The Cowboys’ magic number is two to walk away with no worse than a share of the title and the No. 1 seed in the conference postseason championship.
Oklahoma State (39-13, 16-5) took sole control of the top spot in the league standings with a three-game sweep of defending-champion Kansas State last weekend, while the Oklahoma Sooners, the Cowboys’ opponent in the final weekend of the regular season, managed to steal a game in its series at TCU, knocking the Horned Frogs out of a share of the conference lead.
Winners of seven consecutive Big 12 series, Oklahoma State goes into its Bedlam battle with Oklahoma having won its last 10 games.
The Cowboys were a fixture atop the former Big Eight Conference in baseball right up to the time the conference expanded and become the Big 12. They won a remarkable 17 consecutive regular-season championships between 1980 and 1996. Since then, though, Oklahoma State hasn’t finished any higher than second place in the conference standings, which has happened four times, including a year ago. The lone championship for the Cowboys since the formation of the Big 12 came in the conference tournament in 2004.
Thursday’s game between the Cowboys and the Sooners, at the Brickyard in Oklahoma City, will be the third meeting this season between the two in-state rivals. The two schools split the two games played earlier, with each team winning on its home field. The game played in Norman went 18 innings before the Sooners pulled out a 12-9 victory.
The three-game series to close out the 2014 regular season will be played at neutral sites in Oklahoma City (Thursday) and in Tulsa (Friday and Saturday).
The Cowboys are hitting .279 as a team through all games this season, and their pitching staff owns an ERA of 3.21, third best in the Big 12. Against Big 12 opponents, the Cowboy pitchers have been even stingier, with a staff ERA of 2.40.
Oklahoma is hitting .285 as a team, but the Sooners’ problem all season has been pitching. OU pitchers are giving up more than a run more a game than the Cowboys, and opposing teams are hitting a collective .279 against Sooner pitching, the second worst in the conference.
Ranked sixth in the country this week in the USA Today/ESPN oaches’ Poll, Oklahoma State is led at the plate by catcher Gage Green, who is hitting a team-best .390 with an on-base percentage of ,423 and a slugging average of ,469. Right-fielder Zach Fish is right behind Green, hitting .323. Fish also has added 10 home runs to lead the Cowboys in that department, along with 38 RBI.
The Sooners also are drawing their best hitting production from the catcher position, where junior Mac James leads OU with a .347 season average. Oklahoma has hit 28 home runs in 2014, good for second best in the Big 12 to Oklahoma State’s 41. The Sooners’ 21 triples is the seventh-best mark in the country.
Oklahoma State’s offense averages almost a run more a game than the Sooners (6.2 per game to 5.6), but neither team has hit that well in the two previous Bedlam matchups this year. Oklahoma has hit a meager .212 in the two earlier games, while the Cowboys have been only marginally better at .231.
On paper this matchup appears to clearly slant the direction of the Cowboys, but anyone who knows anything at all about the Oklahoma State-Oklahoma rivalry knows that statistics and season records are not that reliable in projecting outcomes.
My pick: Oklahoma will break through and capture one of the three games, but Oklahoma State will garner the two wins it needs to walk away with its first Big 12 regular-season title in baseball.