Baseball: Texas Faces Red River Rival

This weekend, No. 7 Texas (23-8, 5-1) takes on No. 17 Oklahoma (20-7, 2-1) in a three-game series at the Disch.

The Longhorns' series with the Sooners will begin on Friday, March 30 at 6:05 p.m. at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. Game two on Saturday is scheduled for a 2 p.m. start and the finale on Sunday is slated for a 1 p.m. first pitch. Saturday's game is scheduled for 2 p.m. to coincide with the end of the Texas football team's Spring Scrimmage over at DKR. The scrimmage will begin at noon and fans can then hop on over to the Disch for Game 2 of the Red River Rivalry.

OU comes into the series in a three-way tie for second place in the Big 12 with Oklahoma State and Missouri, while Texas holds the top spot in the Big 12 Conference.

The Longhorns also hold a significant advantage over the Sooners in power hitting. OU does a good job of getting aluminum on the ball and putting the ball in play, but Texas right fielder Kyle Russell has more home runs (16) than the entire Oklahoma roster combined (15). Texas as a team has 34, more than doubling OU's total.

Despite Texas' recent struggles in the field (seven errors in the past two games), the Longhorns still hold an advantage in fielding average at .977 compared with Oklahoma's .964. The Sooners have played four fewer games than Texas, yet have 10 more errors.

In fact, it's hard to find a category in which the Longhorns don't lead the Sooners. Texas holds a statistical advantage in every major category, save one: strikeouts.

Oklahoma batters, though holding a lower batting average (.310-.338), are more patient at the plate. The Sooners have struck out 126 times this season, significantly lower than the Longhorns' 171. But the Horns have earned 137 walks compared to OU's 104.

The man to watch for in the Sooner line-up is Joe Dunigan. The 6-foot-2, 247-pound junior outfielder is leading Oklahoma in batting average (.380), home runs (6), runs batted in (33), walks (18) and slugging (.690). Dunigan leads his team with his .380 batting average, while UT third baseman Bradley Suttle tops the Texas chart at .432 heading into the weekend. Overall, though, the same number of Oklahoma starters as Texas starters are batting over .300 (6).

Texas as a team has a 3.14 ERA, besting OU's 3.51. Saturday starter Adrian Alaniz leads the Longhorn pack. The junior right-hander has a 7-1 record and a 1.89 ERA. Friday starter James Russell is 5-2 with a 2.89 ERA and projected Sunday starter Joseph Krebs is 4-0 with a 3.21 ERA. Oklahoma's projected starters are Stephen Porlier (4-1, 3.07) on Friday, Heath Taylor (5-0, 2.06) on Saturday and Ryan Mottern (3-2, 3.34) or Joseph Hughes (4-1, 3.67) on Sunday.

Garrett Richards has emerged as the Sooners' closer. While Texas likes to put its closer, Randy Boone, in relatively early and let him shut down the opponent the rest of the way, Oklahoma uses Richards almost exclusively in the ninth inning. Richards has 16.0 innings pitched in 14 appearances, a 3.38 ERA and 7 saves.

The Sooners are notoriously slow starters in baseball. Last weekend against Texas A&M, for the fifth consecutive season, OU lost its Big 12 opener, but for the third straight year rebounded to win the series. After the 7-3 loss to the Aggies, Oklahoma won the final two games 9-3 and 8-7, the last game in 11 innings.

Since the formation of the Big 12 in 1997, Texas leads the series 24-10.

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