and dominating batters with an opponent batting average of .175.
If you see this guy coming into the game, you know it’s crunch time. Teel has played the college equivalent of a closer, and he’ll definitely see some minutes as Cowboys look to get their first conference wins. This weekend he lines up as the announced Saturday starter, signaling that this is a series OSU needs to win.
Southpaw @CarsonTeel is making his first start of the season tonight. He's 2-0 with 3 saves and ranks second in the Big 12 in ERA (1.45) and opponent batting average (.175) #GoPokes pic.twitter.com/HilxkiBXHs— Cowboy Baseball (@OSUBaseball) March 17, 2018
Upperclassmen infield duo Andrew Rosa .326/.468/.543 and Matt Kroon .265/.405/.456 have helped dominate at the plate and around the horn, combining for 22 RBIs and 4 HRs. Junior Christian Funk is another Cowboy big hitter, slugging .385 in his first year in Stillwater after two years at Fresno City Community College. Sophomore pitcher C.J. Varela holds a 2.75 ERA over 19.2 innings pitched, second best on the team.
The Sophomore from Plano, TX is in his second year as an established Cowboy starter, and is currently sitting at 2-2 after 5 starts on the year. His 6.49 ERA is uncharacteristically high, as he posted a 3.55 ERA last year as a Freshman. Heasley is the announced starter for OSU this Sunday, and should be ready for a mid-season rebound after a couple rough starts.
Tonight's #okstate starting pitcher, @jonathanheasley, is tied for 3rd in the Big 12 this season with 28 Ks. He has struck out at least 6 in each of his four starts in 2018. #GoPokes pic.twitter.com/dKXVB6WXBw— Cowboy Baseball (@OSUBaseball) March 16, 2018
Friday: RHP Joe Lienhard 1-1, 5.50 ERA; 19 K, 10 BB in 18.0 IP
Saturday: LHP Carson Teel 3-0, 1.05 ERA; 33 K, 4 BB in 25.2
Sunday: RHP Jonathan Heasley 2-2, 6.49 ERA; 32 K, 14 BB in 26.1 IP
This year Texas and Oklahoma State were ranked 26th and 27th respectively in the NCAA preseason poll, and their records display a level of parity that is a hallmark of Big 12 baseball. Heasley, Teel and Simpson need to play up to match a Longhorn team that’s playing above their level, but Holliday-coached teams have done well against Texas and in Big 12 play. Expect the Cowboys to take a 2-1 series win this weekend, stealing one in Austin.