MattBob's Baseball Preview-Missouri

The 10th-ranked OSU Cowboys host 17th-ranked Missouri in their final homestand of the year. This year's match up of the two teams is much more anticipated than any previous meeting in some time. For the first time it can be said that the game has huge post-season implications. Both teams enter the three-game series tied for second in the Big 12 entering the final weekend of conference play.

From Oklahoma State's perspective this means if it is to have any shot of hosting its first regional since 1997 it must win the series. For Missouri this series means increased exposure and the chance to solidify host possibilities.

Mizzou is led by two young pitchers -- right-hander Aaron Crow and lefty Rick Zagone. Crow is 7-2 on the season with a 2.53 ERA and a quick fastball. Zagone has struggled at times with a 5.08 ERA, but has thrown two complete game gems. Zagone's fastball is humming in the lower 90s with a nasty slider that is just a split second slower.

Other teams have had trouble with the Crow and Zagone one-two punch as evidenced by the fact that Mizzou has only lost one series all year. However, when the Cowboys lineup struggles to hit a pitcher it usually is not hard throwers; it is usually off-speed junk ballers that frustrate the lineup. They should be able to keep pace with these two quick fastballs.

With the final home stand comes the goodbyes to the seniors of the program. The Cowboys will say goodbye to nine baseball players on Sunday. Leading the way for this group that helped form the core of the rebuilding process is outfielder Ty Wright. Ty was a late signing to the OSU lineup when Frank Anderson arrived in Stillwater and this year is by far the best year he has had. In 41 games Ty Wright has hit safely in 35 of them, including his current 28-game hit streak which is good enough for second most in Poke history.

Tyler Mach leaves Oklahoma State as its only player to be named the Big 12 Player of Year. Mach made the transition to second this year and has continued to hit for success. He has a .408 batting average and was recently named the Big 12 Player of the Week.

Keanon Simon is another Cowboy that will be leaving after four years. Simon was primarily a defensive center fielder throughout his career, but this year his bat has really been there when it was needed. A finalist for the Lowe's CLASS Award, Simon has had 15 multi-hit games this season and spent considerable time as the lead-off batter in the attack.

Ryan Flavell leaves with just one year as a starter at catcher under his belt. This season he has been the most balanced of all the Cowboy catchers and has started to find the ball again after struggling mid-season at the plate.

John Schindler is a true utility man for Anderson. Schindler has been called on several times throughout his career to fill a role from catching, to pinch running, to pinch hitting, and he has always answered the call. This week he was one of nine Cowboys named to the Academic All-Big 12 team, being one of two Cowboys with a perfect 4.0 GPA (Flavell was the other).

Oliver Odle leads the way for the departing pitchers. The right-handed pitcher has been a consistent force for the Pokes. Odle, a ground ball pitcher, has made huge appearances for the Pokes in key situations, including only allowing two runs in his two starts against rival Oklahoma.

Josh Fritsche is a seldom used option out of the bullpen. Fritsche is a left-handed pitcher who can be used in long relief situations if the Cowboy starter gets pulled very early. His most memorable work was last year as a starter when he compiled 26 strikeouts in 28 innings of works, and only allowed two runs in seven innings at Missouri.

Brandon Adams is a senior that may return next season, barring a petition for a medical hardship. Adams redshirted as a freshman at Long Beach State, but was forced to sit out his entire junior year due to arm surgery. Adams is 2-0 this season and is carrying a team-best 1.88 ERA in 11 appearances.

Jason Schroder is the final senior and probably the least known. The Oklahoma product has only appeared in three games in his career, all last season, for a total of 1 2/3 innings of work.

If the Cowboys are to win this series they will need to do three things. 1. Get good starts: The Cowboys need the starting pitching which has been much improved recently to continue to be good. Mizzou is too good to spot runs to.

2. Don't beat themselves: The Cowboy defense has the second fewest errors in the league behind Texas and the most double plays turned. The defense needs to help its pitching by not giving up free bases to the team tied for the lowest batting average in the Big 12.

3. Clutch hits: With quality starting pitching for the opponents, the Cowboys need to manufacture runs when they have situations. To its credit this OSU lineup is hitting .343 in two-out RBI situations.

Times for the three games are the same as all other home games -- 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday, and the series finale at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Friday's admission price has been cut to 4$ for adults and 2$ for children with the usual Friday night special of 50-cent popcorn. Saturday kids get in free with an adult, and Sunday kids get in free if they wear their team uniforms. So pack the house as the Cowboys play for the post-season.

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