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Rounding Third: Pokes lead Big 12 table

OSU completed its second straight sweep to set up a monster series in Austin.

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Record: 29-11 overall, 11-4 Big 12 (1st)
Streak: Won 3 

A loooooooong Bedlam heartbreak followed by a second consecutive weekend sweep. Here’s what you missed with Cowboy baseball last week:

Cowboys Run Out Of Gas In Longest OSU Game In History

I wrote a longer recap right after the game ended, but if you missed it, here’s the quick rundown: OU led early, and the Pokes clawed their way back into the game, tying it at nine in the 9th.  From there, the offenses fell asleep until the Sooners scored three in the 18th, and six hours after it began, OSU fell 12-9.

Perrin Hurls Complete-Game Shutout For Surging Pokes

Junior Jon Perrin continued to show why he is the Friday night starter with this gem of a performance. He set the tone in the first inning, striking out two Jayhawks. But it looked like another pitchers’ duel on hand, with KU’s Jordan Piche’ matching Perrin through the first five innings.

The Cowboys finally struck first with an RBI double from Tanner Krietemeier, and that’s all Perrin would need. He got more help in the 7th though, when OSU scored six runs thanks to some bunt hits and a KU error. Perrin would finish out the game, striking out nine while allowing only six hits, giving OSU a 7-0 win.

McCurry Sets Career Saves Record In Latest OSU Comeback

When freshman Tyler Buffett gave up two runs in the top of the first inning, you got the feeling this was going to be a typical OSU baseball game (footnote: Coming into this game, OSU was 10-8 when falling behind after the first inning.), and by typical I mean high drama and a late comeback.

And that’s exactly what happened.

The Cowboys loaded the bases in the 4th and the 5th, but came away empty-handed. A Tim Arakawa single scored one in the 6th, but OSU gave it back in the top of the 7th. Krietemeier made it 3-2 in the home half, setting up the drama in the 8th.

After Zach Fish reached by error, Arakawa played hero again with a home run down the right field line. That set the stage for closer Brendan McCurry. He made it interesting by giving up two singles, but allowed nothing else for his 10th save of the year. He broke the tie with Jordy Mercer and is now OSU’s career saves leader, but it wasn’t the only record he set this weekend.

Another McCurry Record As Second Straight Sweep Moves OSU Top Of The Big 12

It was another short outing for senior Tyler Nurdin, who has been struggling this season (footnote: He is now 2-3 this season, with a 6.42 ERA and an 18:21 K/BB ratio in 33.2 innings. Comparing that to last season’s numbers: 5-3 record, a 1.89 ERA which led the team, and a 69:24 K/BB ratio.

I don’t think he forgot how to pitch, but it’s hard to say how much this injury could be hurting him.). Though according to the Fox Sports 1 announcers, he has been battling a back injury for a while now and may not be fully recovered. Nothing was said about it post-game, but it’s something to keep an eye on. Luckily, Nurdin wouldn’t be hung with a loss, for the Cowboy bats flexed some muscles for this one.

Tim Arakawa’s first at-bat of the game resulted in his second home run in as many days, this one a three-run shot that gave OSU a lead it wouldn’t lose. Dustin Williams hit his first home run of the year in the 4th, and Blake Battenfield and Vince Wheeland were able to carry the team to the 9th with a lead.

From there, it was Enter McCurry time as the senior came on to notch his 11th save of the year, this one breaking the OSU single-season record previously held by his older brother Randy. The 6-3 win moves the Pokes top of the table[1. Sorry, I have Premier League Fever. It helps when your favorite team is three games away from its first league title in 24 years. Anyway, back to the baseball.] with a one-game lead over TCU heading into a huge series in Austin.

Last Week’s Results

Tuesday: OU 12, No. 13 OSU 9 (18 innings)

Losing Pitcher: Tyler Nurdin (2-3)
OSU: 9 pitchers used, 15 players with an at-bat, 17 runners LOB
Fish: 4-8, HR (6), 2 R, 2 RBI
Krietemeier: 3-9, 2B, HR (7), 2 R, 2 RBI
Green: 3-8, 2B, HR (2), 3 R, RBI

Friday: No. 13 OSU 7, Kansas 0

Winning Pitcher: Jon Perrin (5-2)
Perrin: 9 IP, 0 R, 6 H, 9 K (130 pitches)
Krietemeier: 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI
McConaughy/Fish/Saxon: 2-4, RBI each

Saturday: No. 13 OSU 5, Kansas 3

Winning Pitcher: Vince Wheeland (4-0)
Save: Brendan McCurry (10)
Arakawa: 2-4, HR (2), 3 RBI
Krietemeier: 2-4, 2B, RBI
Fish: 1-4, 2B, 2 R

Sunday: No. 13 OSU 7, Kansas 4

Winning Pitcher: Blake Battenfield (2-0)
Save: Brendan McCurry (11)
Arakawa: 1-3, HR (3), 3 RBI
D. Williams: 1-3, HR (1), 2 RBI

In The Polls (As of April 15)

NCBWA: 13th (18th last week)
ESPN Power Rankings: 15th (15th last week)
USA Today: 16th (19th last week)
Collegiate Baseball: 20th (Unranked last week)
RPI: 70th (118th last week)
Baseball America: Unranked (Unranked all season)

Offensive Player of the Week

Zach Fish, Jr. RF

Three other Cowboys homered this week, but none tore the cover off the ball like Fish did. He had a slash line of .450/.500/.700 and hit his sixth home run of the season, while scoring five times and adding three RBIs to his team-leading total. He also leads the team in batting average, slugging percentage, hits and doubles. Throw in only one error in the field all season and Fish is turning into one of the premier outfielders in the country.

