MattBob's Baseball Report

The 2007 Cowboy baseball campaign opened with a blast. In the first at-bat of the Citrus tournament and of the OSU season, veteran left fielder Ty Wright hit a third-pitch, lead-off knock that cleared the left-center fence with ease. If the old saying is true, and the predictor of a season is the first at bat, the Pokes are in for one explosive ride.

With wins over Lamar, McNeese State, and Illinois-Chicago the Pokes have started their season off on the right foot. These three teams may not draw you attention with their names, but these are very quality early season wins over the top two Southland Conference teams and the Horizon League's defending champion. Frank Anderson's team has been limited in their outdoor practices by the Oklahoma cold, making the OSU performance all the more impressive.

Pitching was the story of the weekend for the Pokes despite fine offensive outings. Beginning Friday, Matt Gardner showed poise in jams. The ace put himself in sticky situations. In five innings of work, he allowed three lead off doubles, but none of those runners would go on to score.

On Saturday, the Cowboys got a huge boost from senior right-hander Oliver Odle. On a career day, Odle struck out 10 batters, including five of the first six he faced, and only allowed three hits. Odle was named Monday as the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week for his outstanding effort.

Sunday's starter, left-hander Andy Oliver, the most heralded of the freshmen pitchers, got himself into trouble in the first inning by walking and hitting a batter, but got out of it by striking out the side with his fast ball clocking in at 90-plus mph. Andy's action was limited to just three innings, allowing two earned runs, striking out five, with two wild pitches. He showed glimpses of something special in those strikeouts, but also showed his youth by allowing walks to turn into runs.

The Cowboys got good innings out of their bullpen in the first two games by getting solid relief appearances from newcomers Martin Beno and spring semester enrollee Justin Friend, and veteran Jeff Breedlove. Breedlove appears to have taken on the role of closer in the absence of 2006 closer and shortstop Jordy Mercer, who is lost for two to three months with a knee injury.

Breedlove led the team in appearances in 2006 with 24 while maintaining a 3.32 ERA, including two scoreless outings in OSU's regional berth. The luck of the bullpen did not last through the weekend as the Pokes used six pitchers on Sunday, finally finding a quality outing from junior college transfer Josh Neal who struck out the side in the eight and closed out the win in the ninth.

Infield defense was a question mark going into the tournament, with former third baseman Tyler Mach moving to second and the loss of Mercer. Plugged into the vacancy at short was a surprise in redshirt freshman Matt Lopez. Lopez considered to be a backup third baseman himself, beat out returner Kendall Horner and newcomer Kevin David. The Cowboys did not waste any time in answering the questions, turning four double plays in the first game and three 6-4-3 double plays on Sunday.

In Saturday's action, Lopez and third baseman newcomer Matt Mangini both were charged with errors that might have been scored hits, but this early in the season errors are just a part of the game. If the errors continue into late March then Cowboy fans should begin to worry about the left side of the infield.

The leader for the Pokes offensively should come as no surprise, in Tyler Mach, the 2006 Big12 co-Player of the Year. The Kent, Wash., native got off to a shaky start, striking out in his first two at-bats at the hands of crafty Lamar left-hander Allen Harrington. Then Mach settled in, getting hits in his final three at-bats on Friday. On Saturday, Mach picked up right where he left off Friday going 4-for -4with three doubles, and adding a sacrifice fly that allowed Corey Brown to score from third in the fourth inning. On Sunday a nasty cross wind and some bad luck prevented Tyler from making a splash, taking away a home run and single.

The injury to Ty Wright may have been the only negative for the weekend. Ty strained an oblique muscle on his fourth at-bat on Friday. However, he is expected to be cleared to go this Friday. The good news for OSU is that, if there were a position where the Cowboys could withstand an injury it was in the outfield. Freshmen Dusty Harvard and Dylan Brown are both very talented and provide Frank Anderson with several options with how to counter the loss of Ty. Dusty is apt to being a roaming center fielder, which would allow Keanon Simon to shift over to left, as was the case on Friday. Dylan, who played left on Saturday and Sunday, has the speed of his older brother, something he has already displayed on the base path.

The next game for Frank's team will be Friday when the 21st-ranked Cowboys travel to Boca Raton, Fla., for the Florida Atlantic Tournament to play La Salle.

GoPokes Top Stories