By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
For college baseball historians, the first-round matchup between Oklahoma State and Miami (Fla.) in the Louisville Regional is intriguing.
The Hurricanes are appearing in their 41st consecutive NCAA regional (a record) and have made 42 appearances overall. Miami has reached the College World Series at least once during the last four decades, winning national titles in three of those decades.
Oklahoma State is making its 39th trip to the NCAA tournament but its last trip to Omaha came in 1999. Josh Holliday, the Cowboys’ first-year coach played on that team. Oklahoma State finished second in the Big 12 standings and reaching the NCAA tournament in the first season under a new coach is noteworthy. Holliday, though, wants more.
“I'm proud for the program and for all the people that care about it,” he said. “One of the things we talked about doing was restoring that expectation. The next step now is to go out and start winning some of these postseason games.
“They're excited to keep playing. This year has meant a lot to these guys. There has been a high level of investment from these kids to get to this point. This is personal to them. And this team and this season is something that is very personal to all of us. We'll get ready. They'll be ready to go. And they'll bring it.”
Most teams that make a run in the NCAA tourney have outstanding pitching. One of Holliday’s best hires was hiring Rob Walton, considered one of the nation’s top pitching coaches. Oklahoma State’s 2.93 ERA is third-best in the Big 12. Pitchers Jason Hurst, Tyler Nurdin and Mark Robinette – who all missed most of last season dealing with injuries – give Oklahoma State three solid to above-average starters.
“We’re not in this position without all three of these guys,” Holliday said. “They’ve all regained form and competed at a very high level. I give them credit for how hard they’ve worked to get healthy and how hard they’ve worked with Rob to re-establish themselves as pitchers.”
Oklahoma State closed the regular season by winning 14 of its last 18 games but lost all three games in Oklahoma City at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship.
“Miami is a very good team,” Holliday said. “We know we'll be playing against a group of guys who are postseason savvy. They win in the postseason. And their tradition and the DNA of that program is very strong. It's a challenge right away.”
Louisville Regional hosted by Louisville
No. 1 Louisville (46-12) vs. No. 4 Bowling Green (24-29), 5 p.m., ESPN3
No. 2 Miami (Fla.) (36-23) vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State (39-17), 1 p.m., ESPN3
Oklahoma State update: The Cowboys need to bounce back from losing their three games at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship, letting leads slip away in all three games. Zach Fish (.284, seven home runs, 41 RBIs), Robbie Rea (.270, 28 RBIs), Tanner Krietemeier (.321, 43 RBIs) and Randy McCurry (.311, 20 doubles, 38 RBIs) are the top hitters in the lineup. Freshman Donnie Walton set a school record with 17 sacrifice bunts. Right hander Jason Hursh (6-4, 2.65 ERA) has outstanding ability, with a fast ball in the mid 90s. He missed last season after undergoing arm surgery. Sophomore lefty Tyler Nurdin (4-3, 1.83 ERA) and Mark Robinette (5-1, 3.92 ERA) combine to give Oklahoma State three solid starters. Oklahoma State’s 39 wins are the program's highest total since the 2008 Cowboys finished with 44. The Cowboys are making their 39th NCAA tournament appearance and first since 2011. The coaching staff of Josh Holliday (in his first season as coach), Rob Walton and Marty Lees has combined to make 12 College World Series appearances as either a player or coach. Last season, Oklahoma State opponents stole 77 bases and the Cowboys stole 38. The script flipped this season with Oklahoma State stealing 78 and allowing 38.
Louisville at a glance: The Cardinals had won 14 in a row before going 0-2 in the Big East Conference tournament. Louisville won the regular season title. The pitching staff is loaded. Chad Green (9-3, 2.09), Jeff Thompson (10-1, 2.09) and Dace Kime (5-1, 3.08) give the Cardinals three physical power pitchers in the rotation. The bullpen’s ace is sophomore right-hander Nick Burdi (3-3, 0.88 with 56 strikeouts and 11 walks in 31 innings); his fastball routinely hits 100 mph on the radar gun. Louisville is third nationally with 142 stolen bases. Center fielder Adam Engel leads the way with 40 swipes. Third baseman Ty Young (.357, 55 RBI, seven triples, 26 steals) anchors the batting order.
Miami (Fla.) at a glance: The Hurricanes are making their 42nd NCAA appearance and 41st in a row. Left-handers Chris Diaz (6-5, 1.75 ERA), Bryan Radziewski (9-2, 1.49 ERA) and Andrew Suarez (3-5, 3.71 ERA) are the top starters. The top reliever is right-hander is Eric Nedeljkovic (1.37 ERA, 13 saves). Miami struggles at the plate, ranking 213th in the nation in hitting (.260) and 229th in scoring (4.5 runs per game). The Hurricanes have hit just 13 home runs. Miami coach Jim Morris was hospitalized with pneumonia at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, and it is unclear whether he’ll be able to join the team this weekend.
Bowling Green at a glance: The Falcons had to battle through the loser’s bracket to win the Mid-American Conference tournament and the automatic bid that produced their first regional appearance since 1999. The pitching staff is led by Cody Apthorpe (5-4, 3.50 ERA) and Mike Frank (5-7, 3.61 ERA). If the starters can get the team a lead and to the late innings, senior closer Nick Bruns is outstanding. He has a 6-2 record with a 2.32 ERA and six saves. The top hitters are Jeremy Shay (.328, five home runs, 37 RBIs) and T.J. Losby (.324, six homers, 37 RBIs). Bowling Green’s defense is porous with a .951 fielding percentage that ranks 278th in the nation.