By Ryan Decker
The Cowboys haven’t played since last weekend when they were swept by No. 3 TCU, which halted an eight-game winning streak.
WVU, winners of five of its last seven, is riding a recent hot streak and is coming off Tuesday’s 8-4 victory in the Backyard Brawl.
“We’re going to go down there and play with a lot of confidence,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said following the win in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. “We’ve played really well in the Big 12 since we’ve been in the Big 12. This is a really tough series. They’re as good as anyone out there.”
Series play begins Friday night at 7:30 p.m. ET, as both teams will send their ace to the hill. BJ Myers (2-1, 4.03 ERA) gets the start Friday night for the Mountaineers, and the Cowboys will place the ball in the hands of senior Tyler Buffett (3-2, 4.19).
Both Buffett and Myers get the task of trying to shut down two potent offenses.
As a team, West Virginia is hitting for the second-best average (.292) in the Big 12. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State’s team on-base percentage (.401) and slugging percentage (.431) rank among the top two teams in the conference.
Leading the way at the plate for the Cowboys is Garrett Benge and Garrett McCain. Benge is tied for the conference-lead in home runs with five, and leads the Big 12 in runs batted in with 28. McCain’s hitting at a .348 clip on the year, and paces the team in hits with 32.
“(Oklahoma State) can really pitch, hit and play defense,” Mazey said. “We’re going to have to really play good when we get down there.”
Cole Austin paces West Virginia with a .351 average, while Jackson Cramer leads the team in home runs (4) and OBP (.430). Those two combined for four of WVU’s seven hits against the Panthers.
Five Mountaineer hitters that qualify with enough at bats are hitting for an average of .315 or better, and three more are batting better than .270.
“We’ve got some guys swinging the bat with confidence and I couldn’t be prouder of where we’re at right now,” said Mazey.
Last year the two teams played in Morgantown, a series that the Mountaineers won due in large part to a walk-off home run by Jackson Cramer in the 10th inning of the series opener.
Conner Dotson is the only pitcher in Mazey’s starting rotation that pitched against the Cowboys last year, throwing 1.2 scoreless innings to close out a 4-3 victory.
This time, Dotson (3-3, 5.53) will get the start for the series finale on Sunday against Blake Battenfield (2-1, 3.42).
West Virginia native Michael Grove (2-1, 3.28) and OSU freshman Jonathan Heasley (2-2, 2.55) are scheduled to start the middle game of the series on the bump.
Oklahoma State has only lost three times at home this year.