Be honest, after Friday night did you expect the OSU Cowboys baseball team to finish the one game and then win the other with their back against the wall to fight their way into the Big 12 Baseball Tournament? They did it, showing all the heart and toughness that Cowboy baseball has been built on.
You really have to give credit where credit is due. You know that is a stupid little statement that we use all the time, but after the previous six games on the schedule Oklahoma State baseball had lost six games in a row, swept the previous weekend by Baylor in conference play, lost another game with Oral Roberts on Tuesday at J.L. Johnson Stadium where they haven't won in almost two decades, and they were below .500 in the month of May for the first time since 1977 nearly a year before current head coach Josh Holliday was born. That's a lot of adversity and bad mojo for a very proud program that was just a game or two away last season from winning an NCAA national championship as one of the last four standing in the return to the College World Series in Omaha.
In a season filled with injuries, older players not exactly living up to the expectations in their return, freshmen being thrust into critical full-time roles before even their dreams would have expected, and seeing numbers fall off some at Allie P. this team never quit. Losses have been close and fought til the final inning. Forget that this program had never lost six games in a row under Holliday's guidance (the last six-game losing streak was the final six-games under Frank Anderson), the Cowboys weren't going to quit.
Mother Nature was making it really difficult to get the Bedlam baseball series going, but the Cowboys waited out the thunder, lightning, rain, and wind caused by the storms. They overcame the turmoil of their own season and in the face of having to sack up the bats, balls, and gloves for the final time this season after Kansas State swept a Friday doubleheader in Waco over Baylor to surge ahead of the Cowboys they fought their tails off on Saturday finishing a lead in a half-game on Friday and then won the nightcap. It wasn't easy, it was as gritty and as determined an effort as Oklahoma State baseball has ever had. It's easy to play when things are going well. It is hard to push through when they aren't.
"The way the kids handled themselves today was a huge step for our team, for the program in general, and the pride in it," Holliday said standing in front of the dugout after the survival exhibition in beating the Sooners. "To play OU and beat them all three times this years in a season where we have had some highs and lows is certainly a high. It extends our season into the Big 12 Tournament, which is important to our pride and gives us a chance to play in what I think is the best tournament in America. It gives us a chance to be that team that continues to find a way to win."
Whether the Cowboys play on after next weekend back in Bricktown for the Big 12 Tournament or find themselves packing up the ball, bats, and gloves won't matter; Oklahoma State baseball grew up with a large compliment of younger players on Saturday and it will serve them well into the future with Cade Cabbiness, Ryan Cash, Colin Simpson, Carson Teel, and Joe Lienhard. Key hits, alert base running, game saving plays in the field defensively, and pitching were all part of the pair of wins.
"Very proud of our kids," added Holliday. "Joe Lienhard was exceptional in the night game and we needed that. We got a gutty effort from our bullpen and many kids on the field. It was a great day for for our kids and for OSU baseball to keep moving forward and play on."
Lienhard, a second generation Oklahoma State pitcher followed in dad Steve's footsteps, he threw a strong seven-innings and got through some tough situations to leave Teel and the bullpen and the Cowboys with a 4-1 advantage that they carried through to a 5-2 win to clinch the last spot in the Big 12 Tournament and let the Wildcats up at Kansas State worry about sacking up the gear.
Lienhard was asked if it was his best outing as a Cowboy?
"I don't know if it is, but that really tops the cake for me," said Lienhard. "Getting to play with these guys is great and winning Bedlam is awesome!"
Surviving is even better for a program that is used to big times, good times, but like every great program has to deal with hard times. This weekend they dealt with it really well, better than ever.