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Baseball Team Peaking

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Photo Attribution: Rick Smith

By: Anthony Slater

Forget the NCAA Tournament. Less than a month ago, the OSU baseball team wouldn’t have qualified for the Big 12 tournament.

Eight teams compete at the annual gathering in Oklahoma City, with one left home. And that’s where OSU sat. Coming off an empty weekend in Waco, sitting at 1-5 and struggling to escape the Big 12 cellar. Ninth in a nine-team league.

Fast-forward one month and things are drastically different. The Cowboys are winners of eight straight and 12 of their past 15, having skyrocketed from the basement to third in the Big 12, one game behind Texas.

None of this makes sense.

With two star players arrested and the coach feeling immense pressure from a boiling seat, OSU had every reason to collapse. But paralleling one of the more adverse months in program history was one of its greatest turnarounds.

The Cowboys are yet to lose a conference home game and, all in the month of April, swept Kansas, Texas Tech and K-State. They have put themselves back in the NCAA Tournament discussion, even receiving a #25 ranking in one of the recent polls.

Here’s a closer look at the team moving forward:

Lineup

Man, OSU could sure use Dane Phillips. The former Cowboy catcher, who transferred to Arkansas (and eventually Oklahoma City University) after last season, is hitting .442 with 13 home runs and 61 RBIs. By comparison, Robbie Rea leads OSU with 5 home runs and 32 RBIs. Phillips departure left a huge power void. In 18 conference games, the Cowboys have 2 (!!!) homers as a team. But as of late, they have adjusted, stringing together singles, playing situational baseball and piecing together productive innings. They have actually scored five or more runs in six straight games.

Pitching

This underrated staff deserves a TON of credit. Early on, with things going poorly, OSU’s pitchers kept the team afloat. They constantly battled through low-scoring games and delivered enough gems to maintain a respectable record. Now, with the offense on a bit of a roll, the staff continues to flourish. OSU leads the Big 12 with a 2.89 team ERA and 375 strikeouts. Vince Wheeland and Kyle Ottoson steadied the starting rotation, Blake Barnes remained reliable out of the bullpen, but it all begins with future first-round pick Andrew Heaney. He has been brilliant, compiling a 6-1 record with a 1.82 ERA. His 102 strikeouts are second in the nation. The Cowboys are 9-2 in his starts.

Up Next – Bedlam

Huge interstate series this weekend. Besides Baylor (a ridiculous 18-0), the top half of the Big 12 is muddled. At 11-7, OSU is tied with Texas A&M and one game behind Texas. Oklahoma remains close at 9-8. This weekend could go a long way in determining rankings and potential NCAA tourney berths. Friday’s game is in Tulsa, Saturday and Sunday in OKC.

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