MattBob's Baseball Preview-Kansas State

The 14th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys (25-8) host Kansas State (22-11) in a three-game home series that has been moved to Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The Cowboys enter the series riding a three-game win streak after tearing the cover off the ball against Arkansas State in two mid-week games.

The Wildcats, on the other hand, are on a three-game losing streak, after losing the series to resurgent Missouri and a mid-week game with Creighton.

When the Pokes win two mid-week games against inferior opponents the story is usually the power of the lineup. Despite winning the Tuesday game with a grand slam and winning Wednesday's game by scoring 21 runs, the story of the week was starting pitching.

For the first time in several weeks the Cowboys got a pair of fantastic starts from their pitchers. Tuesday was highlighted by the combined pitching of starter Joe Kent and Martin Beno, both of which preformed well. Wednesday saw the return of veteran Matt Gardner. Gardner began the season as the Cowboy ace, but was forced to watch the last month of baseball from the bench while he rehabbed his arm. In five innings of work against Arkansas State Gardner allowed just two hits.

The Cowboys hope to keep the streak of good starts from its pitchers intact this weekend. In the previous six games, no Cowboy starter has pitched a full five innings of work. In each of those starts, the starting pitcher allowed at least three earned runs. The limited work and runs allowed puts a strain on the bullpen. Luckily the lineup has been strong enough to make comebacks and win games.

Kansas State is seen by some of the Cowboys faithful as an easy series win, and some are calling for a sweep. However, this is not the normal K-State team. Coach Brad Hill has slowly been accumulating some talent and right now they are playing better than they look on paper. They had a runner in scoring position in the last four innings of their rubber game with Mizzou. KSU was a hit away from winning the series with Missouri and being tabbed the biggest surprise team in the Big12.

KSU has the talent to win any game, as Texas learned this season. The Wildcat lineup, led by Byron Wiley who is batting over .400, shelled the veteran Texas pitching staff to win the finale of that series. Wiley has become one of the best unknowns in the conference after a tremendous summer last year.

The Wildcats have decent starting pitching and excellent closer in right-hander Daniels Edwards, who has allowed only two runs earning nine saves with 31 strikeouts in 13 appearances. The middle relievers are definitely the weak spot of the KSU pitching and may provide OSU with opportunities for runs.

In a lineup of power hitters sometimes a hitter can be overlooked. One bat in the middle of the lineup that is having a great unsung season is Cowboy first baseman Rebel Ridling. Rebel's name is not mentioned nearly as often as the flashier players like Mach, Mangini or Brown, but it is Rebel along with Tyler Mach that leads the team in hitting during Big 12 play.

Both Mach and Ridling are batting an outstanding .447 against Big 12 pitchers. Early in the season, the young first baseman influenced games with his clutch two-out RBIs. It seemed like any time there was someone in scoring position, Rebel got a hit. He has kept that pace up through Big 12 play. Rebel is by far and away the team leader in RBIs with 16 during Big12 play. The only other Cowboy with over 7 RBIs is Mangini, who has 11.

You can catch Rebel as well as the rest of the Cowboy hitters this weekend in the friendly confines of Allie P. Reynolds Stadium. The Cowboys are 15-2 at home this year and would benefit from bigger crowds in attendance as the season progresses.

The series was originally to start on Friday but due to forecasted rain in Stillwater on Friday, the series has been moved to a Saturday-Monday format. Saturday's series opener is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., and as part of a canned food drive, each fan can receive half off their admission price with two canned food items.

Sunday's first pitch is set for 1 p.m., with the series finale on Monday scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

GoPokes Top Stories