It will be a reunion for Oklahoma State as the Cowboys qualified for their 42nd NCAA Baseball Tournament and will head to Clemson, S.C., where the top seed Clemson Tigers (42-18) will open with fourth seed Western Carolina (30-29) and the second-seeded Cowboys will take on Nebraska.
The Pokes and Huskers baseball rivalry goes way back to Big Eight Conference days and on into Big 12 before Nebraska opted to leave the conference and join the Big 10. The rivalry was renewed a couple of years ago when Darrin Erstad, another head coach coaching his alma mater like Josh Holliday, brought his team to Stillwater for an NCAA Regional. Of course, Erstad is not only a former Nebraska baseball standout and punter in football but a former big leaguer.
The Cowboys had hoped to host a regional but scuffled some down the stretch of the season and wound up with a 36-20 record and an early exit last week from the Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City. Instead of watching the selection show today in the clubhouse the Cowboys were on the field working out when their name was called.
"To be in the NCAA Tournament is a great honor," said OSU head coach Josh Holliday. "We've worked hard all year long and had a very challenging, awesome learning experience throughout this season. Had you told me at 2-5 with four straight walk-off losses at the beginning of year that this group of kids would navigate this season the way they have and put us in position to play in the NCAA Tournament with a chance to win something, I would have taken it. Because it's been an uphill climb for us.
"I'm very proud of the kids," continued Holliday. "We've had a lot of injuries, we've had a lot of tough moments and we've also had a lot of very good moments. That's something that needs to be appreciated about this particular team is the leadership and toughness they've displayed."
If Oklahoma State gets back on track the Cowboys should be in good shape. But the Cowboys and the Huskers are somewhat mirror images of each other. While OSU finished 36-20 and 16-8 in conference, Nebraska was 37-20 and 16-8 in the Big 10. The hitting and pitching numbers are similar with Nebraska having three hitters over .300 and the Cowboys the same. As a team Nebraska hits .283 with 43 home runs and their opponents hit .249. Oklahoma State has a .261 average with 42 home runs and the Pokes opponents are hitting .242.
Pitching is close too with the Nebraska pitchers having a team ERA of 3.84 and the opponents are giving up 5.13. Oklahoma State, which needs to have a huge rebound from top closer Tyler Buffet, has a team ERA of 3.47 and opponents have an ERA of 5.03.
Both teams played games against Wichita State, Indiana State, Kansas State, Kansas, and Michigan this season. Against those five foes, Nebraska was a combined 6-5 including three losses to Michigan and two wins over Indiana State. The Cowboys against those same five opponents went 11-3 including taking two out of three from both Michigan and Indiana State.
ESPN likes the game as they will air it nationally on ESPNU at 11 a.m. (CDT) on Friday from Clemson.