Getting into the swing of things

The Oklahoma State baseball team hasn't produced the past few years like fans are used to. Cowboy fans have been spoiled with postseason wins over the last 20 years, and Tom Holliday is ready for that trend to pick up once more.

If anything, Oklahoma State baseball coach Tom Holliday likes a challenge.

When he faced the new season with a depleted roster, the Cowboy skipper did what he has been doing at OSU for two decades.

He blazed the recruiting trail.

"The major task at hand for us is replacing 12 people that signed pro contracts off last years team," Holliday said in Thursday's Big 12 teleconference. "In replacing those players -- which is a rather high number -- you don't really know how good you are until you start playing."

The Cowboys lost their first and second basemen and shortstop to the professional ranks. Zach Cates, Nebasett Brown and Rob Watson were all swiped up in the amateur draft in June.

When pitchers Justin Meccage, Mike Patatucci and Nick McCurdy also left for greener pastures, Holliday had a lot of needs that he had to assess.

"We feel like we've replaced the people who have left the program with equal or better talent," he said. "But again, until they put the uniform on and jump into Big 12 play and find out how good our league is -- we just don't know for sure."

OSU returns a talented staff led by junior Scott Baker, who was selected as a preseason All-American by Baseball America.

"I feel like our pitching staff is anchored by three guys that have been in college baseball for three years that have all shown brilliance at times," Holliday said. "If those three people can step up, we think we've added plenty of backup people to that -- we could have a very, very good year."

Along with veterans Jimmy Rhodes, Mike Miller, Daniel Rew, Shane Hawk and Joe Weaver -- the Cowboys were able to score some of the top junior college pitchers in the state.

Another concern for Holliday, was the Cowboy's schedule strength during the last few seasons.

"We had four games last year that were pretty weak," Holliday said. "And because of those four games, we finished 39th in the RPI."

This season, Holliday has scheduled top teams like California, North Carolina State, Arizona State, South Florida and Arizona.

"We may have the same 39 wins this year -- but it will be against better clubs," Holliday said. "It is hard to get 56 very, very competitive Division 1 games on any schedule anywhere in the country. We've come as close to it as we've ever done here. We're going on the road to get quality people."

With the University of Texas winning the 2002 College World Series, the league received a much-needed boost, Holliday said.

And, the OSU coach was one of those rooting for the burnt orange during the 2002 post season.

"I hope everybody -- I mean everybody -- from Missouri to Texas, believes that our league is the best league in the country," Holliday said. "The only thing that ever solidifies that statement is a national championship.

"Texas did that -- they did that in style, they did it in a fashion that there was nobody walking away from Omaha last year that didn't say Texas was the best team in the country."

But, according to Holliday, the Cowboys are ready to continue the Big 12 trend of CWS appearances. Along with beefing up the schedule and stacking the roster, Holliday said OSU, as well as the other teams in the league, need to perform for the conference to keep the respect that it has earned.

"I've resolved myself to the fact that Texas did what we needed, and the rest of us have to do what we're supposed to do -- and that's go out and win and beat people around the country."


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