Longhorns Headed to Stillwater

The Texas baseball team has a firm hold on first place in the Big 12 with a 14-4 league record, and a full two-and-a-half game lead on second-place Oklahoma State. But the Cowboys loom for the Longhorns in the form of a three-game series this weekend in Stillwater.

Augie Garrido's Longhorns open the series Friday night at 6:30 p.m., followed by single games Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.). And though the regular-season league title will likely rest in the hands of one of these two teams at year's end, a breakdown of league standings makes it clear that several other teams are most assuredly hopeful of a Texas collapse this weekend.

When the last out of Sunday's game is recorded, the league's regular season race could be theoretically – though not mathematically – over. Or – in the case of a Cowboy sweep or two-of-three OSU victories – the race could be only just beginning.

Consider: Texas' 14-4 league record is trailed by the Cowboys at 10-5, Missouri at 9-6, Texas A&M at 9-8 and Oklahoma at 7-8. Should the Longhorns sweep OSU or even win two of three, Garrido's club looks to be a safe bet to capture the regular-season title. If the Cowboys win the series, OSU and the other clubs will at least maintain a glimmer of hope. Heck, the Cowboys would leap into first place with a sweep.

Whatever the case, the Texas-OSU series should be an entertaining one filled with players who have compiled sterling numbers this season, topped by Texas' Kyle Russell. The white-hot lefthander leads the nation in home runs with 24 and is coming off an 11-1 win against Pan American Tuesday in which he hit for the cycle and drove in five runs. Russell also leads the league in runs batted in with 62.

The Cowboys are offensive-oriented as well, leading the league with a .340 batting average that is aided by the two top average hitters in the conference: Ty Wright (.443) and Tyler Mach (.425), who also leads the league in hits with 74.

The Longhorns, however, appear to have the clear advantage on the mound against the Cowboys. The same three pitchers – Joseph Krebs, James Russell and Adrian Alaniz – have started each three-game league series for Texas. Alaniz has been especially nasty, compiling an overall 10-2 record with a 2.54 earned run average. Both Krebs (5-0, 2.63 ERA) and Russell (8-3, 3.66) also have more impressive numbers than the Cowboys' likely starters.

OSU will likely face Texas with Oliver Odle (4-3, 4.80), Andrew Oliver (5-1, 5.35) and Jeff Breedlove (0-2, 2.88).

Despite what appears to be a distinct Texas advantage entering the series, the Longhorns and Garrido should proceed with caution. The Cowboys are an eye-popping 19-3 at home, with a very vocal and notorious baseball fan base; they are also a top 15 team with several dangerous hitters.

Mach is the most dangerous of all, with 53 RBIs in 41 games and 10 home runs. But Corey Brown is explosive as well, leading the league with 63 runs scored to go with 55 RBIs, and don't forget about Matt Mangini, who brings a .358 average, 44 RBIs and nine home runs into the series.

Yes, Texas should be favored to win the series. And yes, it will likely not be easy.

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