MattBob's Baseball Preview-Kansas

The 14th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys (17-5) return to action this weekend in Lawrence, Kans. Kansas enters the series 14-12 with a 1-2 record in Big 12 action after starting league play last weekend in College Station. Oklahoma State, predicted to finish second in the conference, will see a Kansas team that will find itself near the bottom of the standings when all is said and done.

Kansas does have some talent. Leftfielder John Allman and second baseman Ryne Price return from last year's team and both have been All-Big 12 players at some point in their careers. However they represent the biggest threats in the lineup and there just is not a lot of hitters behind them. One exception is freshman Robby Price, who had a 16-game hitting streak going into the Jayhawks' midweek game against Northern Colorado.

Returning for the Jayhawks is veteran shortstop Erik Morrison. Morrison brings a stabilizing glove to the infield. Morrison sets up the double play very well. Ryne Price, however, has a tendency to let it slip through his glove, tallying 11 errors.

Last year, Kansas touted several pitchers that combined to beat better opponents. Sean Land and Kodiak Quick are gone. The Jayhawks will send three southpaws to the mound to counter the Big12's top hitting lineup. The threesome is headlined by Nick Czyz. If his name sounds familiar, his older brother was the dominant closer for KU last season. The younger Czyz was highly touted coming out of high school, playing for Team USA, but he has not lived up to that potential.

Kansas does carry a good bullpen for a team of the Jayhawks' stature. Replacing Don Czyz is Paul Smyth. In 10 appearances the right-handed Smyth is 1-0 with 4 saves and a 0.95 ERA. Andres Esquibel, their set up man, is a good one. He gets guys to strikeout and rarely will he issue a walk. He is carrying a 3.14 ERA in 10 appearances and leads KU with 4 wins.

Cowboy pitcher Justin Friend and outfielder Corey Brown learned Monday they had been named Big 12 players of the week for their efforts in OSU's 5-1 record last week. Friend made two appearances and struck out 16 hitters in just 9 1/3 innings of work. In his first career start Sunday, he tallied 13 of those strikeouts which was the most by a Cowboy since 2005.

Brown hit .429 in those six games recording 5 home runs with 15 RBIs. Corey finds himself in the top three in nine offensive categories in the Big 12. He was also named by the National Collegiate Baseball Writer's Association as National Hitter of the Week for his efforts.

The Cowboys need to take all three from the Jayhawks to put themselves in a good position to chase Texas for the conference title. KU is 1-6 when facing ranked opponents with the lone win coming against Texas A&M in extra innings.

Friday's start time is slated for 5 p.m. with Saturday and Sunday both scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Broadcasts are available on 93.7 FM or www.okstate.com

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