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Conference Series Preview: Kansas State

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After a huge series win in Fort Worth last weekend, can OSU keep it up against a struggling Kansas State?

The Breakdown

No. 12 OSU vs Kansas State
Allie P. Reynolds Stadium, Stillwater
Tonight: 7:00 p.m.
Saturday: 3:00 p.m.
Sunday: 1:00 p.m.
All-Time Series: OSU leads 157-49
Last Season: 3-0 OSU (swept series at KSU)

OSU has won nine of its past 10, while the Wildcats come in having lost four of the previous five. On paper, the Cowboys have momentum and the edge. But to paraphrase legendary coach Adolph Rupp, games aren’t decided on paper (or the computer screen).

Pitching
Advantage: OSU

Don’t look now, but pitching coach Rob Walton is molding this Cowboy staff into one of the best in the nation. OSU’s 2.61 team ERA is the 19th-lowest in the country while the 1.19 WHIP is good for 25th. Every pitcher with at least five innings thrown has a sub-4.00 ERA, with four of them under 2.00.

K-State has a 3.90 team ERA and is led by redshirt sophomore Nate Griep, who is 3-1 this season with a 2.27 ERA. He’s the team leader in innings1, strikeouts and opponent’s batting average, and has been KSU’s best starter. Ten Wildcats have made six or more appearances this season; expect to see a lot of pitching changes this weekend.

Offense
Advantage: OSU

The Wildcats lead the conference in one offensive category: getting hit by a pitch. Maybe it’s all that yoga, but those runners aren’t translating to runs on the scoreboard. KSU is last in the conference in hits and home runs, and have also had 15 runners caught stealing.

Despite that, Shane Conlon has been a leader on offense. The redshirt senior has a .330/.433/.500 slash line to go with 14 RBIs and 12 walks. He’s also tied for sixth in the conference with seven steals, so he’s a threat every time he comes to the plate.

Coaching
Advantage: Push

Brad Hill, who took over for Kansas State in 2003, has quite the impressive resume. He earned the job after winning a Division II national title with Central Missouri State, helped rebuild KSU into a contender, and has earned more Coach of the Year awards than he has space to store them. The Wildcats have made four Regional appearances all-time, and Hill has been behind each of them.

However, the past year and a half has seen K-State fall on hard times. Last season’s squad finished last in the conference just a year removed from a Big 12 championship, and this year the Wildcats arrive in Stillwater with a losing record. While Hill experienced success in the past, these two programs seem heading in opposite directions.

Prediction

Sweep! I’m calling it. The Cowboys have a ton of momentum, face an opponent lacking confidence, and get to play in front of the home crowd with some fantastic weather2. As long as Holliday has the players focused, OSU should win its ninth straight conference series – which would be yet another school record.

If you’re interested, here’s the current Big 12 standings3:

Team
Conference Record
Overall Record

Texas

5-1 17-8
TCU

4-2

18-4

Oklahoma State

2-1

17-7

Oklahoma

2-1

17-10

West Virginia

2-4

12-10

Baylor

2-4

10-14

Texas Tech

1-2

16-9

Kansas

0-0

9-15

Kansas State

0-3

11-12


1. He actually leads the conference in this category.

2. Get out and support the team this weekend! If nothing else, just to soak up some sun and get out of the house. Plus, you never know who you’ll see play this weekend who might be playing in the World Series in a year or two. Last year, I got to see Brandon Finnegan pitch for TCU, and then watch him on the mound for the Royals in October.

3. Because the league only has nine members with an active baseball team (Iowa State stopped playing in 2001), one conference team sits out each week. That’s why the standings might look skewed for most of the season.

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