MattBob's Baseball Preview-Texas

First place in the Big 12 will be on the line this weekend in Stillwater as the 12th-ranked Cowboys host fourth-ranked Texas in a three-game series. The Cowboys currently find themselves 2.5 games behind the Longhorns in the standings. This weekend will have a big influence on the final standings.

The Cowboys do not need to sweep the Longhorns. Simply winning the series will improve the Cowboys' shot at the conference title.

The match up features the two best teams in the conference. Oklahoma State boasts one of the most potent lineups in America, where as Texas fields one of its most complete teams in years. This Longhorn team is less talented than some in the recent past, however this Texas team has the ability to hit the long ball which allows them to do more things offensively than teams of the past.

The ability to hit for power begins with outfielder Kyle Russell. Russell has already broken the Texas record for home runs in a season and currently leads the nation with 24 homers. If there is a weakness in Russell's game that would hinder his ability to win the national player of the year it is his high propensity to strike out. The young Longhorn had at one time last summer considered giving up baseball completely because he struck out so much.

One trademark of Augie Garrido-coached Texas teams is quality pitching, and this year is no different. All three of the weekend starters carry sub-4.00 ERAs. The staff is lead by ace Adrian Alaniz who has 69 strikeouts on the season, good enough for fourth in the league. Fans will remember Alaniz for his no-hitter pitched against OSU back in 2005. His last trip to Stillwater was less memorable. The then-freshman gave up nine hits en route to a loss. That loss was one of only two wins Frank Anderson has against his former team.

James Russell, the Longhorns' Friday night starter, carries the highest ERA of the starters at 3.66, but Russell is second in the league in strikeouts with 72.

The name Cowboys will know all too well at the end of the series is Randy Boone. Boone keeps in the tradition of quality closers for Texas. Boone is no Huston Street but he is quite good. Boone has the stuff to keep hitters off balance andhas the durability that allows Augie to call him in sooner than most teams would go to the closer.

The biggest asset this Texas pitching staff has though is its infield. The Texas infield is the best defensive infield maybe in the country as they have quality gloves at every position. The Cowboys may have one of the best hitting infields, but Texas's infield coupled with their pitching allows them to pile up outs in a hurry.

As Kansas and Nebraska have shown, Texas is beatable. If Oklahoma State is to win the series the Cowboys will need quality starting pitching. The Cowboy bullpen has been outstanding but the starters need to be able to go out and work six solid innings.

The Cowboys will also need for its leaders to play the weekend of their lives. This Cowboy team is laden with junior and senior leadership, and this is their chance to play for the league title on their grass.

In 2005, the last time the Longhorns came to Allie P. Reynold's Stadium, the Oklahoma State fans turned out in force and made lots of noise. This weekend should be no different. Friday night's game promises to be the most watched game both in paid attendance and national audience. Friday's game will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU. Fans wishing to attend Friday night can take advantage of lower attendance prices by purchasing $2 tickets from University Credit Union for Credit Union night.

First pitch is scheduled for Friday at 6:30 p.m., with Saturday's game at 2 p.m. and the finale on Sunday at 1 p.m. Get out and support the Cowboys in their biggest home series of the year.

GoPokes Top Stories