Oklahoma State pitching coach Rob Walton, who has been absolutely wizard-like in his maneuvering of the Cowboys pitching staff this postseason, hinted on Monday to John Helsley of The Oklahoman that Jensen Elliott would get the start on Friday night in Oklahoma State's first opportunity to clinch a spot in the College World Series best-of-three championship starting on Monday.
As of today, the Cowboys and fellow Big 12 rival TCU are unbeaten and in the best position to battle for the National Championship. Oklahoma State will find out Wednesday night who it will play between UC Santa Barbara and Arizona, the two teams they have beaten so far in the College World Series. That is an advantage to have roughly 48 hours to prepare.
Oklahoma State's use of video and the game planning of head coach Josh Holliday and Walton has been a major ingredient to the success of Oklahoma State in Omaha.
Josh Holliday told me on my radio show on Tuesday that he agreed with Walton that Elliott was certainly the Cowboys number three starter, but that depending on who survived the elimination game between the Gauchos and the Wildcats that he and Walton would need to examine the match-ups and consider the planning for the rest of the CWS in making a decision on a starter.
Elliott is ready and been chomping at the big to pitch, but every Cowboy besides Monday night's winner Tyler Buffett is good to go. The winning pitcher in the complete game 1-0 shutout in the heat last Saturday over UCSB in Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Thomas Hatch is available and will be coming off five days rest.
Tom Holliday, former Cowboys assistant and head coach, OSU baseball Hall of Famer and father of Josh, was on the radio with me on Wednesday and said it is a tough decision.
"You could go with Hatch, but then you don't have him for the best-of-three series," the elder Holliday said. "You might be able to throw him a little on Tuesday or Wednesday if you needed him, but you have to be careful this time of year, and Rob and Josh certainly aren't going to put the young man at risk. They wouldn't do that. You could throw Elliott (Freshman All-American) and if he matches up and gets the job done then you go into Monday with Hatch and you have Buffett on Tuesday. That's a great situation. It's a tough call that I know they will have to think about."
Hatch has been nearly perfect in the postseason coming off back-to-back shutouts. Overall, he is 9-2 on the season and sports a 1.89 ERA with opponents hitting .227 against him. He won a spectacular pitching match-up in game one with UC Santa Barbara and stellar pitcher Shane Bieber.
Elliott, who last pitched in a game in the regional clincher against Clemson, is also 9-2 and has a 3.27 ERA with opposing hitters batting .240 against him.
I'm with Tom Holliday, it is a tough choice that you can't argue with either decision or the logic behind it. You have to trust Holliday and Walton as they have been making some really good decisions over the last three weeks.