West Virginia comes in this weekend for the first home series of the Big 12 Conference baseball season for the Pokes and it finds Oklahoma State working to overcome a sweep in their first Big 12 series at TCU. In other words, this weekend is critical.
Earlier this week I was talking with Oklahoma State head baseball coach Josh Holliday before the press conference introducing Mike Boynton, Jr. as the new basketball head coach and I made mention that the series with TCU was tough, but that at this stage of the season TCU may be the best team. That doesn't mean they will be the best come May and time for the Big 12 Tournament.
"No, I wouldn't say that," Holliday said. "I would say they are talented and they made the plays, but both teams made mistakes and our mistakes were more critical. They made the plays they needed to win."
The sweep of the series last weekend by the Horned Frogs leaves Oklahoma State 15-9 and 0-3 in Big 12 play. Not what Holliday or anybody else expects. The Cowboys are one of the favorites in the Big 12 along with top pick TCU and red hot Texas Tech.
Holliday is intensely competitive and he is not going to give in. That may be a reason why last year's team and Oklahoma State on numerous occasions each of the previous four seasons that Holliday has been back in Stillwater coaching the Cowboys has answered tough situations in each season. They stumbled at the start in 2016 and were swept in all one run losses at North Carolina but they answered back and fought to get the record above .500. In conference play when they lost two-out-of-three to West Virginia and were swept by Texas Tech they came back and swept Baylor, took two-out-of-three from TCU and swept Texas. Holliday's teams have answered.
"We've done a great job with that and that is a really good point that you make," Holliday said on Thursday in the dugout before a practice to get the final prep in for the 13-9 Mountaineers, who are also 2-1 in Big 12 play. "Countless times since I've been here our kids have responded to challenges. They have a resolve and a toughness about them that I am very proud of that and it makes a strong statement of who we are and this is another opportunity to dig in there and pull out that toughness and respond to another challenge."
It would appear that left-fielder Jon Littell, who did not have a concussion after that collision in Sunday's game with Garrett McCain on a fly ball in left center, did have 13 stitches in his lip, but he will likely play this weekend. McCain stayed in the game but was sore on Monday, but he should be good to go. Second baseman Ryan Cash hurt his shoulder making a diving catch on Saturday night's game at TCU and sat out Sunday, but he should also be back this weekend. There are other players like pitcher Jensen Elliott that won't be able to go, but senior and team leader Trey Cobb is set to make his season debut this weekend in the closer's role.
The rainout or weather cancelled game with Wichita State on Tuesday was disappointing because this team wanted to get back on the diamond, but practice has been strong all week.
"We're chomping to improve and that is what we talked about when we got back from Fort Worth was getting on the diamond and improving," Holliday said. "We did a lot of good things against TCU, but some of the mistakes we made proved to be pretty costly. We just need to go out and execute better."
Oklahoma State only had two extra base hits last weekend and both were from freshman Cade Cabbinesss and that needs to change. More explosion with the bats. Oklahoma State is hitting .283 as a team and the team ERA is 3.59 West Virginia, which has played all but three of their games so far this season on the road, is hitting .292 as a team and has a team ERA of 4.02.
Game times are 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday, and noon on Sunday.