Cowboys, Sooners Ready To Battle

Four weeks ago Bedlam looked like a daunting challenge for the Pokes, but with the recent turnaround in Cowboy baseball, Bedlam is shaping up to be one of the best matchups in the Big 12 this year. The 24th-ranked Pokes come into the three-game series, beginning Friday in Tulsa, winners of 15 of their last 18, and taking four straight conference series. The 8th-ranked Sooners are riding a similar wave of success, winning 15 of their last 18, a 13-game win streak and 5 straight conference series.

The Cowboys will need the offense of a veteran trio to win the Tulsa game. The anchor of the lineup has been the bat of third baseman Tyler Mach. Mach currently leads the Big 12 in batting average (.399), hits (77), home runs (16), and RBIs (62). Poke fans hope the hot bat of second baseman Shelby Ford stays hot. Shelby's 7-for-11 hitting clinic against what was then No. 3 Nebraska garnered him Big 12 Player of the Week honors. The Pokes will also need the bat of Deik Scram to return to its early success. He is currently second in the Big 12 in batting average (.396) and triples (7).

The pitching for the Pokes will help determine how the series shapes out. On the mound Friday for the Pokes will be Matt Gardener, who has been a rock for the Cowboy staff the last two weeks collecting wins over Kansas State and Nebraska, allowing just six runs in the two games.

The Saturday game at Bricktown in Oklahoma City will feature Poke ace Brae Wright. Sunday's starter remains a mystery. Pitching will especially be crucial during the Bricktown games. The Bricktown ballpark plays larger than the friendly confines of Allie P. or Driller Stadium, so the Pokes will need good defense and good pitching if they hope to win the series.

The Sooners are led offensively by catcher Jackson Williams. Williams has a current 10-game hit streak during which he is batting a whooping .512 and has plated 11 doubles. The biggest threat on the base path for the Sooners is base stealing, lead off speeedster RF Chucky Caulfield.

Defensively, the Sooners have the best fielding percentage in the Big 12, led by shortstop Freddy Rodriguez. The Sooners also feature a duo of quality starting pitchers. Seniors RHP Daniel McCutchen and RHP Steve Guerra have been outstanding. The hard-throwing McCutchen, penciled in as Friday's starter, leads OU with 93 strikeouts. Guerra is tied for the conference lead with 9 wins.

The Pokes have to like their chances going into Bedlam after just taking the series from Nebraska. However, this OU team is built for games played in ballparks like Bricktown. To win the series the Pokes will need to get into that OU bullpen, limit defensive errors, and get good outings out of its starting pitchers.

Friday's game is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. at Driller Stadium in Tulsa. On Saturday, the series shifts to AT&T Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City. Saturday's game will begin at 8 p.m. with the third and final game Sunday at 5 p.m.

Sunday's game is the only game scheduled for TV broadcast, and will be shown across the state of Oklahoma on Cox Cable. The Cowboys own the all-time series lead at 137-135, but the Sooners have won the series three of the last four seasons.

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