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Previewing Oklahoma State At The Columbia Super Regional



When the regionals pairings were set the committee had the intentions of matching up Clemson and South Carolina for an intrastate smackdown. What the committee didn’t plan for was Oklahoma State cruising through the Clemson regional and blowing out the host in back-to-back games.

After dropping the opener to Rhode Island, South Carolina battled its way through the loser’s bracket, winning four straight to advance to the super regionals.

As the 2010 and 2011 CWS champs, South Carolina has a recent postseason pedigree that the Cowboys do not. While Josh Holliday is a good coach, he doesn’t hold the experience that Chad Holbrook does with his six College World Series appearances.

A scary fact about South Carolina is it has a 34-5 record playing in the friendly confines of Founders Park. The only series it dropped was against SEC Tournament champ Texas A&M in mid-May. With a 20-5 conference record the Gamecocks were just a half-game away from winning the SEC regular season title.

Like the Cowboys, South Carolina is a team anchored by its pitching staff. After losing game one of the regionals they gave up just 10 runs in four games to defend their home turf. The Gamecocks have relied on ace Clarke Schmidt (9-4, 3.33 ERA) to throw 105 1/3 innings on the season and No. 2 Braden Webb (10-5, 3.24 ERA) isn’t too far behind.

These two right-handers are tied for the SEC lead with 123 strikeouts a piece. While there ERAs show that they are hittable at times, these frontline starters have the capability to dominate. In the top-tier league that is the SEC, South Carolina led the conference with an opponent’s batting avg. of .226.

This doesn’t match up well with an Oklahoma State team that finished last in the Big 12 in team avg. However, that OSU team isn’t the one that showed up in the Clemson regional. Without playing the regional rag doll (W. Carolina), OSU put up 27 runs in three games.

The Cowboys got eight hits apiece from Conor Costello and Jon Littell, players that were not big contributors in the regular season. J.R. Davis also emerged as a star on a big stage with three hits in the first two games of the regional. OSU showed a legitimate top-to-bottom lineup for the first all season, but the question will be: Can it hit against SEC pitching?

Another important question will be: Can OSU get the same pitching performances it did in the regionals?

Thomas Hatch’s regional performance (7 IP, 0 R) was nothing surprising, but what OSU got from Tyler Buffett and Jensen Elliott was. The Cowboys will need a big time performance from at least one of the two against an offense that hits .293 as a team.

The toughest outs for OSU pitchers will be Gene Cone (.370) and Alex Destino (.325 10 HR). Cone is the leadoff hitter in this lineup and he went 4-for-8 with four RBIs in South Carolina’s two victories over UNC Wilmington to clinch the regional. Destino, the cleanup, hitter is the only real power threat in a lineup that hit 44 home runs all season.

As far as bullpens go, South Carolina has a slight edge with two legitimate ninth inning options in Josh Reagan (2.08 ERA, 11 saves) and Tyler Johnson (2.52 ERA, 9 saves). While OSU will go with Trey Cobb who was a starter for most of the season, but pitched very well as the Cowboys shutdown guy in the regionals.

Cobb didn’t give up in five innings (two appearances) after returning to his natural role as reliever. With the stamina he built up from his time in the rotation Cobb is capable of throwing multiple innings more than once in a weekend, which will help with the Cowboys lack of depth.

The bottom line for this super regional is South Carolina is the better team, but the momentum OSU has makes them a legitimate Omaha-threat. If OSU can get 6-7 high-quality innings from each of its starters they will win this series. However, if South Carolina keeps its offensive momentum it will assert its SEC dominance.

Game 1: 2 p.m. on ESPN2
Game 2: 2 p.m. on ESPN2/ESPNU
Game 3: 1/4/7 p.m. on ESPN2/ESPNU

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