OKLAHOMA CITY -- Bob Burda of the Big 12 Conference office was doing the introductions on Tuesday during the Big 12 Baseball Pre Tournament Luncheon at Mickey Mantle's Steakhouse in Bricktown as each of the eight coaches with teams in the tournament are introduced and get up to say a few words about their ballclub. Burda said, "representing Oklahoma State is head coach Josh Holliday. There was a light scattering of applause, maybe two or three folks.
"I want to thank you for the rousing applause," deadpanned Holliday drawing more laughs that applause with the line.
There is good reason as it is likely the majority of six of the other seven coaches in the Big 12 Tournament would just as soon Oklahoma State been left at home as the lone team out of the league tournament and Kansas State been in Oklahoma City. When the Cowboys and Sooners started up the completion of their weather delayed series opener and the second game on Saturday, the only two games that would take place in the shortened series, Kansas State had swept a Friday doubleheader from Baylor and only needed one Oklahoma win to be in Bricktown and the Cowboys left home. Instead, the Cowboys swept and now the injury plagued and scuffling Pokes, who were preseason picked second in the league are back and maybe on a roll and surely desperate as the only way the Cowboys get any further in postseason is to win the Big 12 Tournament that starts early Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. with a four and five seed match-up between West Virginia and Baylor that both finished 12-12 in conference play and continues with a scheduled 12:30 p.m. start between top seed Texas Tech and eight seed Oklahoma State. The afternoon/evening session has second seed TCU playing seventh seed Kansas at 4 p.m. and third seed OU and sixth seed Texas scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
"Anybody can beat anybody in this tournament," Texas Tech head coach Tim Tadlock said after the luncheon. "With (Blake) Battenfield and (Tyler) Buffet over there they have two good pitchers to throw that have given us problems. The interesting thing is four years ago those two were in the stands at our ballpark thinking about pitching in Lubbock, Texas."
"It's nice to be back on that field after last weekend," Holliday said of the Cowboys early morning practice time. "I think our kids are seeing the ball good out there and have a good vibe out there."
Holliday kind of confirmed what Tadlock said as he mentioned that he and pitching coach Rob Walton would look at video and hammer out a pitching plan. Battenfield, who pitched seven and a third innings to help the Cowboys get a win at Texas Tech in the long game on Sunday gave up just four hits, one run, walked one and struck out five; and he is expected to get the ball on Wednesday against the Red Raiders.
Texas Tech will counter with Davis Martin. The expected ace of the Tech staff has been out for weeks and will get the start but be on a pitch count. His last decision came on March 24th in a game with Wichita State and he threw just six and a third innings in the Big 12.
Oklahoma State is motivated as they have to win to keep playing. Texas Tech is locked in for the NCAA Tournament, not just as a team in, but likely a national seed and definitely a host for a regional.
A season of struggles continued as the best Cowboy player this season made the 1st-Team All-Big 12 along with third baseman Garrett Benge, but Garrett McCain was not the Big 12 Player of the Year.
Holliday was gracious as the coaches voted on the All-Big 12 Team and honors and the Cowboys' McCain, who hit .395 overall and .434 in Big 12 play with just one error in the outfield and 37-of-39 stolen bases was not named the Big 12 Player of the Year. He was in The Oklahoman, but the league's coaches voted TCU catcher Evan Skoug and Texas Tech first baseman Hunter Hargrove as Co-Players of the Big 12. Some of that is the eighth place finish, but Holliday was gracious saying all, including his guy McCain were deserving.
The question now is after a 26-25 regular season are the Cowboys deserving of NCAA play, they have a hand in answering that question just like they answered whether they would be in Oklahoma City or not this week.