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OSU baseball mailbag: Pitching rotations, Big 12 Tournament scenarios and more

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Carson Benge

Carson Benge will start on the mound for OSU in its opening game of the Big 12 Tournament against Oklahoma on Wednesday. 

The postseason is here. 

At times, this season has flown by so fast, it’s felt like a blur.  But you all have been with us the whole way, and we appreciate that immensely.

As if the Bedlam baseball rivalry wasn’t already overplayed, we get a fifth installment to open OSU’s slate in the Big 12 Tournament.

Without further ado, here are the answers to your questions ahead of postseason play. 

From Chester E: “Let’s talk about hosting and what, if anything, needs to be accomplished this week to secure a top 16 seed?”

In D1Baseball’s latest Field of 64 projections, the Cowboys were tabbed as the No. 13 overall seed. 

With its RPI ranking sitting at 20 ahead of their Big 12 Tournament opener, in my eyes, if OSU wins at least one game, it should still be a regional host, even if it were to go 1-2 on the week.

Now, if the Cowboys did go 1-2, it wouldn’t be far-fetched assume they drop to the 14-16 seed in regional projections. That would likely mean OSU – should it win its hypothetical regional – would be paired with Wake Forest, Arkansas, LSU or even Florida. I’d assume no OSU fan wants their team to cross paths with any of those teams.

From Matt Sheets: “What does OU have left to match up with Benge?”

The Sooners have plenty of options; however, not all of them are good. In fact, most aren’t. 

Holliday confirmed Tuesday that Carson Benge would start in the first round – the game notes gave further confirmation as well.

Carson Atwood seems like a feasible option for OU. Even with a 4.97 ERA, Atwood has pitched a lot better as of late. Last Thursday against OSU, he threw two innings, surrendering only one run. He’s thrown 25.1 innings and already has two starts this season.

If Atwood weren’t to start, Will Carsten, who has been utilized as a lengthy reliver, was an initial weekend starter for OU. 

Then, of course, there’s Kale Davis.

From Matt Sheets: “Better matchup in Game 2: West Virginia or Texas Tech??”

Neither team is playing good baseball lately.

Texas Tech is coming off a slim series win over eighth-place Kansas – in what easily could have been a series loss to the Jayhawks at home. West Virginia was just swept by Texas in Austin, being outscored 29-9 in three games.

For a while now, we’ve called West Virginia, “a bubble waiting to pop.” Last weekend was more than just a simple pop, it was an implosion. 

When you look at OSU’s series loss to the Mountaineers in Stillwater, there was one recurring issue: crooked innings, each transpiring in latter innings.

While OSU’s pitching staff is nowhere near peak form, in the past five games, it has surrendered 15 runs. Just three runs per game in that span. 

For whatever reason, OSU just can’t beat Texas Tech, only winning one series against the Red Raiders since 2016 and having been swept four times. Of course, Texas Tech’s offense is also prolific, holding a .313 team batting average, the highest in the Big 12.

If I had to pinpoint a better matchup for the Cowboys, it would likely be Texas Tech due to its pedigree of poor performances in the Big 12 Tournament under Tim Tadlock and how it's played the past week; however, both have exposed a plethora of woes over the past week.

From Matt Sheets: “Do you let Benge just pitch and get Colin ABs?”

This is a great question!

Both have delivered in big moments for OSU and have been hitting at a high level as of late. 

To counter that, why take Benge out of the lineup? Granted, he had a cold weekend against the Sooners, he still holds a .347 batting average, the fifth highest on the roster. Holliday has consistently called him a “force to be reckoned with on both sides,” and with good cause.

One of the most difficult facets of dissecting a pinch hitter, or even a designated hitter, is how skewed their ERA can be. Of course, Brueggemann has started many games this season, if he were an everyday starter – like Benge – his average would be more leveled out. 

Both are great options, and Holliday has done a fantastic job at alternating lineups game-by-game to accommodate his team’s needs.

From Matt Sheets: “Bullpen name to watch this week?”

With Brian Hendry and Evan O’Toole out for the week, my nomination goes to Gabe Davis. 

Pitching coach Rob Walton called Davis a potential first rounder when I spoke with him prior to OSU’s series against Kansas State.

With the slight shortage of arms this weekend, the Cowboys may need extended innings out of their freshman right-handed reliever.  

From Matt Sheets: “What do I get for predicting a three-way Big 12 (title) and Juaron Watts-Brown rest on Thursday?”

In all actuality, Watts-Brown didn’t pitch horribly – as he had on prior short-rest scenarios, to your point. While four earned runs isn’t ideal for an ace pitcher, JWB still struck out nine batters and pitched 5 1/3 innings. 

His hiccups came in his later innings. For the first two, flashes of his early-season form were on display. But, giving credit where it’s due, it wasn’t smooth sailing the whole way.

From Lane Fallis: "What do you think OSU's pitching order will be for the Big 12 Tournament?”

As previously stated, Holliday already said Carson Benge would start the first round against OU. OSU’s game notes showed Nolan McLean and Juaron Watts-Brown as the ensuing two options. 

My guess would be Ben Abram as the fourth, and then maybe Drew Blake should OSU play five games in Arlington this week.

Should OSU make it to the conference title game in just three games, having a weekend starter available would be a luxury for the Cowboys.