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Cowboy Baseball: TCU Series Preview

An early look at the biggest series yet for the Pokes.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Florida vs TCU Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

A Game of Swings

See, I can make puns too. Baseball is a game of momentum, and this year has been exceptionally streaky for OSU. From the start of regular season play to March 16th, the Cowboys went 3-0, 0-3, 3-0, 0-4. Needless to say, success is not fleeting, but losses in groupings have been a theme. However, the Pokes are primed for a conference run after trouncing Oklahoma 7-1 earlier this week in a non-conference game.

Going into only the second series of Big 12 play, the Cowboys (12-10-1, 1-2) take on one of the best teams in the country in Texas Christian. The Horned Frogs lead the Big 12 at 3-0 in conference and 14-7 overall, and are ranked 18th nationally, second in conference only to Texas Tech at No. 9. The Big 12 has a rich tradition of baseball greatness, and most recently TCU and Texas Tech have dominated that narrative. A series win at Allie P. would be a huge momentum swing for the Cowboys in conference play.

The Essentials

Who: TCU Horned Frogs (14-7, 3-0)

Where: Allie P. Reynolds Stadium, Stillwater, OK

When: Friday 8 P.M. II Saturday 6 P.M. II Sunday 12 P.M.

TV: ESPN U (Friday/Saturday); Fox Sports Oklahoma (Sunday)

Stream: WatchESPN; Fox Sports GO

Radio: KSPI 93.7 FM

Stats: okstate.statbroadcast.com

The Matchup

The 2017 Cowboys, despite making the NCAA Regional Tournament for the 5th straight year and winning the Big 12 Tournament, went a dismal 30-27. That record is quickly being duplicated in 2018 at 12-10-1. Meanwhile, the 2017 Frogs went 58-18 and notched another trip to Omaha before being eliminated by national powerhouse Florida. There is no better NCAA tournament preparation than solid wins against a team like TCU; and the Frogs will bring a level of competition to the table that Marist certainly did not.

The weekend starters matchups have been announced as the following:

Friday: Jared Janczak (2.46 ERA; 38K, 12BB in 36.6IP) vs. Joe Lienhard

Saturday: Nick Lodolo (3.77 ERA; 32K, 6BB in 28.6IP) vs. Carson Teel

Sunday: Sean Wymer (3.91 ERA; 24K, 3BB in 25.3IP) vs. Jonathan Heasley

A talented TCU pitching staff will take on a Cowboy team that’s had struggles at the plate in 2018, and streaky pitching. Joe Lienhard has taken over the role as the Friday night starter, and his dominant performance against Texas (1ER, 8K, 5BB in 8.1IP) shows that the position is well deserved. Have high expectations for Lienhard’s conference play; he proved in Austin he can compete with the best, and maybe even breathe some life into an otherwise dismal OSU pitching staff.

Orange Ace Carson Teel on the other hand, struggled against Texas, and is looking to find his mid-season rhythm after an exceptional start. Jonathan Heasley is in the same boat, looking for his mojo after allowing 5ER in 5.1IP against the Longhorns. That being said, these two can each take over a game and completely dominate batters. Teel or Heasley flipping the switch this weekend means OSU wins this series.

And, if the bats heat up at the right time, which they have before and did against OU, the boys from Stillwater can beat any team in the Big 12. Colin Simpson (still) leads OSU in nearly power hitting, going .323/.375/.634 and going yard 7 times, including a grand slam in Norman.

Simpson’s receiving mild assistance from the likes of Matt Kroon .282/.408/.506 and Andrew Rosa .326/.468/.543, but the team is batting .243 to their opponents’ .284, and that is emblematic of the team’s midseason problems. More support from youngsters like Jake Taylor is necessary if this OSU team is going to really take off.

Speaking of Jake Taylor, he’s my Cowboy Young Gun of the Week. Is that a real award? Don’t worry about it. Is the Freshman Catcher for real? Absolutely. The Shawnee native is hitting .259/.259/.379 on the season, and while that OBP number could definitely use some work, he got his first jack of the season against Texas and has 7 RBIs thus far. He’s had 5 multi hit games in 2018, and if he can bring that K number down (14) and trade them for some walks, he’s got a bright future in Josh Holliday’s program. Taylor’s success frees Colin Simpson to DH all the time, creating lineup flexibility for OSU, and allowing slumping upperclassmen to find their swing while the catching duo swats extra base hits. And, I can tell you firsthand, he’s really not bad at framing his pitches. JT13 will have a successful career in Orange and White if he keeps doing stuff like this...

CRFF Crystal Ball Says...

Cowboys split this one the right direction: 2-1 good guys. I love the Teel/Lodolo matchup; the Cowboy ace will find his mojo as a starter, and the Frogs’ sophomore will fold under pressure. Friday night lights in Cowboy Country will aid Lienhard against Janczak who, despite throwing a perfect game earlier this year, has a noticeably higher OBA in 2018 than last year. The Frogs may escape Stillwater with one win, but the explosive, free swinging OSU group that we saw earlier this week will return to continue the streak.