OSU Baseball: Keys To Advancing To CWS

Frank Anderson and the Oklahoma State Cowboys find themselves as one of the Sweet Sixteen of baseball, in the Super Regionals. Now just two wins away from the College World Series, the Cowboys face an upstart Louisville team that managed to do what the Pokes have not done this season - beat Missouri. The three-game series is being hailed as one of the best match-ups of the Super Regionals.

Louisville is an interesting match up offensively. The Cardinals are very aggressive on the base path, stealing more bases than Texas A&M, but they also hit for power with three guys in the lineup with more than 10 home runs. A lot of attention has been paid to Boomer Whiting and the fact that he personally has more stolen bases than the entire Cowboy lineup combined, but the rest of the Cardinals can run as well.

Not counting Boomer's stats, Louisville is stealing at better than 70 percent. This is concerning more so because Cowboys have only nailed down 17 percent of potential steals. It will be up to Cowboy pitchers to make sure the Cardinals do not get a very good lead when they get on base.

The Cardinals have a salty pitching staff, carrying the nation's fourth best team ERA. They are lead by two very good starters in right-hander Zach Pitts and lefty Justin Marks, both of whom hit their spots. Pitts, who struggled in his only start in the regionals, is the Big East Pitcher of the Year. Marks was named Big East Rookie of the Year and was named to the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American team.

Like most teams that survive this long into the postseason Louisville has a lock down closer. In 34 appearances Trystan Magnuson has an ERA of just 1.02. One name in the bullpen that saw heavy action in the regional should be very familiar to Cowboy fans is that of Kyle Hollander. Hollander transferred to Louisville for Oklahoma State this season. He has been very effective, notching 45 strikeouts in 42 innings pitched with a 2.34 ERA.

The Cowboys need to do three things to put themselves in a position to win:

The Cowboys have gotten good starts from Oliver Odle and Joe Kent in the last few weeks. If the team is going to be playing next week in Omaha, Neb., that has to continue. For Odle this means keeping the ball down in the zone and forcing a lot of ground balls. For Kent this means staying in control of his pitches. Kent has a history of losing the strike zone and has thrown a wild pitch in each of his last three starts. He just needs to stay in control of his pitches. The Cowboys do not need to out-pitch Louisville, but if it turns into a pitcher's duel the Cowboys have to be able to throw 0's up on the scoreboard.

The biggest ignition switch for this team all year has been starting hot early. The games the Cowboys have lost usually coincide with a slow start. When the bats come out firing early, it has a snowball effect for both squads on the field. The hitters feed off the rally and the defense can sense it slipping away. This Louisville team showed Missouri they can score too, starting the regional finale with an eight-run first inning. The Cowboys cannot get complacent with a lead as the Cardinals are good enough to comeback.

The Super Regionals offer a variety of distractions. The senior leadership is being drafted and the at the same time players can see the possibility of living out the dream of an Omaha pile at the mound. The noise and excitement will be high, adding to the pressures of the Super Regional. But the first step to the team's goals begins with playing one game at a time. Losing the possibility to host should provide some measure of focus for the Cowboys. The Cowboys have occasionally struggled under pressure especially up the middle defensively. If they are to win they need to focus on beating the Cardinals.

All of the Super Regional games in Louisville will be broadcast on the ESPN networks. Friday's 1p.m. game is being carried on ESPN 2. Saturday the game moves to ESPNU at 11 a.m., with the if necessary game at 3 p.m. on Sunday carried on ESPN. As always the radio broadcast and live stats will be carried on www.okstate.com for those who are not able to find a TV set.

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