Scouting the Huskers and rating the match-ups

1st place Cowboys begin a 3 game series with 9-9 Nebraska in Big the 12 on Sat. May 8 at 7 p.m., Sun. May 9 at 2p.m. and Mon. May 10 at 1 p.m. in Stillwater. <BR><BR> You have to be impressed when you look at Nebraska's experience and all-stars. A few of the stars are having problems this year but they have plenty of talent. Gordon and Kroenke are having great years.

Some interesting offensive similarities: Games played OSU 44, NU 44; Runs scored OSU 317, NU 317; Slugging percentage OSU .443, NU .442; On base percentage OSU .391, NU .393. In several categories you can't tell the two teams apart by looking at the numbers. Key offensive differences are that Nebraska loves to get hit by pitches NU 79, OSU 38 and Nebraska likes to run but they aren't real good at it.

Center Field

Junior college transfer Colin Shockey took over center field and bats lead-off for the Huskers. The switch hitter has been a fine addition and gets on base at a superb .457 rate. He understands his role is to get on base and is happy to crowd the plate and get hit by the pitch. Rew will probably hit him a couple of times on principle. The only problem with getting in a bean ball war with the Huskers is that you don't know if you are in one or if it just a normal Husker game. He doesn't have much power and needs to improve his strike zone judgment. He has OK speed for a center fielder but is not a great base runner and has been caught stealing 7 times. It is hard to understand why they let him run.

Bottom line: Advantage Nebraska

Right Field

The Huskers like to bat third year starter Daniel Bruce second. High expectations based on his first two years haven't materialized and he has had to share some playing time. His power numbers are way down and he is hitting only .250. Even more alarming is the fact that he didn't play well the last half of 2003 either. Pitchers almost always catch up with hitters that can't abstain from swinging at borderline pitches. Bruce can be like a boozer trying to refrain from his favorite drink (9 walks and 37 strikeouts). Bruce is the type of aggressive player that the media loves but that can kill an offense with too many outs.

Bottom line: Advantage OSU.

Third base

Good lord! 2003 Freshman All-American Alex Gordon is having a monster year. He is a switch hitter and does EVERYTHING well. He is probably the best player in the Big 12. I have no idea how to stop him and am glad it is Frank's job to figure it out and not mine. For reasons that are not clear, Big 12 managers like to bat their best hitter third instead of fourth. Nebraska follows this trend. This guy alone will be worth the price of admission.

Bottom line: Advantage Nebraska

First base

The Huskers bat first basemen Curtis Ledbetter fourth. Ledbetter earned All-Big 12 honors last year as a dh. He has a lot of power and the reporters on The Husker Baseball show like to go on and on about him. I caught the show last night and I had to go back and check his stats to make sure he was the guy I thought he was. Despite the hype, Ledbetter is a good but hardly great Big 12 infielder. Opponents have a right to fear his power but he doesn't get on base nearly enough to be one of the best hitters in the Big 12 and his strike zone judgment is often questionable. He has below average speed and rarely walks. He is unlikely to repeat as All-Big 12.

Bottom line: Advantage Nebraska but not nearly as big an advantage as reporters from Nebraska would have you believe.

Second base

The Huskers have senior co-captain and 2003 honorable-mention All-Big 12 Jake Mullinax back at second. Expect him to bat 5th and be a tough out. He hits for average (.34 and power (.544 SLG). I think he is a very good player that is destined for more All-Big 12 honors. He doesn't steal many bases but is by no means slow and is a good bunter. I like him.

Bottom line: Advantage Nebraska

Left field

Jr. Jessie Boyer has taken over in lf. He redshirted last year so he is another Husker that has plenty of experience. He bats left handed and usually hits eighth. Boyer is a singles hitter with good speed and also likes to bunt.

Bottom line: Advantage OSU

Designated Hitter

The Huskers haven't found any consistent offense from the DH role. They will most likely use Fr. Tyler Vaughn and/or So. Chad Steele. Both players have struggled in the role.

Bottom line: Advantage OSU


The Huskers have a lot of experience behind the plate in senior captain John Grose (GROSS). Grose has been a starter since his impressive sophomore year in 2002. His production declined due to an elbow injury in 2003 and the Huskers were hoping that he would be fully recovered for his senior year. Unfortunately that hasn't happened and Grose has been a disaster at the plate. He brings a .183 batting average to Stillwater and hasn't provided much help all season. He is not slow for a catcher. Expect him to bat 6th or 7th this weekend.

Bottom line: Big advantage for OSU.


Jr. Joe Simokaitis (sim oh KITE tis) usually bats ninth but could move up against OSU ‘s left-handers. Simokaitis and Mullinax add up to a lot of experience at the middle infield positions. Simokaitis is having a similar year to last year. His average is a little higher than last year but he doesn't hit for power and his on-base percentage has declined. If you see him bat second against the lefties, then you know that Nebraska has a problem. Clearly you want him low in this order and hope he can find a way to get on-base.

Bottom line: Even

Starting pitching

Expect Sophomore left hander Zach Kroenke (KRON neck ee) to start game one. Koenke finished the 2003 season by throwing a complete game in an NCAA Regional game and has been just as good in 2004. He is on an All-Big 12 pace and has complete game victories over Texas A&M (4-1) and Kansas State (5-0). He also pitched 8 innings to beat Texas Tech 3-1 and 6 innings to beat Kansas 3-2. He had a no decision in a great pitching dual with Danny Hill of Missouri on April 16th (8 IP, 4 hits, 2 ER). His only Big 12 loss was an April 23rd pounding at Texas when he failed to make it out of the fourth inning.

His fastball is good but not great. He is very hard to hit (.210 OBA) and nearly impossible to take out of the park. He has good control, BUT, if he has a weakness he will occasionally walk and hit batters. It is about the only way to beat him.

Bottom line: Big advantage for Nebraska (v. Cowley)

I expect Jr. RHP Phil Shirek (SHEAR ik) to pitch game two. Shirek is 5-1 with a 3.35 ERA. He is prone to wild streaks (over 4 walks per nine innings and 7 hit batters) and has a below average fast ball. Nevertheless, he does get the job done by keeping the ball on the ground and limiting the opponent's power.

Bottom line: Big advantage OSU (v. Grogan)

Nebraska may go with Dustin Timm in game three (Monday). They have struggled to find a reliable third starter. Timm is probably better out of the pen but he is needed in this role for now. Not much of a fast ball but keeps the ball in the park and has good control. Remember, these types of pitchers have given the Cowboys fits this year.

Bottom line: Advantage OSU

Nebraska has a deeper pen than OSU but I think Richmond gives OSU a small advantage in this category.

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