After winning its first two games of the College World Series, the Oklahoma State Cowboys are only one win away from securing a spot in the best-of-3 finals set to start on Monday. Not only do they need only one win, but it comes against a team they’ve already beat in Arizona.
The Wildcats were able to survive and advance by taking down UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday, and now the Cowboys will see if they can double down with a win on Friday at 2 p.m.
Battle of the defense
The Cowboys and Wildcats enter the bracket 1 final riding the coat tails of their tremendous pitching and defense, seeing the two teams have combined to surrender only two runs in five total games. While the Pokes haven’t given up a run in the first two contests, Arizona was able to hold the Gauchos scoreless in their 3-0 win on Wednesday while OSU and Miami each only managed to score one run apiece in the Wildcats’ first two games.
While JC Cloney pitched the Wildcats to victory over UCSB, the Cowboys will have to face a dominant Nathan Bannister on the bump Friday afternoon. Bannister has thrown a nation-leading 139.2 innings this season, and led Arizona to a 5-1 victory over Miami in their first game of the CWS.
Bannister, who was drafted by the Seattle Mariners earlier this month, threw three complete games in a four-game stretch earlier in the season. Not to mention he’s determined, and that’s evident by the 40 pounds he lost in the offseason.
“I’m ready for Friday,” Bannister told reporters on Wednesday night. “This is all you can ask for as a pitcher at this time of year. What we’ve shown over the past three games is that have the ability to compete with anyone in the nation.”
It won’t be the first time the Pokes have faced a solid Arizona pitcher, seeing the Cowboys were able to beat Bobby Dalbec earlier in the week despite Dalbec’s incredible 12 strikeout performance.
OSU going with Jensen Elliott
Despite Big 12 pitcher of the year Thomas Hatch having six days of rest since his last start, OSU pitching coach Rob Walton said freshman Jensen Elliott will take the mound for the Cowboys on Friday.
“Jensen needs to win a ballgame for us to continue to move on. The longer you put it off, the less likely he’s probably going to throw well, that would be my guess,” Walton said. “But if he’s able to pitch well and we’re able to win, that obviously puts Thomas in Game 1 of the championship.”
Elliott has been solid all season long, accumulating a 9-2 record while dishing a 3.27 earned run average. He was named to the all-tournament team at the Clemson regional, and fanned eight batters and allowed only one run throughout six innings.
If the Cowboys were to lose, Hatch would start in Saturday’s must-win game, leaving Tyler Buffett for the potential opening game of the championship series.
Will Benge bring the bat?
OSU has only two runs scored in its first two games of the college world series, and both of those runs were knocked in by third baseman Garrett Benge. The sophomore smacked in Corey Hassell in the fourth inning of the Cowboys win over the Gauchos, then Benge came through in the fourth inning against the Wildcats by hitting in Donnie Walton for the game’s only run.
It’s encouraging that Benge isn’t afraid to make the big hit in an even bigger moment, but the Cowboys sure could benefit from some of the other bats waking up.
Donnie Walton led the team in RBIs this season with 44, but has failed to record one in Omaha thus far, while the bottom third of the lineup (Ryan Sluder, Jon Littell and Collin Theroux) have combined for only one hit through two games.
Oklahoma State should be fine, seeing the Cowboys combined for a whopping 27 runs in their three games during the Clemson regional, but it’s worth noting that someone needs to break through and help out Benge.