Weekend Preview and Friday Open Thread

The fourth-ranked Longhorns head to scenic Stillwater, Oklahoma for a Big XII series against Okie State this weekend. The teams enter with identical 16-5 records, but OSU is unranked and started their season with much smaller opponents than did Texas.

Okie State started conference play by losing two of three to Kansas in Lawrence last weekend. They enter on two wins in a row, however, because of a 19-3 mercy rule win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and an extra inning W over Washington this week. The Cowboys' having played two midweek games coming into the weekend may prove risky, as reliever Gabe Weidenaar went 4.1 innings against the Huskies on Wednesday and is thus likely burned until at least Sunday. The Cowboys needed an 11th-inning homer from junior Zach Johnson, his second of the game, to send Washington packing. Visiting UW moved to 4-14 on the year.

The fact is, even with their nice overall record, OSU has been essentially "meh" this season. Their only two victories over major schools with winning records are their Friday win against Kansas (10-9) and another over Minnesota (7-5). Texas will be, by far, the best competition the Cowboys have seen this year. However, they might actually match up pretty well with the Longhorns. The type of team Texas can pound is one that relies on hitting and just expects their pitchers to keep them around, as Augie's boys are good at getting on base and scoring one at a time. Okie State is not that kind of team: as you can see below, their weekend pitchers are very solid--all with ERAs under 2.20. Sunday Starter Mike Strong has only thrown 17 innings, but has been good in those 17. So it may be tough for Texas to get to the OSU starters.

Okie State's offensive numbers also look good, but should of course be taken with a grain of salt. Keep in mind that the Pokes have not faced any starting pitchers with the talent of any of Texas' three starters. Still, Dane Phillips stands out even if he's been hitting against batting practice. The kid is hitting at a sick .443 clip and slugging .739 on the strength of nine doubles and SEVEN TRIPLES. We're telling you--it's the year of the triple. Four other Cowboy starters are hitting over .300 on the season, and the team batting average (admittedly skewed by Phillips) is .319. Compare that to Texas' .259 batting average. Again, though, we stress the assumption that those numbers would be closer together had the teams played more similar schedules to this point.

On the Texas side, much remains the same since last weekend. The starting rotation is untouched, and the key will be clutch hitting (or clutch walking). Texas will get men on--the question is whether they'll bring them around. One exceedingly bright spot is the steady climb of Jordan Etier. Since we last wrote about him and Montalbano trying to get above the Mendoza line (.200), Etier has shot past that mark to .271--giving him the third  highest batting average on the team. Jordan is also getting on base at a decent clip lately, and the two are surely related: he has done a better job lately of being patient at the plate and taking what the pitcher gives him. So we take our hats off to him, as it's not easy to work yourself out of the type of slump he was in.

Tonight's game will be televised on something called the Cowboy Sports Network. Those of you in exile in Oklahoma can see it on Cox Channel 3 in OKC or Cox Channel 7 in Tulsa. The rest of us can apparently see it on DirecTV or TimeWarner channel 617 (FCS) if we subscribe to it.

PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
March 25, 2011 – 6:30 p.m.
Texas: RHP Taylor Jungmann (5-0, 0.63 ERA)
OSU: RHP Brad Propst (3-1, 1.65 ERA)

March 26, 2011 – 2 p.m.
Texas: LHP Hoby Milner (2-0, 2.49 ERA)
OSU: LHP Andrew Heaney (3-1, 2.18 ERA)

March 27, 2011 – 1 p.m.
Texas: RHP Cole Green (1-2, 3.81 ERA)
OSU: LHP Mike Strong (2-0, 1.56 ERA)

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