The Cowboys enter the series on a six-game winning streak, highlighted by a 19-1 drubbing of Texas-Arlington, a team that is projected to win its division in the Southland Conference. Pepperdine enters the weekend riding a three-game winning streak that includes a win over 24th-ranked North Carolina State.
The UTA game Tuesday was a return of the '80s. OSU, wearing black retro jerseys which feature the interlocking "O" and "S" logo on the hats, lived up the memories those jerseys originally created. The Pokes had a season-high 21 hits and 19 runs, a performance that would make the Gary Ward-era teams proud. Oklahoma State will wear the same jerseys all weekend in honor of that past tradition.
Tuesday also saw the return of veteran leader Ty Wright. Wright is still listed as day-to-day with a nagging hamstring injury. Until his leg is a 100 percent and his speed assured, he will probably be limited to the designated hitter role -- a role in which he went 3-for-4 in his return. His bat in the lineup gives the Cowboys one of the most potent in the nation.
Pepperdine's offense is not a powerful one, but they are a quality small ball team. Chase D'Arnaud, Danny Worth and Adrian Ortiz are very consistent hitters; they have combined for 26 multiple hit games. Pepperdine likes to run. The Cowboys should expect hit and runs and steals all weekend long. Countering that threat will either be catcher Ryan Flavell, who is very apt at blocking the plate, or Kevin David, who has displayed a strong arm from behind the plate.
If the Pokes are to win they will need the bats to be hot, and to continue their success with two-out hits, as Pepperdine has outstanding pitchers.
Pepperdine's team ERA going into their Tuesday game was 2.39. This is unheard of, especially given the strength of their schedule. Over their last 10 games the team ERA is an amazing 1.52, holding opponents to a .193 batting average. They are led by two pre-season All-Americans that are also listed on the Roger Clemens Award watch-list in right-handers Harry Enright and Brett Hunter.
Enright will face OSU's Matt Gardner in Friday's opener, with Hunter throwing against Oliver Odle on Saturday. In 37 innings pitched, Enright has allowed just 27 hits and 6 earned runs. Hunter, as a starter, has a 1.12 ERA and has struck out a team-high 28 batters. On Sunday, Pepperdine will send lefty Robert Dickman (1-1) with a 4.38 ERA to face Cowboy southpaw Andy Oliver.
The bullpen for Pepperdine boasts five guys with less than 2.00 ERAs, including a closer with six saves and with just one run allowed. To win the Cowboys do not need to outpitch the Waves, but they do need solid starts and good outings from relievers.
Defensively the Waves have one of the top shortstops in America in Danny Worth. The Pokes need to be weary of his ability to turn the double play.
The good news for the Pokes comes from the Cowboy defense. This OSU team has one of the fastest outfields in America. Led by outstanding Keanon Simon, the Pokes will not allow many extra base hits, which is imperative when facing a good small ball team.
The Waves are the first test big test for the Cowboys, and will give fans an idea as to where this team stands with regard to post-season aspirations. To win the series the Cowboys will need solid defense and good hitting. The pitching staff Pepperdine brings is good enough to beat most teams, as evidence by the Waves' wins over ranked opponents Wichita State, USC, and N.C. State, but the Cowboys have the lineup to win, if they get timely hits and do not beat themselves.
The Cowboys could use the ghosts of the College World Series this weekend, and the offensive explosion on Tuesday in the jerseys shows that is possible, but they also need fan support. This weekend temperatures are forecast into the low 70s. So it should be a beautiful weekend for baseball. Frank Anderson's team deserves the same kind of fan support they would have if this were a regional, because this is a regional final quality match-up. Bring the whole family to Stillwater, fans won't regret it.
Start times are Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m, with the conclusion on Sunday at 1 p.m. For those not lucky enough to live close enough to drive to the game, audio and live stats can be found at www.okstate.com with live video available through MVP.
MattBob's Baseball Preview-Pepperdine
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