Baseball's Red River Rivalry

The Texas Longhorns enter the weekend series as winners of 11 of their last thirteen ballgames and that is largely due to the heating up of their bats. The Sooners are staring down the barrel of a very tough conference finishing stretch, so this weekend's series could out the Longhorns in the driver's seat for the regular season crown. Burnt Orange Beat previews the series.

The Texas Longhorns have played their best ball of the season lately, and it couldn't come at a better time.

Over the next three weeks, the second-place Longhorns (9-6) will face 8-4 Oklahoma, 9-6 Baylor, and 7-5 Kansas State.

The difficult stretch begins with the Sooners this weekend.

Despite being 29-8 overall and 8-4 in the league, Oklahoma's RPI is just 19th in the nation. Up to this point, the Sooners have largely faced the bottom of the Big 12, and they finish the season with Texas (road), Baylor (road), Kansas (home), Oklahoma State (neutral) and Texas A&M. Oklahoma has arguably the toughest back-stretch in the conference.

But the Longhorns can't count on the Sooners to slip down the stretch. If Texas can take two-of-three from OU this weekend, they will arguably be in the driver's seat for a Big 12 regular season championship.

Texas Pitching

Friday: Chance Ruffin, So., RHP (5-2, 2.55 ERA...60.0 IP, 50 H, 15 BB, 50 K)
Saturday: Cole Green, So., RHP (3-0, 2.42 ERA...48.1 IP, 42 H, 13 BB, 29 K)
Sunday: Brandon Workman, So., RHP (3-3, 2.76 ERA...49.0 IP, 34 H, 11 BB, 49 K)

The pitchers for Tuesday and Wednesday's games against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi did an excellent job of retiring hitters and keeping the pitch counts down. Because of that, every pitcher is fresh for this weekend.

Augie Garrido will make one adjustment to his starting rotation, but don't read too much into it. Cole Green has been moved to Saturday afternoon simply because Workman started Wednesday's game and pitched three innings. The ‘Horns didn't want to use Green in the midweek because he threw 100-plus pitches in a complete game last Saturday.

With the recent contributions of Kendal Carrillo and Stayton Thomas, the Texas bullpen is stronger than ever. Still, don't expect to see either as any more than a situational righty this weekend. If all goes according to plan, the ‘Horns won't have to use anyone other than Taylor Jungmann, Austin Dicharry, Austin Wood, or Keith Shinaberry, as has been the case most weekends.

Oklahoma Pitching

Friday: Andrew Doyle, Jr., RHP (5-2, 3.67 ERA...54.0 IP, 53 H, 11 BB, 41 K)
Saturday: Stephen Porlier, Jr., RHP (1-0, 0.00 ERA...10.1 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 11 K)
Sunday: Garrett Richards, Jr., RHP (5-1, 6.48 ERA...33.1 IP, 41 H, 19 BB, 37 K)

Doyle is the ace of the Oklahoma staff, as he's been Mr. Reliable for the last couple of seasons. The junior has been Oklahoma's only consistent starting pitcher this season. He goes to battle with a low-90s fastball and a good breaking ball.

Porlier is the X-factor. The Sooners have played extremely well this season, and they've done so without arguably their most talented pitcher. Porlier was one of the top high school prospects in the state of Texas, but Tommy John surgery forced him to attend college. After one season at Tulane, the right-hander transferred to Oklahoma, where he went 7-5 with a 4.18 ERA in 2007.

Unfortunately, the injury bug bit Porlier again after that season. The native Texan missed the entire 2008 season after tearing the labrum in his right shoulder. But Porlier has made it back once again, and he's pitching well for the Sooners.

Oklahoma's pitching has been somewhat shaky this season, and Porlier could be exactly what Head Coach Sonny Golloway needs to get the club past a Super Regional and on to Omaha.

Sunday afternoon's starter is technically TBA, but it looks like Golloway is leaning towards junior right-hander Garrett Richards. With a low-90s fastball, Richards has a good arm. He has been the club's primary midweek starter this season, and while his numbers are somewhat ugly, he's pitched much better of late.

The Sooners went with Antwonie Hubbard the last two Sundays, but he hasn't pitched very well since returning from injury. Hubbard could end up getting the starting nod, but he's more likely to join the bullpen. OU also has the option to use C.J. Blue or Buda native Michael Rocha, a pair of soft-tossing control pitchers.

Oklahoma's bullpen has not been a point of strength this season, but they do have one of the league's top closers in Ryan Duke. In 18.2 innings this season, Duke has posted a 2-0 record with eight saves and a 2.89 earned run average.

OU has a 4.89 ERA in Big 12 play [4.69 overall], but they are pitching well recently. The Sooners threw three consecutive shutouts last week and allowed just five total runs in their weekend series against Texas Tech.

Texas Offense

The Longhorns' poor start offensively has been very well documented, and they have begun to right the ship. The ‘Horns have 11 home runs over their last nine games. They have only 18 total on the season. The club is batting .347 during its current seven-game winning streak.

C: Cameron Rupp, So. (.265, 3 HR, 21 RBI)
1B: Brandon Belt, Jr. (.352, 3 HR, 15 RBI)
2B: Travis Tucker, Sr. (.315, 1 HR, 14 RBI)
SS: Brandon Loy, Fr. (.270, 0 HR, 11 RBI)
3B: Michael Torres, Sr. (.284, 1 HR, 12 RBI)
LF: Tant Shepherd, So. (.277, 2 HR, 17 RBI)
CF: Connor Rowe, So. (.241, 4 HR, 16 RBI)
RF: Kevin Keyes, So. (.309, 4 HR, 20 RBI)
DH: Russell Moldenhauer, Jr. (.256, 0 HR, 7 RBI) or Preston Clark, Sr. (.224, 0 HR, 9 RBI)

Oklahoma Offense

Offensively, Oklahoma doesn't have a whole lot of standouts. They aren't filled with a bunch of players that will be top draft prospects. But they have been the league's biggest, most consistent offensive machine the entire year.

C: J.T. Wise, Sr. (.375, 12 HR, 36 RBI)
1B: Aaron Baker, Jr. (.299, 9 HR, 38 RBI)
2B: Matt Harughty, Sr. (.326, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 9/12 SB)
SS: Bryant Hernandez, Jr. (.397, 6 HR, 42 RBI)
3B: Garrett Buechele, Fr. (.393, 4 HR, 30 RBI)
LF: Casey Johnson, So. (.309, 6 HR, 31 RBI)
CF: Jamie Johnson, Jr. (.331, 9 HR, 28 RBI), 11/12 SB)
RF: Chris Ellison, Fr. (.321, 1 HR, 9 RBI)
DH: Cameron Seitzer, Fr. (.319, 4 HR, 20 RBI)

Yes, Garrett Buechele and Cameron Seitzer are the sons of Steve and Kevin, respectively.

The Sooners are batting .336 as a team this year, and they've stayed pretty consistent, putting up a .325 average in league play. They are led by speedy centerfielder Jamie Johnson, who batted .393 in Big 12 games last season. The entire team is hitting for power, as they've got a whopping 61 home runs in 37 games this season. Senior catcher J.T. Wise, who is slugging .750, has 12 round-trippers in just 112 at-bats.

Just as this weekend will be the most challenging series of the year for the Oklahoma offense, it'll likely be the most challenging of the season for Texas' pitching staff.


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