The College World Series will be down to just four teams by the end of Thursday, with unbeaten Oklahoma State and TCU looking to book a place in the finals. Arizona and either Coastal Carolina or Texas Tech, meanwhile, will be looking to stay alive and force one final game on Saturday with a place in the final on the line.
Here's the schedule for Friday's matchups:
|College World Series: Friday Schedule|
|3 p.m.||Oklahoma State vs. Arizona||ESPN2|
|8 p.m.||TCU vs. Coastal Carolina/Texas Tech||ESPN|
While it's impossible to predict TCU's contest—because we don't yet know its opponent—we can take a closer look at the other matchup set for Friday.
Oklahoma State vs. Arizona
It's pretty tough to bet against an Oklahoma State squad that has yet to give up a run in two College World Series games, though to Arizona's credit, they've only given up two runs in three games.
So yes, bring on the pitching duel.
And bring on Jensen Elliott vs. Nathan Bannister. Here's the tale of the tape:
|Oklahoma State vs. Arizona: Pitching Matchup|
|Jensen Elliott||Oklahoma State||9-2||85.1||69||3.27|
That matchup would seem to favor Arizona and Bannister, who has thrown more innings than anyone else in the nation this year, according to Mitch Sherman of ESPN.com:
I'm ready for Friday. This is all you can ask for as a pitcher at this time of year. What we've shown over the past three games is that we have the ability to compete with anybody in the nation.
Oklahoma State has a bit of a cushion, though. The Cowboys can lose on Friday and still have another chance to advance to the title game on Saturday, in what would be a rematch. In that contest, they could trot out Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Thomas Hatch against the very talented Bobby Dalbec.
Offensively, however, Arizona has perhaps the slight advantage, though very little separates the two teams statistically this season:
|Oklahoma State vs. Arizona: Offensive Output|
Offensively, these are pretty even teams.
So, when in doubt, circle back to the pitching. In a matchup between Bannister and Elliott, Bannister deserves the edge. And Arizona will have desperation on their side, while there's always the concern for Oklahoma State that having a one-game cushion could take away a bit of its mental edge.
So look for Arizona to steal a win on Friday. Whether it can beat Oklahoma State twice in a row is quite another matter entirely.
Prediction: Arizona, 3-2
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