Baseball: Cowboys Top Seed In Fayetteville

Lack of hotel rooms obviously sent the Oklahoma State Cowboys packing, but they won't travel far. A short bus ride will land the Cowboys in Fayetteville, Ark., later this week as the top seed in a regional hosted by the University of Arkansas. Oklahoma State, with a record of 39-18, will open the four-team regional with Ivy League champion Princeton.

The other two teams in the regional are host Arkansas, 38-19 and the two seed, which will take on third seed and neighbor Oral Roberts with a record of 39-14.

Oklahoma State will face Princeton in the first game at 2 p.m. Friday (Central Daylight Time), with Arkansas and Oral Roberts meeting in the nightcap at 7 p.m.

The top seed for the Cowboys verifies the NCAA Baseball Committee's comments that the lack of available rooms in Stillwater because of a trio of events this coming weekend compromised the Cowboys' opportunity to host the regional. That is a shame, but there are more hotel rooms scheduled to be built in the coming year in Stillwater.

As for the baseball workload for this weekend, Oklahoma State will be in with two teams that beat them during the regular season. The Cowboys were no-hit by a trio of Arkansas pitchers in the first weekend of the season as the Razorbacks beat OSU 3-0 in a round robin event hosted by South Alabama. The Razorbacks went two and que in the SEC Tournament last week but have had a strong season. Two of those pitchers that combined to no-hit the Cowboys have gone on to be tops on the Hogs pitching staff. Big 6-5, 220-pound lefty Nick Schmidt pitched six innings of that no-hitter and finished the season 9-3 with a 2.98 ERA. Fellow lefty Devin Collins is 7-3 on the season with a 2.47 ERA.

The Razorbacks are led in hitting by outfielder Jack Dugger with a .323 average along with 12 home runs and 43 RBIs. First baseman Danny Hamblin is hitting .296 with 16 home runs and 67 RBIs. Arkansas did lose to Oral Roberts in its only meeting of the season, 5-4, in Tulsa.

Oral Roberts just finished off winning its ninth straight Mid-Continent championship. Led by former OSU pitcher Tim Walton as coach, the Golden Eagles finished the season 39-14 and not only decisioned the Razorbacks, but also beat the Cowboys in both meetings, including a 13-2 win in Stillwater just two weeks ago. It was one of only two losses the Cowboys had in the final 17 games of the regular season. ORU won the earlier meeting in Tulsa 5-2. On both occassions the Golden Eagles threw reserve pitchers with success.

Oklahoma State will open with Princeton. The Tigers, which OSU once borrowed their nickname and colors from for their athletic teams, are 19-24-1 on the season. Their top two pitchers are both righthanders, which bodes well for the Cowboys. Senior Christi Staehely will likely get the start against OSU. He is 5-1 with a 2.30 ERA. Fellow righty Erik Stiller is 4-3 with a 3.46 ERA. Princeton is not a dynamite offensive team with a team average of .280, compared to .277 for opponents. Catcher Zach Wendkos is hitting .348 to led the team and also has eight home runs and 39 RBIs. Second baseman Aaron Prince is hitting .333 as a table setter, while right fielder Andrew Salini is batting .329 with six home runs and 37 RBIs.

OSU and Princeton last met in 2003 when the Cowboys won 6-3 in a neutral field setting at North Carolina State. The Cowboys also hosted Princeton in a regular season series in 2001 and swept the Tigers.

If Oklahoma State survives the regional in Fayetteville they could host a Super Regional in Stillwater. However, for that to happen Oklahoma State will have to hope for an upset at Clemson. The Fayetteville Regional winner is matched against the Clemson Regional winner the second week. Clemson, at 47-14, is the top of the eight national seeds on the "Road to Omaha." Clemson has Elon, Mississippi State and UNC-Asheville in its regional and an upset is not likely.

Arkansas Regional
at Baum Stadium

Friday
Oklahoma State (39-18) vs. Princeton (19-24-1), 2 p.m.
Oral Roberts (39-14) vs. Arkansas (38-19), 7 p.m.

Saturday
Losers bracket game, 2 p.m.
Winners bracket game, 7 p.m.

Sunday
Losers bracket game, 2 p.m.
Championship game, 7 p.m.

Monday
Championship game (if necessary), 7 p.m.

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