June 18, 2011; Omaha, NE, USA; Texas Longhorns pitcher Nathan Thornhill (36) during the seventh inning against the Florida Gators during the 2011 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. Florida defeated Texas 8-4. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Longtime Big 12 Rivals Square Off In Key Easter Weekend Series

The University of Texas and Oklahoma State University have traditionally had strong college baseball programs. A year ago the Longhorns (14-10) and Cowboys (13-11) finished third and fifth, respectively, in the conference standings. And that is where the league coaches have projected the two teams to end up this season, as well.

Texas has won seven regular-season conference championshipships since the Big 12 was formed in 1996. Oklahoma State’s highest finish over that time has been second, which the Cowboys accomplished three times (1997, 2006 and 2008). Texas has won seven national baseball championships all-time and has been to the Collwge World Series 34 times, seven as a member of the Big 12. The Cowboys have only one national crown to their credit (1959), but have made 19 College World Series appearances in program history.

This season, however, the two widely recognized programs have gotten off to suspect starts in conference play: Oklahoma State splitting two games with Baylor last weekend, while the Longhorns dropped two of three at home the weekend before to Texas Tech. It is still very early in the conference race to call the series this weekend in Stillwater between the Longhorns and the Cowboys critical, but it could prove to be very important come the end of May.

The Cowboys are concluding a 24-game home stand with this weekend’s series with their rivals from the Lone Star State. Oklahoma State has only played three games away from Allie P. Reynolds Stadium all season. With eight road contests staring the Cowboys square in the face after this weekend, the three-game set at home with the Longhorns could loom large in Oklahoma State’s battle for position in the conference race.

In the series-opening game Thursday night, the Longhorns pounded Oklahoma State’s ace starter Jason Hursh for eight runs (six of them earned) on 13 hits on the way to an 8-5 victory. The loss was the Cowboys’ third consecutive loss on their home field, only the fourth time in the 32-year history of Reynolds Stadium that Oklahoma State has lost more than two in a row at home. The two longtime rivals have two more games in the series: Friday night and Saturday afternoon. The schedule this weekend calls for games  Thursday through Saturday because of the Sunday Easter holiday.

Oklahoma State and Texas have had some classic games over time, even before the two schools came together under the same conference banner. With the win Friday night, the Longhorns extended their overall series lead over the Cowboys to 52-28.

In another interesting series to watch this weekend in Big 12 baseball, Kansas State, currently second in the standings behind league-leader Oklahoma, is in Waco, Texas, for a three-game set against the defending regular-season champion Baylor Bears. K-State edged the Bears 3-2 in the series opener on Thursday to increase its conference record to 3-1 and 18-8 overall. The win by the Wildcats was only their fourth ever in Waco. A victory in either of the two remaining games in the series will result in Kansas State’s first-ever series win at Baylor. A year ago, Baylor set a conference record, winning its first 18 conference games before suffering a loss.

The remaining conference pairings this weekend have Kansas (14-9, 2-2) at conference-leading Oklahoma (24-4, 4-0) and TCU (5-15, 9-15) at Texas Tech (16-11, 3-3). The Sooners won the series-opener with Kansas 12-1. The Sooners jumped out early on a three-run homer by designated-hitter Max Oberste, who exptended his school record hitting streak to 28 games, and then rode the powerful arm of right-handed starter Jonathan Gray. Gray, making his sevent start of the season, had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning and struck out a career-high 12 batters. It was the junior right-hander’s third consecutive complete game and raised his season record to 5-1.

For more news and information on Big 12 baseball and team and individual stats on all nine conference teams participating in baseball, go to Big12Sports.com.

For related news and information on Oklahoma State athletics, visit PokesPost.com.

Find more information and news coverage of University of Texas athletics at HookemHeadlines.com.

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Tags: Baseball Oklahoma State Cowoys Texas Longhorns

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