MattBob's Baseball Preview-Texas Tech

The 15th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys, fresh off their second Bedlam sweep in as many years, are set to begin their last road series of the season in Lubbock. With just two weekends left on the Big 12 schedule, Oklahoma State finds itself one game behind Missouri for second place, which is hosting OU before facing the Pokes in Stillwater on the last weekend of the season.

The Red Raiders on paper look to be an easy series win. The Cowboys have the league's best hitting team, batting .331 and the second best ERA at 3.85. Whereas the Raiders have just seven wins in conference, feature the league's worst ERA at 5.38, and are only batting .289. However the Cowboys do have some reasons to be concerned.

Dan Law Field is one of the toughest places to play in the Big 12. Their fans are loud and very active hecklers. Since taking over the Cowboys, Frank Anderson has only managed a 5-4 record against his former mentor, legendary Larry Hays, and lost the only series played in Lubbock.

The infield also poses some challenges as it is an Astro-turf surface. Texas Tech is used to playing the bounces off the turf and is very tough defensively. They have turned 41 double plays with only 49 errors for a fielding percentage of .972. The infield defense of the Cowboys has struggled at times, and the quicker bouncing surface could cause problems.

Perhaps the biggest talent equalizer that Lubbock has is the constant wind. The Cowboys know that the wind will be blowing -- it is just a matter of from which direction and how much of a factor will it be. Fans attending games in Bricktown last weekend saw how hard it can be to field a pop fly with a steady wind.

Tech's best player is right fielder Roger Kieschnick. He has the talent to hit for the cycle but does not see a lot of pitches in the Tech lineup. The Cowboys need to limit his ability to produce runs by making sure when he steps to the plate the bases are empty.

The first Cowboy pitcher to see Kieschnick will be side arm sophomore Jeff Breedlove. Breedlove is quickly becoming the Cowboys most reliable starter. He is carrying a 4.10 ERA and is yet to win a game in conference play, but he is putting the lineup in a position to win. The two losses he has suffered in league play have both been outings where he only surrendered three runs. Both times the Cowboys failed to give him the run support he needed to get the win. If Breedlove can continue to get six to seven innings an outing, the Cowboys can turn the ball over to closer Justin Friend. The two pitchers combined are the best option to shutting a team down.

Ty Wright is chasing history this weekend. With a hit both Friday and Saturday, Ty will extend his hitting streak to 25 games, which would tie him with Monty Fariss for the second longest streak in Cowboy history. Ty is having an amazing season. He began the season with several fluke injuries, but has come back in full form. In 37 games he has a .441 batting average, which ranks as the best in the Big 12 and the fourth best in the country.

After a very successful Bedlam outing, the Cowboys are expected to start Ryan Pittman at catcher. Pittman, a former Stillwater High linebacker, is the best plate blocker in the Cowboy arsenal. In limited action, he has managed to nail down a few base stealers as well, catching two of the seven attempts on him. If there is a question in Pittman's game it is his bat. Pittman is batting just .250. In late game situations, the experience of Ryan Flavell at catcher makes pinch hits seem more likely. Flavell had been the regular starter at catcher, but has struggled recently.

One aspect of the Cowboy success that has been overlooked is the Cowboys ability to get the clutch hit. Forty-three percent of the Cowboys' RBIs have come with two outs. With two outs, the Cowboys are hitting an impressive .348, led by Rebel Ridling who has collected 27 two-out RBIs.

The series with Tech kicks off with a 6:30 p.m. game Friday, followed by start times of 2 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday. The games will be broadcast on radio on 93.7 or online at www.okstate.com.

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