STILLWATER, Okla. – Oklahoma State rolled through the Stillwater Regional unscathed at 3-0 while outscoring opponents 27-11 in an effort which came as no surprise to those who have watched this team win play at Reynolds Stadium where the Cowboys have a 25-8 mark on the season including a current 10-game winning streak in the park.
Oklahoma State won the Big 12 regular season title closing out the season on a 10-game winning streak before losing in the Big 12 Tournament Championship game to Texas Christian. The Cowboys were disappointed to not be in the running for a National Seed and added the chip to their shoulder when they came in as the 16-seed in the tournament.
Oklahoma State took out its’ frustration on the competition in the Stillwater Regional, opening the Regional with an 8-0 win over Binghamton, then defeating Cal State Fullerton 13-7 in the winner’s bracket game and then again 6-4 to take the Final. In the Regional, offensive contributions came across the board for the Cowboys as Connor Costello homered twice with six RBI, Donnie Walton went 7-for-12 with five runs scored and two RBI. Tanner Krietemeier had a five-RBI game on the same day that Saulyer Saxon scored four runs.
UC Irvine took a different path to the Super Regional by playing well-enough to qualify for the Tournament but just bad enough late to be one of the last teams in. The Anteaters finished third in the Big West Conference after leading at one point before losing eight of their last nine games. UC Irvine was expected to be an also-ran in the Corvallis Regional in which overall No.1 seed Oregon State was hosting.
The Anteaters defeated UNLV and mighty Oregon State by a combined score of 24-5 to sit in the driver’s seat for the Regional. The Beavers managed to force a game seven by shutting UC Irvine out 4-0 but then the Anteaters took the final 4-2 to advance to the Super Regional. Big West Pitcher of the Year Andrew Morales allowed three earned runs over 11.1 innings pitched in the Regional. Taylor Sparks homered and scored six runs in the Regional while Connor Spencer scored five and drove in five more and Kris Paulino scored six times and drove in four on a grand slam against Oregon State.
NCAA Super Regional Preview – Stillwater
Oklahoma State (48-16)
The Cowboys have been led all season by Big 12 Player of the Year and Collegiate Baseball All-American Zach Fish who is hitting .312 with 11 home runs, 48 RBI and 40 runs scored with a .915 on-base-plus-slugging percentage on the year. Oklahoma State boasts of three hitters, Fish, Krietemeier and Tim Arakawa with 40 runs scored and 40 RBI. Arakawa adds a speed threat with 15 steals, just behind Gage Green with 20 who also has the team’s highest average at .322. Green and Donnie Walton have both scored more than 40 runs on the season in an offense that averaged more than six runs a game in the pitching-heavy Big 12.
The struggle for the Cowboys has been scoring enough as their staff has a 3.27 ERA allowing just over four runs a game. Jon Perrin (8-4, 2.23 ERA, 80 K, 28 BB, .249 OBA) is the ace of the rotation. Tyler Buffett (2-1, 2.95 ERA, 36 K, 24 BB, .249 OBA) has been solid as a No. 2 starter but Tyler Nurdin (4-3, 6.54 ERA, 31 K, 39 BB, .326 OBA) has struggled with inconsistency at times. Buffett had the best start of the Regional allowing no earned runs over 4.2 innings of work. Oklahoma State has leaned heavily on long relievers out of the pen led by Vince Wheeland (10-0, 1.53 ERA, 42 K, 15 BB, .215 OBA) who has thrown 76.1 innings and Blake Battenfield (4-0, 1.70 ERA, 38 K, 19 BB, .218 OBA) with 53.0 innings pitched. Alex Hackerott (4-1, 3.16 ERA, 25 K, 9 BB, .202 OBA) has been a solid setup guy for Collegiate Baseball All-American closer Brendan McCurry (5-0, 19 SV, 0.39 ERA, 53 K, 8 BB, .182 OBA).
The Anteaters are built around pitching led by their Collegiate Baseball All-Americans in Andrew Morales and Sam Moore. Morales is also the Big West Pitcher of the Year and a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes award while Moore is a semifinalist for the Gregg Olson Breakout Player of the Year Award. UC Irvine has a staff ERA of 2.82 holding teams to less than three and one-half runs a game. Andrew Morales (10-2, 1.64 ERA, 128 K, 28 BB, .182 OBA) leads the staff with more than 100 strikeouts for a 4.5-to-1 strike-out-to-walk ratio. Elliott Surrey (7-4, 2.13 ERA, 70 K, 25 BB, .232 OBA) is a top-notch number two starter while Evan Brock (8-6, 3.16 ERA, 62 K, 22 BB, .272 OBA) is a solid three.
UC Irvine’s pen has focused on a few primary setup guys led by Jimmy Litchfield (3-2, 2 SV, 3.58 ERA, 22 K, 12 BB, .248 OBA) with 26 appearances. In the post-season the Anteaters have relied on No. 4 starter Evan Manarino (4-3, 2.93 ERA, 45 K, 8 BB, .309 OBA) for long relief needs. The pen is anchored with closer Sam Moore (0-3, 23 SV, 1.88 ERA, 38 K, 10 BB, .223 OBA) who is very capable of holding any lead that gets to him.
At the plate, the Anteaters average just shy of four and one-half runs a game with Taylor Sparks being the only 40-run scorer and Connor Spencer the only 40-plus RBI guy. Spencer is the teams’ best hitter with a .364 average and 21 extra-base hits with a .453 on base percentage. Sparks leads the team with five home runs and a .491 slugging percentage. Kris Paulino is a power guy with a .133 isolated slugging percentage and is tied with Sparks for the team home run lead. However, he is hitting only .211 on the season limiting his power potential. Jerry McClanahan has added consistency to the lineup hitting .325 with a .415 on base percentage and 35 RBI.
Oklahoma State takes the series in three games. The Cowboys showed they can handle Big West teams at home last weekend beating Cal State Fullerton for two straight games. I don’t expect any blowouts in this series. I feel the Perrin-Morales pitching match-up on Friday will be key to the series outcome.
The series opens with game one at 8:30 Friday night with game two scheduled for 9:00 Saturday night. If necessary, game three will be played Sunday at 8:00.