MattBob's Baseball Preview-Baylor

The 14th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys (19-6) host unranked Baylor (16-11) in the first home conference serie of the season this weekend. The Cowboys return to the friendly confines of Allie P. Reynolds after opening Big12 play last weekend by taking the series from Kansas.

The Bears enter the series 2-4 in the Big 12 after being swept by Texas in the opening weekend and then taking the series from Texas Tech, two games to one, last weekend. Oklahoma State should be rested after a week of rain affected practices while Baylor comes into the series collecting its first road win last Tuesday against Texas-Arlington. The road win by Baylor marked their first road win since April of last season.

Baylor's record may skew some to believe that Baylor is experiencing a down year, but this Baylor team does have some talent, and chose to schedule very tough opponents. Baylor's strength of schedule according to Boyd's college rankings is 20th, compared to Oklahoma State's 51st ranking. This is the same team that swept the Cowboys last season in Waco in embarrassing fashion, scoring 33 runs in the series to OSU's four.

One of the more talented players Baylor brings to Stillwater is shortstop Beamer Weems. Weems a freshman All-American last season was named this week's Big12 Player of the Week after batting 11-for-17 in four games. Weems is the Bears biggest home-run threat, leading the team with four. He also has the speed to collect extra base hits, leading the team with eight doubles and tying a Baylor record for two triples in one game.

This Baylor team is definitely not the most potent lineup. They are currently in last in the Big 12 in batting. When they score, it is usually because of their team speed and not because of their bats. Baylor is going to try to do things to move their runners over. Centerfielder Chase Gerdes has nine stolen bases this season. He has stolen at least 10 bases in each of his previous three seasons.

When they win, it is because of pitching. They have a team ERA of 3.37, good enough for fourth in the Big12 behind Oklahoma State's 3.19. This is in spite of a Bear defense is suspect, surrendering 38 errors in 27 games. Their staff is highlighted by ace Jeff Mandel. He is a high strikeout pitcher, tallying 46 in 46 innings of work. The other fine pitcher is closer Nick Cassavechia, who is carrying a 2.60 ERA with four saves.

As the Cowboys look to continue their winning ways, they will need quality starting pitching, something that has plagued them in big games this season. The Cowboys' only consistent starter is consistently dangerous. Andy Oliver is 5-0, but has put himself in many jams. At some point those jams are going to cost him, hopefully not this Sunday with the cameras on him.

The Cowboys' other starters -- Oliver Odle, Matt Gardner, and Justin Friend -- are rotating bad starts with one another. I would expect Odle to remain the Friday night starter, so that Frank Anderson can use him in relief on Sunday if he has to. Friend is listed as the starter on Saturday in place of Gardner like last week, but given Friend's bad start last week in Lawrence, I would not be surprised to see that change.

There is no question about the Cowboy bats, which lead the Big 12. However, following the Saturday loss to Kansas, the defense moved from stable to a question mark. The loss to Kansas can easily be attributed to bad errors that allowed the Jayhawks to score three unearned runs in a 6-3 victory. This aspect of the team is certainly something to watch this weekend, especially given the lack of outdoor work possible given the weather conditions.

The forecast calls for rain Friday, but the skies look to be clear Saturday and Sunday for the series to be played. If Friday is rained out, the two teams will most likely play a doubleheader on Saturday to make it up. The scheduled start times, subject to change, are Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m ., and the finale on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.

Sunday's game will be broadcast nationally as a part of Fox Sports Net's weekly Big12 baseball coverage. Oklahoma State was 3-0 on TV last season, but has not been broadcast nationally since 2004.

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