Cowboys Get Some Friendly Rivals

STILLWATER - The Oklahoma State Cowboys baseball team knew they were hosting a regional, so as the team sat in their locker room joined by some family, administration, including athletic director Mike Holder, and media, there was little reaction when their name and Stillwater popped up on the screen.

The reaction came with the revealing of the guest list. The expected assignment of Oral Roberts, who beat the Cowboys twice this season in midweek games, nearby Arkansas out of the SEC, and Big East champ St. John's, who won its 39th game Sunday beating Creighton in the Big East title game in Omaha.

The Cowboys are the top seed at the 2015 NCAA Stillwater Regional and will open play at 6 p.m. inside Allie P. Reynolds Stadium on Friday. The opener will have second-seed Arkansas (35-22) facing third-seed Oral Roberts (41-14). It's a tough regional.

"There are some really good teams, obviously," said OSU head coach Josh Holliday. "When you see St. John’s pop up there as a four seed with close to 40 wins and knowing the type of baseball they’ve historically played, that’s a really, really good four seed.

"And then we’ve seen Oral Roberts – excellent ball club. Then an Arkansas team that has been highly competitive, especially the last 30 games in the SEC."

The theme for Oklahoma State fans should be to buy their tickets quick because with ORU and especially a rabid Arkansas fan base coming from nearby the tickets could be really scarce. Cowboys pitcher and position player knows how crazy it could be as does Donnie Walton, who grew up watching ORU baseball with his dad coaching the Golden Eagles.

"It’s a great tournament with strong ball clubs up-and-down the bracket for sure," Walton said of the regional. "That’s a statement to the number of good teams in this area. To have Arkansas, Oral Roberts and ourselves all within a close drive, to have that much good baseball being played in one area, and add to that St. John’s, it should be a tremendous regional."

"It shapes up to be a packed house every game, which is awesome,” Holliday said. “It’s good for college baseball and will be great for Stillwater. It’s great to see other programs that have that type of support roll into town and make it a weekend of tremendous energy and great play."

The Cowboys Conor Costello has been pitching well and hitting again since recovering from a serious choking incident in a restaurant in Lawrence, Kan., earlier this season. He said he is on a normal diet and will likely get back to eating steak (what he had lodged in his throat) after the season.

The junior from Edmond Santa Fe went to Arkansas out of high school, so the Razorbacks coming over to Stillwater really got his attention.

"Yeah, it was exciting and playing over there for an entire year, and I had a good experience, it will be crazy playing against them," Costello said. "The fan support they have over there is unreal and this place is going to be packed out every night. It will be fun and I still know of two guys that are still over there that came in with me as freshmen."

This marks the second-straight year the Cowboys have hosted an NCAA Regional and the 12th time overall at Reynolds Stadium. OSU is 36-11 all-time in regional play on their current home field and has won seven regional titles, including one last season.

Gage Green is not only the All-Big 12 catcher and outfielder for the Cowboys but the senior from Wichita Falls, Texas is a catalyst for the team. He's excited for the opportunity to launch his final college postseason run at home. Green is hitting .284 with 29 RBI having started all 55 games this season.

"We’re really excited and just glad to be in a regional – it doesn’t really matter who we play, we treat everyone the same. We’re glad to be able to play at home one more time, and hopefully it’s another success like last year. There’s going to be a lot of people here, a decent amount of crowd for each team, and it’s going to be fun because there’s going to be a good atmosphere for everybody," said Green.

Oklahoma State is making its 41st NCAA Tournament appearance and the Cowboys own an all-time NCAA tourney record of 139-87 (.615). They are a perfect three-for-three making the NCAA Tournament under Holliday, but the history lessons don't matter. The Cowboys 6-3 loss to Texas on Sunday and an error filled eighth inning that cost the Pokes is not an issue either.

"Our team is motivated by being together," Holliday concluded with the media on Monday. "Everything else is behind us. We will be together for another week and another weekend of baseball and that is what has all of us excited."

A lot of others will be excited too. In excess of 4,000 fans could be there for each session. The Cowboys are 18-6 this season at home in Allie P. Reynolds Stadium. It will take at least three more wins to move on.

It's getting ahead of the process but the team also responded in the locker room when the selection show revealed the winner of the Stillwater Regional will match up with number eight national seed Missouri State or the winner of the Springfield Regional.

It has already been revealed that Missouri State and Springfield have a conflict with home town minor league team Springfield Cardinals, so winning this weekend could lead to another weekend at home. Holliday said he likes it when his team can sleep in their own beds and with their routine at home, so if Mother Nature will lighten up on all the rain this could be a home-cooked Road to Omaha.

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