You know how the talk toward the end of the regular season and into the Big 12 basketball tournament turns to how familiar each team is with the other and how ugly the games can become because the teams know each other so well? The same can exist on the baseball diamond.
Oklahoma State baseball head coach Josh Holliday and his players admit they are looking forward to seeing a different team. They are saying, whether they really mean it deep down or not, that they are looking forward to a different venue. Shortstop Donnie Walton even used the term, "the pressure is off."
I don't think the savvy Walton really means that. This is his final go-round in the NCAA Tournament and I would imagine there will be a lump in his throat, albeit one he can handle, when the Clemson Regional begins at 11 a.m. Friday with the Cowboys taking on as familiar an unfamiliar opponent they could face in long-time Big Eight and Big 12 member Nebraska.
Oklahoma State leads the all-time series with the Cornhuskers 119-76. That's 195 baseball games played between the two long-time conference brethren.
Nebraska and current head coach Darin Erstad were in Stillwater for the NCAA Regional in 2014 but did not end up facing the Cowboys. The two teams last played in Holliday's first season as head coach in 2013 when OSU made a late trip in the regular season to Omaha and T.D. Ameritrade Park for a weekend event. They beat Nebraska 5-3 in 10 innings, beat the Huskers again 4-0, and finished with a 6-5 win over Creighton. The Cowboys are a perfect 3-0 in the park that hosts the College World Series. First things first as Nebraska, top seed Clemson, and Western Carolina await in the regional.
Oklahoma State and Nebraska kind of mirror each other as the Huskers finished 37-20 and 16-8 in the Big 10, while Oklahoma State was 36-20 and 16-8 in the Big 12.
Nebraska has three hitters (Ben Miller .324, Jake Myers .321, and Scott Schrieber .320) hitting above .300 and the Huskers hit .283 as a team with 43 home runs. Oklahoma State has three hitters above .300 (Donnie Walton .352, J.R. Davis .352, and Conor Costello .321) and the Cowboys are hitting .261 as a team with 42 home runs.
Pitching-wise, the Cowboys are just a little better with a team ERA of 3.47. The Cowboys have three pitchers with six wins or more (Thomas Hatch at 6-2 with a 2.31 ERA, Jensen Elliott at 8-2 with a 3.40 ERA, and Tyler Buffet at 6-3 with a 3.58 ERA). The Huskers have a team ERA of 3.84 and three pitchers with six wins or more (Jake Myers at 6-1 with a 1.38 ERA, Matt Waldron at 7-2 with a 2.39 ERA, and Derek Burkamper at 6-3 with a 2.39 ERA).
Both teams have a pitcher that can really hit as you can see Myers numbers above, and for the Cowboys Conor Costello not only is hitting .321 but he is 1-0 on the mound and despite injuries during the season can be expected to pitch in postseason.
The common opponents for the two teams are Michigan (each played three games), Kansas State (Nebraska played twice and OSU three times), Wichita State (Nebraska played three times and OSU once), Indiana State (Nebraska played twice and OSU three times), and Kansas (Nebraska played once and OSU three times). The combined record against those five for Nebraska was 6-5 and for Oklahoma State with more chances was 11-2.
It should be fun, like old times on Friday.