Baker's burden heavy entering tourney

The route the Cowboys take in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Tournament depends on the tone set by their No. 1 guy. Scott Baker (10-4) will be the captain of the little hill Wednesday morning, and his production against the Longhorns may determine if OSU has enough fight to stick around for the weekend.

 

 

The ace of any pitching staff has quite the responsibility.  His job is to go out and set an example for the rest of the team to follow.  His actions will set the tone for the entire series, or in this case, the tournament.

 

Enter Scott Baker.

 

The Cowboy fireballer comes into Wednesday's opening game of the Big 12 Tournament sporting an impressive 10-4 record and 3.20 ERA.  He also leads the team in strikeouts -- fanning a whopping 93 batters in 103 innings pitched.  His performance will have a great effect on the rest of the season.  In a sense, his right arm is supporting the weight of the entire Cowboy squad. 

 

This situation is nothing new to Baker though; as the Cowboys have depended upon him all season as their leader.  His start Wednesday against Texas will be a major factor in determining the Pokes' fate.  A loss could be detrimental.  But a win could possibly secure the Cowboys a spot in the regional tournament.  Baker will be taking the hill against a very potent Longhorn lineup, but one he has beaten before. 

 

While Baker may be the ace, the Cowboys will also have to rely on starters Spencer Grogan and Joe Weaver to give them some quality innings.  Both pitchers enter the tourney with three wins and an ERA above 5.00, but both have also shown the ability to shut down a good opposing team.  Those types of performances will be expected if the Pokes are to advance in the tournament. 

 

Starting pitchers are important, but let's not forget about the guys that finish the games as well.  Shane Hawk and Daniel Rew have been counted on to get out of many jams throughout the season, and it is safe to say this tournament could happen the same way.  Many a game is won or lost by the bullpen.  These guys must be ready for a challenge should the situation arise. 

 

A perfect example of the importance of pitching is Texas' run to the national championship last season. Justin Simmons went 16-1 last year as the Longhorn ace, while the other two starters also provided a combined 18 wins.  While their pitching staff was top-heavy like OSU's, the Cowboys feature a more explosive lineup than the ‘Horns did. 

Coming off a big weekend in Lubbock, the Cowboy offense could be hitting stride at just the right time.  The bats will be there when needed but will the pitching staff be prepared to match their output?  Only time will tell.  But if the Cowboys intend on extending this season and possibly the career of their coach, they had better be prepared to hook up.

 

Because now,   it's win, or go home.

 


Brandon Ingham can be reached via e-mail at Ingham@osuinsider.com

 

2002 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Tournament printable bracket

http://big12sports.ocsn.com/sports/m-basebl/spec-rel/051803aaa.html


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