OKLAHOMA CITY — Nebraska and Oklahoma State won't start their winners bracket on time Saturday night. But the matchup should be worth the wait.
With area thunderstorms pushing back first pitch from 7 p.m. to roughly 8:30, there's more time to chew on the NCAA tournament game that will put the third-seeded Huskers or No. 9 national seed Cowboys one win away from a super regional.
Some thoughts and observations from Bricktown Ballpark:
» Oklahoma State's presumed starter, sophomore left-hander Parker Scott, will be pitching in high-stakes postseason territory for the first time. His numbers are excellent — a 1.45 ERA, 42 strikeouts and 11 walks in 37⅓ innings this spring, including six starts. But he continues to build up stamina from multiple serious injuries that include an ulnar nerve relocation and Tommy John surgery in the last two years.
He's good. Whether Nebraska can drive up his pitch count like it did with UConn southpaw Mason Feole will be key.
» For a second straight night, Oklahoma State's fan base and in-house media folks will be split between the NCAA regional at Bricktown and the softball team playing in the Women's College World Series only a few miles away.
Maybe this makes a difference, maybe not. But how much red shows up — and makes itself heard — in the 9,000-seat home of Triple-A's Oklahoma City Dodgers will be fascinating either way.
» A closer look at Oklahoma State and Nebraska reveals two teams very similar in many ways. The defenses have nearly identical fielding percentages. With Husker Friday ace Matt Waldron throwing and OSU having already used top starter Jensen Elliott against Harvard, neither side has an obvious pitching advantage. The programs' on-base percentages are within one one-thousandth of a point (.372 to 373) of each other.
So what's the key? Long balls. The Cowboys are sixth nationally with 1.53 homers per game while Nebraska is 171st (0.63). If Waldron and Co. can keep OSU in the yard, everything else evens out real quick. Then it's a toss up for who stays unbeaten in this NCAA regional.
Waldron has allowed a team-high six homers in 92⅔ innings this year. Teams know he'll be around the zone, as his ridiculously low walk total (seven) attests. He'll need his pinpoint command working.
» One other interesting note on Waldon is he has pitched against OSU twice before. He started the 2016 regional the Cowboys won 6-0, lasting 3⅔ frames. He fired three scoreless relief innings when the teams faced off in the Frisco Classic in 2017. Okie State won that game 1-0.