As Oklahoma State heads into its opener on Saturday in the 70th College World Series against UC Santa Barbara they do so with a potential advantage.
In the Cowboys' previous 19 trips to Omaha, they brought with them the majority of those years, especially in the 1980s and '90s, a slugging ball club that won games by scoring double digits and using aluminum bats to slug out of sight home runs into either the zoo in right or the freeway in left at Rosenblatt Stadium.
However, as has been mentioned several times during the telecasts of the Cowboys in the NCAA Regional and Super Regional, these are not your dad's Oklahoma State Cowboys. The offensive numbers aren't bad with a team batting average of .268, 106 doubles, 12 triples, and 47 home runs. This Cowboys team wins games with pitching and a 3.27 team ERA and defense with a fielding percentage of .978.
Often on offense the Cowboys will play station to station baseball. They will sac bunt, hit and run, steal bases, and use a safety squeeze to get a runner home. They execute plays rather than grab the metal and score by brute force.
In the old Rosenblatt Stadium brut force would work. The prevailing wind blew from home plate out to the left field foul pole and left field in general. Since the Pokes last trip to Omaha the CWS has moved to modern TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha.
The prevailing wind blows in from the right field foul pole and right field to home plate and the third base line. The dimensions are 335 down each line, 375 in the power alleys in right and left field, and 408 to center field. Those aren't monster numbers but when you rarely get a friendly wind.
"In batting practice, you can hit the ball square and those balls will be dying at the warning track," said Conor Costello, who was at the CWS as a freshman playing at Arkansas,
Okay, that's fine. The Cowboys pitch it well with All-American Thomas Hatch, Tyler Buffett, freshman All-American Jensen Elliott, and relievers like Trey Cobb. They field it well with an outfield that is athletic and can run. Shortstop Donnie Walton and second baseman J.R. Davis have been a part of the majority of CWS-field high 70 double plays (the next highest in their bracket is Miami with 45). They can execute plays on offense to push runs across.
It turns out that in the years the Cowboys have missed going to Omaha their personality has changed some, the equipment (bats, balls, gloves) have changed, and the College World Series venue has changed, and it may all be for the better for the Pokes. That will be determined over the next 10 days in Omaha.