Texas Longhorns baseball (28-16, 7-8 Big 12) will kick off its series with the Oklahoma State Cowboys (23-16, 6-9 Big 12) with a double-header on Friday in Stillwater at 2:30 and 6 p.m. CT.
The three-game conference series is pivotal for Texas’ post-season outlook. A Texas sweep would nearly clinch an NCAA tournament berth, but an Oklahoma State sweep would nearly kill those tourney hopes.
Oklahoma State isn’t quite on track to match its College World Series run a year ago, but the group’s recent success has them in the hunt for an NCAA tournament bid. The Cowboys took two of three games in Lubbock last weekend against then-No. 5 Texas Tech. Meanwhile, the Longhorns were swept by the Red Raiders in March.
With a .267 team batting average, Josh Holliday’s squad is not a particularly dangerous hitting team (though they exceed the low bar of being better than Texas).
However, the Cowboys do have three batters hitting above .300.
Junior Garrett McCain is in the midst of a monster break-out season, hitting for a .372/.554/.489 slash-line. The speedy outfielder is 15-for-15 on stolen base attempts as well. He is also reliable defensively, and is the clear star for the Cowboys
Colin Simpson is Oklahoma State’s home run threat, as he leads the team with nine dingers. The sophomore catching is hitting .312 on the year.
Garrett Benge also possesses some power. The former junior college player of the year has eight homers and has honed a .304/.568/.424 slash-line.
Though Oklahoma State has a slight edge over Texas in the hitting department, their pitching is not as consistent. The Cowboys have a team ERA of 4.19, compared to the Longhorns’ 2.95 team ERA.
Josh Holliday’s team will likely start Joe Lienhard (4.00 ERA), Tyler Buffett (4.45 ERA), and Blake Battenfield (4.85 ERA). While all of the Oklahoma State weekend starters have ERAs of four or higher, none of the Texas starters have worse than a 3.26 ERA.
Despite a down season, Buffett is the most stellar of the group. The senior was an All-Big 12 first team pitcher last season, working both in a stopper and starter role. He was drafted in the seventh round of the MLB draft by the Houston Astros, but decided to come back for his senior season.
Texas will likely need to depend on steady starting pitching to come away with a series win. The Longhorns are 4-8 on the road this season, so this weekend’s date in Stillwater will be a tall task for the ‘Horns.
You can catch the action on FOX College Sports on Friday, and ESPNU for Saturday’s concluding game. You can also listen in on 104.9 the Horn.