Pitcher of the Week

Jon Perrin, Jr. RHP & Brendan McCurry, Sr. Closer

These two guys are a huge reason why OSU was able to sweep Kansas this weekend. Perrin opened the series Friday night with the best game an OSU pitcher has thrown all season, allowing six hits and striking out nine in a 130-pitch complete-game shutout.

He also made two appearances at DH.[1. I’ll be honest: I’ve never seen this in my life. Both games, Perrin was listed as the starting DH, but didn’t take a swing as he was pinch-hit for both times. The only thing I can figure is Holliday and Gundy spent a little too much time together recently, and Holliday just doesn’t want opponents to know who his starting DH is until he comes to the plate, which is also Gundy’s surefire way to beat Florida State in four short months.] McCurry saved the last two games of the series, setting OSU’s single-season and career saves records in the process. He made three appearances this week, throwing 4.1 innings and allowing six hits and no runs with four strikeouts.

Team Stats Leaders

Batting Average: Fish, .324
Runs: Krietemeier, 30
RBIs: Fish, 28
HR: Krietemeier, 7
SB: Green, 13
Wins: McCurry & Perrin, 5
Innings: Perrin, 59.2
ERA: McCurry, 0.29
Strikeouts: Perrin, 55 

Tweets of the Week

I would pay good money to see those two go head to head.

https://twitter.com/DWalt05/status/457700460854398976

Rumors of a “one more year” chant went unsubstantiated.

Heading to Piratas de Campeche.

This is why they should play two nonconference games each year.

https://twitter.com/packlin/status/456304531710554112

Sportscenter-worthy.

I think the all-orange combo is a bit much, but if they keep winning I don’t care what color they wear.

https://twitter.com/Ryansluderr/status/458007279204192256

Upcoming Games

Pitching coach Rob Walton will get a first look at the program he spent 14 years with when the Cowboys travel to Tulsa to take on Oral Roberts (21-18) on Tuesday at 6:30. The Golden Eagles are 7-2 in their past nine games and sit in ninth in the Southland Conference. Then it’s down to Austin to take on third-place Texas (30-11, 9-6 Big 12), who is coming off a surprising three-game sweep to TCU in which the Longhorns scored one run in 27 innings.

Texas will host UT-Pan American for a midweek game before taking on the Cowboys. All three games will be aired on the Longhorn Network, with first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Know Your Conference Foe

The Big 12 series most of us have been looking forward to lost a bit of shine last weekend when Texas was swept by TCU in Austin. The Longhorns looked unstoppable after sweeping the Sooners in Norman two weeks ago, but apparently they weren’t prepared for the Horned Frogs pitching. UT was held to a .181 average and struck out 28 times in three games. It looked like they had momentum heading into the weekend, having won 14 of the previous 16 games, but TCU shut them down, leaving more questions than answers for the Cowboys.

This is still the best group of the pitchers in the Big 12. They gave up just eight runs to TCU all weekend, and gave the team a chance to win each game. It’s also one of the best pitching staffs in the nation with a 2.11 ERA (fifth nationally) and 7.1 hits per nine innings (ninth nationally). Senior Nathan Thornhill is the unquestionable leader of this group.He is 6-1 this season with a 0.97 ERA in 64.2 innings, which gives him the sixth-lowest ERA in the country. Giving up runs is something this staff doesn’t like to do. OSU should also expect to see Parker French (4-3, 2.27 ERA) and Dillon Peters (5-3, 2.70 ERA) this weekend.

The problem with having a great pitching staff is no matter how many scoreless innings they pitch, you can’t win a game without scoring a run. You can lead the nation in sacrifice hits (which they do), but a .262/.356/.347 team slash line isn’t going to produce many runs. However, the Longhorns have one of the better hitters in the conference in senior center fielder Mark Peyton (.345, 5 3B, 26 RBI). He leads the conference in triples, walks and on-base percentage, so he knows how to spark this offense.

The Pokes are carrying the momentum of two successive conference sweeps into Austin, where the Longhorns are reeling from a sweep of their own. TCU showed the formula for beating UT, but can OSU replicate those results? Taking two out of three would be considered a success, and still leave the Cowboys in a good position to win their first conference championship since the last year of the Big Eight in 1996.

Three Things To Watch For

1. Now we get to see how far out of reach McCurry will set the saves records. If I had to take an educated guess, I would say he finishes the season with 18-21 saves, which would give him 25-28 for his career. I think those records would stand for quite a while. But congrats to Brendan, who now has something he can hold over older brother Randy at every family holiday gathering for the rest of their lives.

2. This weekend series could be won at the plate but without using a bat. OSU leads the conference with 208 walks this season, and UT is sixth with 132 walks allowed. A huge part of the Cowboys’ success the past two weeks has been more patience at the plate (39 walks in the past 7 games), and one of the best ways to crack a good starting pitcher is driving up the pitch count and getting to the bullpen. This could be the small thing that pushes the series in OSU’s favor.

3. The ORU midweek game really intrigues me. Coach Walton spent 14 years with the program, winning countless conference championships and making multiple NCAA Tournament appearances. His son Donnie was set to join him at ORU before Rob took the assistant coaching position at OSU, so it will be interesting to see how both of them handle being back in a place they called home for so much of their lives.

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