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Previewing the Cowboys CWS Matchup With UCSB



Oklahoma State enters the College World Series as the hottest team in the field after winning its first five games of the tournament. The Cowboys have drawn a first round duel with UC Santa Barbara, a team that knocked off the N0. 2 national seed, Louisville in dramatic fashion in the supers.

A program with rich history and tradition, OSU will be appearing in the College World Series for the 20th time, while UCSB is making its first appearance.

The Gauchos were the No. 2 seed in the Nashville regional and were lucky to avoid Vanderbilt who bowed out after two games. UCSB defeated Washington 3-2 in game one and then beat fourth-seeded Xavier twice to sweep through the regionals.

In the super regionals UCSB’s ace Shane Bieber outdueled Brendan Mckay of Louisville, going seven innings and allowing two runs against a top-tier lineup. Designated Hitter Austin Bush, who hit three home runs in Nashville, went deep off McKay to give the Gauchos a lead they wouldn’t give back.

In game two the Gauchos trailed 3-0 entering the ninth facing UL closer Zack Burdi, a first-round pick in the MLB draft. Burdi would load the bases and coach Andrew Checketts would call an freshman backup catcher Sam Cohen to pinch-hit. The rest is history as Cohen hit a walk-off grand slam to send the Gauchos to Omaha, by far my favorite moment of this postseason.

The pitching matchup will likely be Bieber against Thomas Hatch in a battles of aces. Bieber, a fourth-round pick of the Cleveland Indians, has thrown 14 1/3 innings and given up three runs in the postseason. He leads the staff with 126 2/3 innings pitched and four complete games. Having the ability to go the distance is very valuable in these postseason games.

Bieber will be challenged against a hot OSU lineup that has been just as important as the pitching staff in this tournament. The resurgence of Conor Costello as a middle of the order presence has reinvigorated this group. J.R. Davis has his avg. up to .353 and is the perfect leadoff hitter for Holliday’s “small ball” offense. Seniors Corey Hassel and Donnie Walton follow Davis and both handle the bat well, which will put pressure on Bieber in what will already be a tense game.

Being named Big 12 Pitcher of the Year tells you Hatch (8-2, 2.04 ERA) was great in the regular season, but he’s been even better in the postseason, posting back-to-back starts of seven shutout innings. While the entire staff has been dominant in the postseason (just six runs allowed), Hatch has been the best of the bunch. The Cowboys will need a performance similar to what Hatch has done in first two to get a game one victory.

Hatch will face a lineup that has been opportunistic in the postseason, but could be the worst in terms of talent of all the Omaha teams. The Gauchos are hitting .262 as a team and don’t have a single hitter with an average above .300. They also have just 32 home runs all season, however, 11 of those came from Bush who has the capability to change a ball game with one swing.

If OSU can get another incredible outing from Hatch then the run support doesn’t need to be great. Checketts will want to ride Bieber for the whole game, but if OSU can knock him out after six innings it can take advantage of the bullpen.

This games shapes up to be be a pitchers’ duel and it could down to whichever team comes through with a clutch hit. OSU has more veteran hitters that can hit in big situations and a pitcher less-likely to give up big hits so I give the Pokes a slight advantage.

Prediction: OSU 3, UCSB 2

Game: 2 p.m. on ESPN2

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