The charity that Oklahoma State was receiving from opponents most of the season and using to the fullest to secure its own success, the Cowboys are now becoming regular givers of that same charity in the form of errors, walks, base-running mistakes, leaving runners on base, and failing to close out hitters with two-strike counts.
The eighth inning has become the Cowboys version of "Nightmare on Elm Street" as it haunted them against Texas with three errors and sloppy pitching. It came back again Saturday night against Arkansas as Oklahoma State led 4-2 starting the top of the ninth.
A lead-off walk earned by an Arkansas pinch hitter in the nine hole of the order started an inning that would later include Michael Freeman fielding a sac bunt and thinking about catching the lead runner at third and then throwing to first and putting the ball in right field.
Freeman had a wild pitch on an intentional walk. Yes, you read that right and it allowed a run to score. Then there was a pick off move to third where Remey Reed threw the ball away and another run scored. By the time it was over Arkansas had five runs, two of them unearned, and they would close out the game 7-5.
"That inning proved to be a tough one. It’s too trivial to sit here and say, ‘that’s just baseball.’ Obviously, we all understand that," Holliday said in recapping that inning of mistakes.
"We’ve watched the game enough to know that that does happen. You have to get deeper than that as a coach. You can’t just let ‘that’s just baseball be your response.’ What I think you saw in reference to the eighth inning is a kid who came off their bench and have an amazing pinch hit at-bat and draw a walk to start the whole thing. Credit to that young man.
"Michael (Freeman) is not an easy guy to face for the first time and have a good at-bat against. That young man started it off with a really gritty, disciplined pinch-hit walk. There was definitely some highly competitive juice on the other side of that at-bat.
"I believe the next kid hooked a base hit to left field, if my memory is accurate," Holliday continued. "A good ball player who came through right there. We’ve seen that same ground ball hit right at people several times this year with Mike on the mound for a double play. In that situation, he hit it through the hole, and that’s probably where the inning turned sideways a little bit was when we got a little bit caught in between on a bunt play. Maybe you go to third, maybe you go to first. We just simply made a mistake.
"That is baseball, but that is the moment there that was created. Everyone might point to that inning and say that was a pivotal inning but I can tell you there were several other moments throughout the ball game where we could have done some things collectively as a team that may have not made that inning seem like such a focal point."
Holliday fell on his sword and blamed himself and not his players, but Holliday wasn't struggling to field ground balls, walking hitters, making the bad throws, or leaving the bases loaded at bat. However, Holliday does know he needs his team to bow up and be ready to grind because that's what it takes when you are heading to Sunday and need three more wins to take a regional and move on.
"Again, you can’t dwell on it," Holliday accentuated. "You have to learn from it. That’s my job as a coach, is to do a better job before the game to make sure that when those things happen, that our players are in the moment and comfortable making those plays."
It will all start at noon Sunday against a scrappy St. John's team that would love to even the score with the Cowboys.
"You simply have to decide you have to do it one at a time and not look ahead. Yeah, that seems like a pretty big journey but like I told the kids – and I’m not one to sit here and reminisce and fire people up – but I was a senior in 1999," Holliday reminisced. "We lost the first game of a regional tournament to UCLA and we had to win four games in two days. We did it one at a time. We beat Oral Roberts, we beat UCLA and we beat Wichita State twice.
"You have to understand that it’s one at a time. You have to believe and you simply have to stick together. Because if you don’t, no one else will. That is our challenge and we have good teams that are posing a great competitive challenge. You see what you are made of. We signed up for this and we’re in it to the very end. We’ll test all of our training and our mental strength to come out tomorrow and get this thing moving back in the right direction."
The Red Storm has to be low on pitching and their ace, Ryan McCormick, is used up for tomorrow. The Cowboys are likely to go with Tyler Buffet, who pitched really well in the rain against Texas a week ago in the Big 12 Tournament.
The other option that Holliday mentioned was lefty Tyler Nurdin, who has been very inconsistent, but he'll be needed at some point if the Cowboys are to get to the game they so badly want to get to on Monday night. For now it is one at a time starting at noon Sunday.
"It’s a definite challenge," senior second baseman Tim Arakawa echoed. "That’s for sure. We’ve talked about it and we’re up for the challenge. We have to come out and we have to win two ball games. We have to win the first one first and that’s all that matters. St. John’s is a good team. We just have to come out prepared at 12 o’clock tomorrow."