After losing two of three to Illinois last weekend, the No. 23 Oklahoma State Cowboys face the Alcorn State Braves for two-game midweek series at home. The Cowboys are 7-0 all-time against Alcorn State, including two victories last season by scores of 17-4 and 16-1.
Alcorn State Overview
The Braves are 5-9 on the season and are led by head coach Barret Rey who is in his fourth season. Rey was named the SWAC Coach of the Year in 2011 after leading the Braves to its first conference title in school history.
The Braves pitching staff has struggled so far this season, allowing more than seven runs a game. Offensively Alcorn State is hitting .248 as a team, which is not a bad mark in the pitching-heavy era of college baseball that we are in today.
Players to watch
For Alcorn State Earl Bull III is the offensive catalyst. The junior from New Orleans registered five hits in a game early this season against Grambling State. Burl III could be a problematic on the bases for the Cowboys as he is coming of his first multiple stolen base game of the season.
For the Cowboys the player to watch has to be Conor Costello, who is coming off of his most productive weekend of the season. Against the Fighting Illini last weekend, Costello recorded five hits in 10 at-bats and also drove in two runs. Costello will need to be a reliable presence in a lineup that has struggled at times to be consistent.
Keys to victory
TWO GOOD STARTS
Since this is a midweek series, I expect coach Holliday will give someone outside of the rotation a chance to start. This would be a perfect opportunity for LHP Tyler Nurdin (1-1, 4.76 ERA) to try to fix some of the issues he's had to start the year going against a weaker opponent. RHP Tyler Buffett, RHP Trey Cobb or even Costello could get a start on the mound. The Cowboys will need a solid outing from whoever starts the games on Tuesday and Wednesday. Five or six innings and less than three runs allowed should get the job done.
In two games last year against the Braves OSU scored 33 runs combined, I hope for something similar this time around. The Cowboys are currently averaging 5.7 runs per game so far in the 2015 season. This is the team's first game against a truly weak opponent and I expect the offense to thrive in this situation.
IT'S ALCORN STATE
These are games that the Cowboys should undoubtedly win. It's important for the team to stay focused playing a weaker opponent and I expect coach Holliday will have his team prepared coming off an unsatisfactory weekend series.