Oklahoma State has a quality weekend rotation with Jon Perrin leading the charge, but UC Irvine gets the edge in this category.
Irvine has one of the nation's elite arms in righthanded pitcher Andrew Morales, who was drafted in the second round by the Cardinals on the first day of the Major League Baseball draft. Morales typically sits anywhere from 88-92 with his fastball, while he complements that pitch with a quality changeup/slider combo. Surrey is a pitchability lefty for the 'Eaters, while Evan Brock is a seasoned veteran who enters the weekend with a 3.16 ERA in 99 2/3 innings this season and possesses a good changeup as a secondary offering.
As for the Cowboys, righthanded pitcher Jon Perrin has been one of the true breakthrough players for Josh Holliday's club this season with a 90-91 fastball and good pitchability, while righthanded pitcher Tyler Buffett has logged some quality innings this season and has a fastball that can bump 90. OSU's No. 3 spot in the weekend rotation has been iffy at times down the stretch, but the Pokes are confident someone like left-handed pitcher Tyler Nurdin can rise to the occasion.
UC Irvine and Oklahoma State each have some quality arms entering the game out of the bullpen, but I really like what the Pokes have in terms of true options.
Right-handed reliever Brendan McCurry has had a terrific season, sits 88-92 with his fastball, and has a 0.39 ERA and 19 saves in 46 innings, while Blake Battenfield has been a consistently good mound presence, and has a 1.70 ERA in 53 innings. Alex Hackerott and Vince Wheeland are other quality options, while Garrett Williams and Thomas Hatch are young pitchers with big-time arms, and could be called upon to throw at some point this weekend.
For the Anteaters, righthanded pitcher Sam Moore is a consistent arm who just goes out there each time out and mixes his pitches well. Moore only has a fastball in the mid-80s, so he might have to rely on his secondary stuff to get the job done this weekend. Meanwhile, Evan Manarino (2.93) stepped up in a long relief situation against the Beavers last weekend, and Jimmy Litchfield (3.58) and Mitch Merten (6.12) are quality arms to watch.
UC Irvine certainly doesn't have an overly explosive offensive lineup, but this is a team that will drive opposing coaches crazy if you allow it to settle into a groove. The Anteaters enter the weekend with a .271 team batting average, but play much better than that with a lead, best evidenced last weekend by a strong showing against Oregon State.
Taylor Sparks (.297/5/34) and Connor Spencer (.364/1/43) are the two key hitters to watch, with Sparks having some big-time power potential this weekend, especially if the wind is blowing out at Allie P. Reynolds (which it often does this time of year). Catcher Jerry McClanahan is just a seasoned veteran who shows consistency at the plate, while Kris Paulino isn't a consistent threat, but can beat you with power production, as shown last weekend against the Beavers.
Offensively, Oklahoma State definitely gets the edge. The Cowboys seem to play with a particular confidence at home, and enter the weekend with a .278 batting average. Veteran Gage Green leads the team in hitting with a .322 batting average, while imposing Zach Fish is the guy who packs a powerful punch, hitting .312 with 11 homers and 48 RBIs. Meanwhile, Tanner Krietemeier is a power producer and Conor Costello stepped up last weekend with some power and big hits in key situations. Speed-wise, Green and second baseman Tim Arakawa are guys who really can make things go on the bases.
Both the Anteaters and Cowboys are very respectable clubs from a defensive standpoint, but we give a slight edge to OSU in this category.
In addition to kind of knowing the lay of the land at home, the Cowboys are solid up the middle with shortstop Donnie Walton and second baseman Tim Arakawa leading the charge, while Gage Green is a very athletic player who mans the outfield well. As for the 'Eaters, the weak link for them defensively is shortstop Chris Rabago, who has struggled immensely at times this spring, and enters the weekend with a .938 fielding percentage.
"Pitching-wise, Andrew Morales just competes his tail off and he'll mix his pitches and location really well. He pitches a West Coast style out there and when his slider is on, he's going to be a really tough guy to hit. He pitches better than his stuff truly is most of the time. I don't think the Anteaters trust reliever Sam Moore very much. We had a scouting report on Moore at 86-89, he was more 84-85 against him, and he was very much a guy that was living or dying on his splitter. Elliott Surrey is just a soft college lefthander, who sits low-to-mid 80s with his fastball and is mainly an attack away type of guy. If Irvine throws 10 pitches, chances are good 8 or 9 of them will be away from the hitter. Offensively, you have to be able to pitch inside on the Anteaters. There are two ways to beat them and they are A) Don't allow the top half of the offensive lineup to get rolling and B) don't walk guys at the bottom of their order. UC Irvine is one of those teams that goes into overdrive when they get a lead. Irvine kind of goes the old Pat Murphy approach where it will go 1-2-3-4 in the lineup with its best hitters, no matter the situation. Sparks is opportunistic and will hit you hard, while Connor Spencer has slider bat speed. If you pitch him soft, you're only doing him a favor."
"There's not really anything Oklahoma State does that makes it stand out. But they just play really sound baseball and do a great job of executing the fundamental aspect of the game of baseball. They play solid defense and are good in any count. OSU's pitchers aren't necessarily overpowering, but the Cowboys are one of those teams you say that early in the game, then you look up at the end, and you've got no runs or just one run. You're not getting a lot of opportunities against those guys. Being able to pitch and throw three pitches for strikes is big against those guys. Zach Fish is really, really, good, so it's good to see his powerful bat back in the lineup."