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Big 12 Baseball Tournament preview: Cowboys to watch; breaking down OSU's numbers

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Who: No. 18 OSU vs Oklahoma 

What: Big 12 Baseball Tournament

When: Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Where: Globe Life Field, Arlington, Texas

How to watch: Big 12 Now/ESPN+

Less than a week removed from the Bedlam series, the Cowboys take on the Sooners again in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament (May 24-28). OU, the No. 7 seed, won the tournament last season, while the No. 2 seed Cowboys last claimed the title in 2019.

Here are some Cowboys to keep an eye on this week.

Nolan Schubart 

Nolan Schubart grinned when he was asked about his emotions after winning a Big 12 title.

Schubart played a pivotal role in OSU’s 11-1 win over OU on Saturday, finishing 3-for-4 with five RBI and a towering two-run home run. Just as Schubart began his speech, second baseman Roc Riggio jumped in.

“Best freshman in the country right here,” Riggio said. “No question about it.”

As a first-year college player, Schubart ranks second on the team in home runs (15) and fifth in batting average (.348). Throughout the season, coach Josh Holliday has labeled him “unique” and “special”. On Saturday, the trend continued.

“I don’t pass out compliments very often,” Holliday said. “But (Schubart) just does a lot of things I don’t see very many young players do. He is a remarkable young player.”

Marcus Brown

Saturday, in a one-run game with a runner on second base, shortstop Marcus Brown fielded a ground ball hit by OU first baseman Sebastian Orduno. With just one out, Brown opted to throw out Sooner catcher Eastern Carmichael at third base rather than nabbing Orduno at first.

Instead of having a base runner 90 feet from home plate, the Sooners had no runners in scoring position with two outs. The play ended up being a footnote in a blowout, but it could have gifted the Sooners an early opportunity to strike.

“It was a heads-up play for sure,” Holliday said. “(Brown’s) defense was pretty good. I thought we played good defense here.”

Throughout the weekend, Brown’s defense was big, delivering a multitude of run-saving, diving stops on ground balls and throws from his knees or off his back foot.

“Brownie was clutch all weekend,” Schubart said. “He’s one of the many guys who keep this team intact and we’re lucky to have him on our team.”

Cowboys in the bullpen

The shortened week ahead of Bedlam altered OSU's pitching plan and exposed other arms in the OSU bullpen. 

After spending much of the past two seasons as OSU's closer, Nolan McLean made his first career start on the mound in the Cowboys' Bedlam win on Thursday. A one-run, five-strikeout outing through three innings not only showed McLean – still rehabbing from an unspecified leg injury suffered against Texas on April 1 – is progressing well, but he is also a starting option.

Carson Benge – OSU’s usual Day 3 starter – didn’t throw against the Sooners and will have nearly two weeks of rest coming into Arlington.

Sophomore righty and BYU transfer Janzen Keisel, junior Brian Hendry and redshirt freshman Drew Blake have starting experience this season, as well.

“We’re in a good spot,” Holliday said. “We had some guys step up (on the mound against OU) and we’ll take that and move forward.”

Breaking down the numbers

57: OSU’s win percentage away from O'Brate Stadium

The Cowboys hold a 12-9 record away from home. Five of those wins came against the likes of Kansas and Michigan – both outside the RPI top 100. Without those games, OSU is 6-7 in true road games.

5.19: OSU’s team ERA, good for the fifth best in the Big 12.

From 2014-16, when OSU made two Super Regional appearances and a College World Series, none of Holliday’s teams held an ERA exceeding 3.29. Even in 2019, another season with a Super Regional appearance, the team’s ERA was 4.08.

OSU’s starting rotation, consisting of Juaron Watts-Brown, Ben Abram and Carson Benge, holds a 5.38 cumulative ERA. 

.307: OSU’s team batting average.

The Cowboys, led by Tyler Wulfert (.355), Roc Riggio (.354) and Carson Benge (.349), sit 24th in the country and second in the Big 12 in team batting average. OSU has recorded at least 10 hits in 14 of its last 17 games.

8.7: OSU’s runs-per-game average, good for 10th nationally.

The offense has had no shortage of runs, plating double-digit run totals in six of the past eight contests, averaging more than 12 runs.

99: Home runs this season

The Cowboys' 99 homers rank 15th nationally. OSU is 6-7 in games without a home run, 7-3 when only one home run is hit and 24-6 with at least two homers in a game.

2023 Big 12 Baseball Championship Bracket

OSU plays Oklahoma on Wednesday in the opening round of the Big 12 Baseball Championship.