Texas Longhorns baseball (13-9, 3-0 Big 12) will look to continue its four game win streak in the series opener against the Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-8-1, 0-0 Big 12) Friday night at 7 pm CST at Disch Falk field.
Oklahoma State has not played like the 2016 team that made Omaha, nor the 2017 team that made a miraculous run in the Big 12 tournament and beat Texas in the conference championship. The 2018 Cowboys are 5-7-1 in their last 13 games including a home series loss to Eastern Michigan, a team that sits at No. 198 in the Boyd’s World Iterative Strength rankings.
The Cowboys have not faced a conference foe this season, but were listed as tied with Kansas for No. 6 in the Big 12 preseason rankings.
Oklahoma State’s problems this year start at the plate. The Cowboys currently hold a team average of only .232 despite the stellar play of catcher Colin Simpson, who is hitting a .347 with five homers (both team bests).
The offensive drop off from 2017 (the team hit .266 last season) could be explained by Ok. State losing both Garrett McCain and Garrett Benge to the pros after 2017. The two Garretts were the only two Cowboys with a .300 or better average last year.
Oklahoma State has not offset its offensive deficiencies with stellar pitching, as the Cowboys hold a middling 5.07 team ERA.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Jonathan Heasley will get the call for Oklahoma State on Friday. Heasley holds a 6.49 ERA in his five starts thus far this season, and has thrown for a team-high 26.1 innings.
Heasley turned in a six inning, no run victory in Ok. State’s season opener against Texas State, but has had two bad outings this month. The Plano native allowed 11 hits and seven runs in 4.2 innings against Arizona State, and allowed seven runs again (six earned) against Seton Hall in a five inning performance against Seton Hall last weekend.
Heasley will match up with Texas sophomore righty Blair Henley, who is enjoying a breakout season. Henley has a 1.80 ERA in his five starts this season, and had another dominant performance last week, shutting Kansas out in his seven complete innings.
The Texas offense will face a tough test on Saturday, as junior left-handed pitcher Carson Teel has been excellent for the Cowboys. The former reliever will be making only his second career start this weekend, but currently boasts a 1.05 ERA in 25.2 innings pitched. Teel has a team-high 33 strikeouts, and batters are only hitting .165 against him.
Teel will face junior right-hander Nolan Kingham, who is sitting at a 4.28 ERA. After some recent struggles, Kingham turned in an excellent performance last weekend against Kansas, allowing four runs in complete game victory. Kingham also closed out Texas’ top 25 win against Sam Houston State on Tuesday.
On Sunday, Oklahoma State will call on sophomore righty C.J. Varela. Varela hasn’t pitched more than five innings in any of his five appearances this season, but has a very solid 2.75 ERA this season. Texas’ Sunday starter is TBD, but will likely be Chase Shugart. The junior right-handed pitcher and former reliever holds a 5.04 ERA on the season.
This weekend could turn out to be a defensive match-up, but Texas’ offense has looked more potent than in recent years and could the edge in the series. The ‘Horns have a respectable .272 team batting average, and have been led by Kody Clemens’ team-high .370 average and team-high six homers.
New faces such as Masen Hibbeler and Zach Zubia have also provided a reliable presences in the order.
The Longhorns are currently in the midst of a relatively friendly part of the season, so it’s crucial that Pierce’s team continues to rack up wins. In my opinion, anything less than a series win this weekend will be considered a disappointment.
You can catch the action tonight on the Longhorns Network or listen in on 104.9 the Horn. Saturday’s 2:30 pm CST game and Sunday’s 1 pm CST game can be found in the same places.