After dropping 2 of 3 three to Arizona State, the Oklahoma State Cowboys baseball team continues its seven-game stint in the desert as they play Oregon State in the first game of the Big 12/Pac-12 challenge in Surprise, AZ. Oregon State opened the season with wins over Michigan State and Northwestern before dropping two games to New Mexico.
Oregon State Overview
Coached by Pat Casey, the Beavers have made five College World Series appearances since he took the helm in 1995, winning in 2006 and 2007. More recently, the Beavers have won the last two Pac-12 conference titles and have won 40+ games in each of the last four seasons.
MLB alums include: Darwin Barney (Dodgers), Stefen Romero (Mariners), Michael Stutes (Phillies), Andrew Susac (Giants) and most famously Jacoby Ellsbury (Yankees).
Casey has turned this team into a perennial powerhouse and by far the most feared team in the northwest.
Players to Watch
Freshman catcher K.J. Harrison had an impressive opening weekend, going 7-16 and hitting two home runs in the first four games of his career.
Sophomore infielder Caleb Hamilton turned down a chance to play for the Washington Nationals to take his talents to Corvallis. Hamilton is a versatile defender that can use his athleticism anywhere on the diamond. At the plate, Hamilton went 4-15 with only one RBI in the Beavers opening weekend.
Oregon State has shown solid bullpen depth early on this season with Mitch Hickey, Clay Bauer, John Pomeroy and Ryan Mets combining for 8 scoreless innings in 5 appearances last weekend.
Keys to Victory
The Cowboys struck out 32 times in 28 innings last weekend against ASU. Yes, the Sun Devils did throw three All-American pitchers, but still, more contact needs to made for the Cowboys to win.
Hitting with runners in scoring position ultimately cost OSU the series last weekend. Whether it is the multiple chances to plate the go-ahead run in the 9th and 10th innings on Friday or the 10 runners left on base Saturday, there were chances to win both games.
OSU averaged 1.7 baserunners per inning so getting on base isn't the problem. The Cowboys will need to find a consistent run-producer in the middle of the lineup if they want to have offensive success. Maybe it will be Kevin Bradley (4-9, 1 HR, 5 RBI), who was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week for his contributions in the opening series.
Rob Walton's starting pitchers are going to need to work deeper into games. Yes, I know it is early in the year and I also know Jon Perrin is on a pitch count to start the season coming off of surgery in the winter, but I don't think 5-6 innings is too much to ask for from a starter (Obviously not from Perrin yet). No starter made it past the 5th inning in the opening series. It will be necessary for the starters to log some innings early on so this young bullpen is not put under too much pressure to start the season.
Ultimately, I see this as a very winnable game for the Cowboys. This is a chance to beat a young team for some much-needed confidence to get momentum going in the right direction for Coach Holliday's team as they start out what has potential to be a legendary season.