Thomas Hatch gave Oklahoma State the Big 12 Conference’s top pitcher for the second consecutive year, while Donnie Walton made Cowboy baseball history with today’s release of the All-Big 12 awards. GoPokes.com's Robert Allen spoke with Hatch at the Big 12 pre-tournament news conference about his injury plagued start to his college career morphing into a season where he was named top pitcher in the conference.
Hatch was named the 2016 Big 12 Conference Pitcher of the Year, joining former OSU pitchers Michael Freeman (2015) and Andrew Heaney (2012) in earning that honor, while Walton became the first OSU player named to the All-Big 12 First Team three times in a career.
Along with league champion Texas Tech, OSU recorded a conference-best four All-Big 12 First Team performers. Joining Hatch and Walton on the first team were infielder J.R. Davis and pitcher Tyler Buffett.
Earning All-Big 12 Second Team accolades for the Cowboys was infielder Garrett Benge, while Trey Cobb, Jensen Elliott, Corey Hassel and Dustin Williams were honorable mention All-Big 12 honorees. Elliott was also named to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team.
After redshirting the 2015 season with an arm injury, Hatch emerged as the ace on the Big 12’s top pitching staff as a sophomore this season. The right-hander is 6-2 with a conference-best 2.10 ERA and also leads the league with 98.2 innings pitched and three complete games.
Each of Hatch’s complete games was a shutout as he blanked three-straight opponents – TCU, Texas and Prairie View A&M – to become just the 10th pitcher in Big 12 history to record three shutouts in a season. He went 38.2 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run from April 8 to May 13 and also recorded a streak of 33-straight scoreless frames during that span.
Walton was a unanimous selection to the All-Big 12 First Team as an infielder. Along with becoming the first Cowboy to achieve the feat, he also became one of only 10 players in conference history to earn first-team honors three times.
A senior shortstop, Walton’s .348 batting average leads OSU and ranks fifth in the league, while he’s also among the top 10 in the conference in hits (69), stolen bases (12) and on-base percentage (.443). He is second on the Cowboys with 38 RBIs and ranks third with 13 doubles and a .470 slugging percentage.
Walton was also an All-Big 12 First Team selection in 2014 and 2015, while he earned honorable mention plaudits as a freshman in 2013.
Davis joins with Walton to make up a formidable middle infield for the Cowboys. In his first season in an OSU uniform, the junior ranks just behind Walton with a .347 batting average, which is tied for seventh in the league. On April 3 at West Virginia, Davis became only the third OSU player in the Big 12 era to hit for the cycle.
A native of California, Davis was inserted into the starting lineup at second base following the first two weeks of the season and hasn’t left since. The Cowboys are 27-9 with Davis batting in the leadoff spot, and he was OSU’s leading hitter in Big 12 play with a .378 average, which also marked the third-highest output of any player in conference-only games.
Buffett blossomed into a star on the mound in his junior season. In a team-high 31 appearances, 29 of those in relief, the right-hander is 6-2 with nine saves and a 2.56 ERA, with the six wins and nine saves marking career highs. He leads the Big 12 in appearances and opponent batting average (.210), ranks second in saves and is fifth in ERA.
In the month of March, Buffett appeared in 11 of OSU’s 18 games and went 4-0 with four saves and a 1.54 ERA to go along with 27 strikeouts in 23.1 innings. He was named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week twice (March 7th and 28th).
Buffett, who joined Walton and Hatch as unanimous first-team selections, was 2-0 with six saves in 13 relief outings in Big 12 play.
In his first season in an OSU uniform, Benge developed into one of OSU’s most consistent hitters. Manning the hot corner for the Cowboys, the left-handed hitter owns a .304 batting average and ranks second on OSU with a .471 slugging percentage to go along with 35 RBIs.
Elliott turned in an impressive freshman campaign on the mound as the right-hander is tied for the league lead in wins with eight. The Texan is 8-2 with a 3.25 ERA that ranks seventh in the conference, and he recorded a 5-1 mark in eight conference starts.
Among the Cowboys’ other honorable mention performers, Cobb has tallied four wins and two saves to go along with a 3.39 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 63.2 innings. Williams leads the Big 12 with 14 home runs, while Hassel is OSU’s leader in doubles (16), sacrifice bunts (16) and stolen bases (13). Cobb and Williams also both earned honorable mention status last season, while Hassel was an All-Big 12 Second Team performer as a junior in 2015.
The 2016 All-Big 12 teams and awards are voted on by the league’s head coaches, who are not allowed to vote for their own players.
Oklahoma State starts the Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night at a scheduled 7:30 p.m. start against Texas. The Cowboys are the second seed and Texas is the seventh seed.