Tomorrow at 11 a.m., Oklahoma State will take the field for its first game in the Clemson Regional, and the second-seed Cowboys will be facing a team that is very close to them in so many ways. It will almost be like looking in the mirror as Josh Holliday's Cowboys (36-20) display numbers very similar to Nebraska alum and head coach Darin Erstad's team, which finished 37-20. Both teams were 16-8 in their respective conferences and the similarities don't end there.
For Oklahoma State to survive the ESPNU-nationally televised opener and for the Cowboys to continue to advance in the regional that also includes top-seed Clemson (42-18) and fourth-seed Western Carolina (30-29) they will need everybody to step up and play better than the Cowboys' 1-2 performance in Oklahoma City at the Big 12 Tournament.
This team has constants as shortstop Donnie Walton, second baseman J.R. Davis, rightfielder Corey Hassel, and third baseman Garrett Benge but we've picked out three players that could really help out by picking up their game in South Carolina this weekend.
You have to start with closer Tyler Buffett. To advance in postseason you have to close out games and your closer is magnified this time of the year. Holliday and pitching coach Rob Walton stand by and profess that Buffett will bounce back from what has to be described as both an odd and awful pair of appearances in the Big 12 Tournament.
The numbers say it all. Before Oklahoma City, Buffett had pitched 58.2 innings allowing 45 hits, 19 runs, 17 earned runs, 24 walks, 60 strike outs, 8 doubles, 6 hit by pitch, a record of 6-2, and an ERA of 2.56. Two appearances and just 1.2 innings later Buffett had pitched 60.1 innings, allowed 52 hits, 30 runs, 24 earned runs, 26 walks, still 60 strikeouts, 11 doubles, 7 hit by pitch, picked up a loss to drop to 6-3 and his ERA rose over a run a game to 3.58.
Buffett was part of two nine-run eighth innings. Forget closing, as he was assisting opponents hitters to exploding. The Pokes need Buffett back if they are going to enjoy the postseason buffet for very long.
Conor Costello is always good when he is out there. The trouble is the senior has been really cheated in his senior year as injuries have limited him to 19 games and just a few outings as a pitcher. The Cowboys double threat is really needed for the offense as in just 19 games he is hitting .321 and has scored 11 runs, knocked in 23, hit seven doubles, and three home runs.
Costello needs to stay healthy and productive. He has a clone with the Huskers in Jake Myers, who is 6-1 on the mound with a 1.38 ERA and playing right field has hit .321 with two home runs and 29 RBI. Again, check those numbers as they are really similar.
Finally, home run power is not only power but momentum and the Huskers have Scott Schrieber with 16 home runs and 55 RBI.
The Cowboys need first baseman Dustin Williams, the Big 12's home run leader, to be on. Williams is a hot and cold hitter, who has 14 home runs, but early in the year five of those came in a five-game stretch. Late in the season, six of his bombs came in a 13-game stretch. Williams' bat needs to be hot at Clemson. Cowboys hitters need to get on base to and make those home runs count for more as Williams only had 41 RBI. More and more would be nice for the Cowboys.