College World Series: Arizona prepares to face dominant Oklahoma State team
OMAHA, Nebraska — As impressive as Arizona baseball’s postseason run has been, the UA’s Monday opponent at the College World Series has a leg up on the Wildcats so far.
Not only is Oklahoma State undefeated through six postseason games, the Cowboys have yet to even trail in those 54 innings.
“If somebody said their team looked like our team, I would take that as a compliment,” Arizona head coach Jay Johnson said.
On Monday evening, the Wildcats will look to break the Cowboys’ dominant postseason streak and place themselves in striking position of the College World Series Finals.
Oklahoma State’s journey to Omaha seemed unlikely when the Cowboys were shipped off to Clemson, South Carolina for Regionals.
Oklahoma State, led by head coach Josh Holliday, made quick work of the regional by knocking off Nebraska before beating host Clemson in back-to-back games.
The Cowboys then headed two hours southeast where they stunned the South Carolina Gamecocks by scores of 5-1 and 3-1.
In the opening game of the College World Series, Oklahoma State outlasted UC Santa Barbara in a pitchers’ duel, topping the Gauchos 1-0.
In those six wins, Oklahoma State outscored its opponents 36-6, never giving up more than two runs in a game.
“They’re playing extremely well right now,” Johnson said. “They’ve been able to get out to leads. They have really good starting pitching.”
Facing Arizona, the Cowboys will lean on junior right-hander Tyler Buffett, who served as a reliever most of the season but started his last two appearances.
As of Sunday, Johnson had not announced Arizona’s starting pitcher, but it will most likely be either J.C. Cloney or Bobby Dalbec.
Buffett, a seventh-round draft pick by the Houston Astros, made it through seven innings in both of his last two starts, allowing one run in each outing.
Given Oklahoma State’s propensity to limit opposing offenses, the Wildcats may need to jump on Buffett early.
At Arizona’s Sunday afternoon practice, Johnson said that the team was sticking to its routine of staying loose and ready.
“We had a good hour-and-fifteen minute window where we needed to get some things done,” Johnson said. “[We] cleaned up some things on the bases, clean up some things on the bunting game, which we did in the cages and just finding these guys’ strokes and taking care of the ball on defense. It was a good workout.”
Arizona shouldn’t need a lot of offensive production to hang with the Cowboys.
Oklahoma State headed into the College World Series with a team .268 batting average, a mark that won’t raise many eyebrows.
The Cowboys’ lineup is top-heavy, with leadoff second baseman JR Davis batting .353.
Oklahoma State’s top power threat comes in the form of first baseman Dustin Williams, who led the Big-12 Conference with 14 home runs this regular season.
Against UC Santa Barbara, the first five batters of Oklahoma State’s lineups produced all of the Cowboys’ six hits.
If Arizona’s pitching staff can get through the top of the order with little damage, the Wildcats could find themselves in good position to open the College World Series 2-0.
First pitch is slated for 4 p.m. MST and the game will be televised on ESPN.
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