After beating Miami on Saturday, the Arizona Wildcats will take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys in a College World Series winners’ bracket game on Monday night:
4 PM PT
OSU is 42-20 after beating UC-Santa Barbara 1-0 on Saturday. To preview the Cowboys, we turned to Cade Webb from Cowboys Ride For Free to answer some of our questions about this team:
Jason Bartel: The Big 12 didn't really get a ton of attention this year, yet here you are with three teams left. Was the conference extremely top-heavy throughout the year or was it better as a whole than people thought?
Cade Webb: The conference was most definitely top-heavy. In a few other Q&A's I did, I was asked the same question. With three teams in the tournament and three teams in the CWS, that's pretty impressive for the Big 12. After Texas Tech, TCU and Oklahoma State, the talent drop off is significant. The three teams in Omaha for the Big 12, however, are most certainly deserving. Oklahoma State was a bit of a long shot to reach Omaha given how the conference tournament played out, but now that they are here, it feels like their best baseball is in front of them. As for Tech and TCU, they've been solid all year. It's too bad that one of them will knock the other out. Better them than us, though.
Bartel: Arizona won't have to worry about Thomas Hatch now, so what will the OSU pitching situation look like on Monday?
Webb: Thomas Hatch was absolutely incredible against UCSB on Saturday. Don't get too excited about not having to face him, though. Arizona will run into Tyler Buffett, who is coming off a 7.0 IP, one earned run showing against South Carolina that sent OSU to Omaha. Before that game, he went 7.0 IP against a high-powered Clemson offense in regionals, giving up just one earned run again. Buffett was moved from closer to starter in the NCAA tournament, and he has had a resurgence. If Hatch's continued success in Omaha was any indication of what Buffett could bring on Monday, then expect a grinding, low-scoring game.
Bartel: Who is the most dangerous hitter in the Cowboys' lineup, and who is the guy that may get overlooked but could have a huge impact on the game?
Webb: Conor Costello is probably OSU's most "dangerous" hitter right now. He is as hot as they come, but the lineup is deep. Ryan Sluder hit a solo home run in game one of the SC regional, and Colin Theroux hit a 3-run shot in that same game in the 9th inning. Both of those guys are in the bottom of the lineup, with Sluder batting .207 on the season and Theroux just .170. Those two guys came up huge and it was not expected. A guy to keep an eye on is 1B Dustin Williams. He is a big, big dude with 14 HR's on the season. He nearly hit one out against UCSB, but TD Ameritrade gonna TD Ameritrade. He could make a big impact on the game, and he is certainly due for a big game.
Bartel: How do you expect this game playing out?
Webb: You're probably not going to like what I'm about to say. If Buffett pitches well and keeps his whits about him like he did on the road at Clemson and SC, then OSU has a great chance to win this game. OSU thrives on defense, posting a .978 fielding percentage over the regular season. The offense will have to pick it up from Saturday, but were a bit unlucky on a few plays that could have potentially busted the game open with more runs. I expect Buffett to pitch well. OSU is bubbling with confidence right now. If the offense goes like it should, they're going to be a very tough out on Monday.
Thank you to Cade for taking the time out to answer our questions. Be sure to visit Cowboys Ride For Free for all of your Oklahoma State news, and follow him on Twitter @CWebb_CRFF