MattBob's Baseball Preview-Nicholls State

The 21st-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-3) host Nicholls State (3-7) this weekend in their first home weekend series of the season. Nicholls State comes into the series with three wins in their last five games, with wins over Louisiana Tech and Mississippi Valley State. In those five games, the Nicholls has committed 13 errors while outscoring their opponents 29-21.

The Cowboys are riding a two-game winning streak after taking the finale in the series with Cal-State Northridge, a series which saw the Cowboys make many mistakes, and a midweek quality win against Dallas Baptist.

Cowboy head coach Frank Anderson had to take some pride in his team's performance on Tuesday against the Patriots of DBU. The five Cowboy pitchers tallied a total of 15 strikeouts. Midweek game like this provide the coaching staff a valuable opportunity to utilize more of the pitching staff, and is one of the main ways college programs develop a deeper bullpen. The innings of Joe Kent, Robbie Weinhardt and Aerik Taylor were especially helpful in that all three have very limited outings thus far. Seeing pitchers in game situations against live batters cannot be simulated in practice and can lead to big time rewards in the post season when bullpens are stretched thin.

In the wake of the Cowboys' run production problems at Northridge, this was an area of concern going into DBU and Nicholls State. The Pokes showed signs of improvements on Tuesday by scoring 10 runs, highlighted by a four-hit, two-home run, five-RBI showing by second baseman Tyler Mach. However, the Cowboys continued to strand runners, leaving nine runners on base, bringing the total to 90 runners in 10 games for the Cowboys.

Nicholls State presents a good chance to get some guys healthy, and to get some other guys playing time. Nicholls hits just .232 as a team, as compared to a .336 for OSU. Nicholls defense has struggled at times averaging more than two errors a game, to go with a pitching staff with a combined ERA of 5.75.

The Colonels will send three starters to the mound that have struggled to work long outings. Saturday's starter Ross Larson (1.93 ERA) is the ace of the staff, and has seen the most work of their starters with 14 innings pitched in three appearances.

The Cowboys will see a new pitching aspect this weekend, as the Colonels feature a left-handed sidearm in Brian Sparks. Sparks' delivery is the lowest that OSU batters have seen all season, and may take some time to adjust to. The good news is that Sparks has traditionally struggled on the mound, as it takes opponents just one at-bat to get adjusted to the delivery.

As the Cowboys look to rehabilitate catchers Ryan Pittman and Ryan Flavell, the immediate concern, is base stealers and passed balls. Nicholls State provides some relief in that regard as the Colonels do not look to run very often, only stealing eight bases on just 10 attempts. Thus far OSU has limited its number of passed balls to just two, both charged to Flavell, but it has had 12 wild pitches with six of those charged to Sunday starter freshman Andy Oliver.

The Cowboys can be followed on 93.7 FM or online at www.okstate.com. The game times for the Cowboys are Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. with the series conclusion at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Fans in attendance can take advantage of a few OSU promotions. On Friday popcorn will only be 50 cents. Admission to Sunday's game is just three dollars with the presentation of a church bulletin.

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