Both teams swept their regionals last weekend, winning all three of their games. Oklahoma State, the only other Big 12 team to advance to the 2013 NCAA Baseball Championship, wasn’t as fortunate, winning two of four but being eliminated in the Louisville Regional. The Big 12’s 8-2 record in NCAA regional action was the best winning percentage for the conference since the current playoff format was put into place in 1999.
Kansas State, the conference champion in the 2013 regular season, will be playing in its first NCAA baseball super regional. K-State ranked 17th, one spot ahead of Oklahoma, in the latest USA Today Coaches Poll.
Coach Brad Hill’s Wildcats are paired with Oregon State 48-11), the overall No. 3 seed in this year’s tournament and back-to-back national champion in 2006 and 2007. This series will begin on Saturday in Corvallis, Ore., and run through Monday, if necessary. Oklahoma, meanwhile, has its work cut out for it in a super-regional series at LSU, the No. 4 seed in this year’s NCAA Baseball Tournament.
One common problem that both K-State and the Sooners will face in their super-regional showdown this weekend is that both Oregon State and LSU have outstanding pitching, which is a prime reason why those two schools have gotten as far as they are and have the high seeds they have in this year’s Championship.
Oregon State is No. 2 in the country this season in team ERA (2.18) and LSU is tied for third nationally with a staff ERA (2.47) that is almost as good. Oklahoma’s task will be compounded because LSU is equally effective generating offensive opportunities. The Tigers come into their super-regional series with OU with a team batting average of .307, ranked as the 16th best in the nation, and they are averaging almost seven runs per game, also in the top 20 in the nation.
By comparison, Oklahoma is hitting .286 as a team and averages around 5.5 runs per game. The Sooners’ staff ERA (2.94) is almost a half a run higher than their super-regional opponent from Baton Rouge, but OU has one of the best starters in the country in junior right-hander Jonathan Gray, who is expected to go in the top five in Thursday’s Major League Baseball Draft of first-year prospects. Gray has a record of 10-2 this season in 16 starts, with an ERA of 1.59, tied for 14th best among all Division 1 pitchers.
The Kansas State-Oregon State matchup will feature the Beavers outstanding pitching against the second-best hiting team in the country in the Wildcats. K-State is hitting .324 as a team through 61 games.
If you buy in to the theory that good hitting will win you a lot of games, but good pitching is what wins championships, it would stand to reason that Oregon State and LSU will take care of business against their two Big 12 challengers. In the case of LSU, the Tigers also put a potent offense on the field, which does not bode well for Oklahoma, which has been struggling over the last month in generating consistent offensive production.
When OU is firing on all cylinders, it can be a very good team, but coming into the postseason coach Sunny Golloway’s squad had rarely been able to match a great pitching performance with a solid offensive game, especially during the month of May.
I believe the Sooners’ chances against LSU are very poor, although they may be able to take the series to a third and deciding game. I’m predicting a surprise in the opening game on Friday with OU upseting the Bayou Tigers behind a solid pitching performance from Gray. LSU will come back, however, and take games two and three to claim the super-regional championship.
Kansas State has produced all season long, and the Cats present a major offensive challenge to the more pitching-oriented Oregon State team. There doesn’t appear to be a weak link offensively in the Wildcats’ starting lineup, and I am predicting that their bats and better-than-average starting pitching will eventually rule the day and provide the Big 12 regular-season champions with their first trip to the College World Series.
This being Kansas State’s first appearance in an NCAA baseball super regional, the Cats have no prior history, Oklahoma, on the other hand, is making its third trip to the super regionals in the past four seasons.. The Sooners are 3-5 all-time in super-regional action.
Big 12 NCAA Super Regional Predictions
Kansas State (44-17) vs. Oregon State (48-11) in Corvallis, Ore.
Game 1 (Saturday) to Oregon State
Game 2 (Sunday) to Kansas State
Game 3 (Monday) to Kansas State
Kansas State advances to the College World Series
Oklahoma (43-19) vs. LSU (55-9) in Baton Rouge, La.
Game 1 (Friday) to Oklahoma
Game 2 (Saturday) to LSU
Game 3 (Sunday) to LSU
LSU advances to the College World Series
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