Oklahoma State baseball is on a roller coaster and they need to simply get on a roll. That almost has to start with hosting Big 12 winless Kansas State this weekend.
There are all kinds of signs in a college baseball season, which as the popular coaching philosophy goes, is a marathon and not a sprint. Josh Holliday's 2017 Pokes baseball team has played 28 games and they are 17-11 overall and 1-5 in Big 12 play. There are 25 regular season games left, 26 if they make up the missed game with Wichita State or schedule somebody else to make up that date. There are 18 Big 12 games left on the schedule, nine of those at home and the around the state tour with Bedlam in Tulsa (one game on Friday) and two in OKC (Saturday and Sunday). This time a year ago after their third Big 12 series the Cowboys were 4-5. If Oklahoma State can sweep this weekend's guest Kansas State, who comes in 0-6 in Big 12 play (sweeps by Texas and TCU) then they will be 4-5 again.
The difference is this season doesn't have the same feel of last spring when the Cowboys rallied down the stretch and finished 35-18 in the regular season and then started their "magnolia march" through South Carolina to the NCAA College World Series. There was the leadership and consistency of shortstop Donnie Walton, the leadoff and table setting stability of J.R. Davis. Last season Dustin Williams wasn't hitting much of average but he led the Big 12 in home runs. This season, so far, just one.
Injuries have contributed as some of the Cowboys better pitchers such as Trey Cobb have either missed the first half of the season or like starter Jensen Elliott is on the shelf right now. Older players expected to move into solid roles haven't been able to do it and young freshmen have jumped in to contribute but are still going through the learning curve that is high level collegiate baseball. On top of all of that, the Big 12 is better. Oklahoma and Baylor have improved significantly. Texas and Kansas may be a little better. West Virginia is solid. TCU and Texas Tech are top 10 teams nationally.
Speaking of polls, a streak has been busted this week. OSU fell out of the national rankings, snapping a streak of 77 consecutive weeks of being ranked in at least one national poll, a streak that dated back to March 4, 2013. During that time, the Cowboys spent 18 weeks in the Top 10 and were ranked as high as No. 3 (by the NCBWA in 2014). They have finished in the top 10 in the final national polls twice in the last four seasons — 10th in 2014 and fourth in 2016.
Now, I'm a true believer that baseball allows for teams to develop and come on down the stretch. I believe the Cowboys can do that. The time to start is right now.
Kansas State at Allie P. Reynolds Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m., and Sunday at noon. Next week three games on the road at Kansas, a team the Cowboys should be able to take in a series. The numbers don't lie.
After those two series plus a non conference game with Central Arkansas there will be 18 or 19 games left and the competition is better, much better. Oklahoma State needs to get their head above water. If not, there could be some more happy streaks coming to an end.
The baseball season is a marathon, but the midway point is here and the Cowboys need to pick up the pace.