Coming out of Arlington, Texas last weekend with a split in two games against both UT-Arlington and Stephen F. Austin, Oklahoma State head baseball coach Josh Holliday isn't pleased with the results but he is thankful for the experience.
The Cowboys lost the opener last Friday to the UTA Mavericks 3-2, beat SFA on Saturday morning 8-2, beat UTA 5-3 in the second game on Saturday, but then lost a 10-inning game on Sunday to SFA 5-4 after taking a 4-1 lead in the top of the 10th. Good experience coming from close losses in pressure situations makes a team balancing older proven performers like shortstop Donovan Walton and outfielders Corey Hassel, Ryan Sluder, and Jon Littell as well as DH Conor Costello with younger players like catcher Collin Theroux and third baseman Garrett Benge.
"We went down there for a reason and would see good baseball and both those ball clubs are very good teams," Holliday said. "We played a couple of one-run games where we came up on the short end of the stick and then won a couple of games.
"You go back and digest the weekend and share what you learned with your team and make sure those points of emphasis and game moments are situations that we can use to move ahead and that we can build on those. Playing close games early in the year should get you ready for Big 12 play and postseason play that you will be challenged with down the line," Holliday added.
Holliday confirmed that the veterans really showed the light for the younger players on the weekend as Walton, a senior and returning All-Big 12 performer and MVP-type player, hit .400 with a pair of doubles. Hassel hit .385 and scored three runs with a double and a triple among his five hits. Costello hit .267 but made the most of his three hits with two doubles and six RBI on the weekend.
The Cowboys only committed three errors in the field, not bad for an opning weekend, but an error on Friday in the opener led to two unearned runs in the 3-2 loss. Holliday applauded Trey Cobb for taking the ball in the opener and pitching well despite that error. Thomas Hatch was strong for seven innings in the first win on Saturday and freshman Jensen Elliott was impressive in pitching four-hit shutout baseball in five innings in his first collegiate start.
It all steps up a huge notch this weekend as the Cowboys leave Thursday and will take the entire squad to Chapel Hill, N.C., for a three-game weekend series with the 10th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels. UNC is 2-1 after traveling to Los Angeles last week for a series with ninth-ranked UCLA. North Carolina won the opener and then finished the series on Sunday with a 12-4 win. It is one of those premier series that should be nationally televised but unfortunately this weekend won't even be streamed on the internet.
"We look forward to the challenge," Holliday said. "It's a great series and they played really well out at UCLA. We lined it up to challenge ourselves and today we need a good practice to get the boys in the right frame of mind before we jump on a plane and head east."
Game times for the weekend are 2 p.m. (CT) Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. Sunday.