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Baseball Notebook: Watts-Brown’s ‘Nasty’ Slider, New Names to Know and McLean’s Return

Three takeaways from OSU’s media day.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

STILLWATER — It’s hard to believe, but the Cowboys’ baseball season is less than two weeks away.

Oklahoma State starts the year with an event at Globe Life Field in Arlington with games against Missouri, Vanderbilt and Arkansas that starts Feb. 17. OSU held its media day on Monday. Here are three quick things that stood out.

Watts-Brown’s Slider

There isn’t a more intriguing newcomer to the Cowboys this season than Long Beach State transfer pitcher Juaron Watts-Brown.

After having a 3.68 ERA and striking out 111 last season, Watts-Brown enters the Big 12 as the league’s Preseason Pitcher of the Year. OSU coach Josh Holliday said Watts-Brown has a four-pitch arsenal, headlined by a nasty slider. When asked his first impressions of Watts-Brown, Nolan McLean also noted the wicked slider.

“He throws it hard,” Holliday said. “It’s a mid-80s, upper-80s slider, which is very quick for the pitch. It’s difficult to see. It spins like a fastball but breaks like crazy. Add the speed of the pitch and the break of the pitch, and if you throw it certain times of the day in the shadows, you think you’re hitting a fastball and it drops two feet and you’re going, ‘I thought I was right on it, and I wasn’t.’

“Just a combination of speed and break. That’s usually when the pitch is deemed a nasty pitch is when it moves fast and it breaks like crazy.”

New Names to Know

The secret is out on Watts-Brown, but there are a few other new names that kept popping up at media day. Here is a rundown of a few of those.

Carson Benge: Benge was injured last season, but Holliday said Benge would’ve factored in as a freshman. The younger brother of former Cowboy Garrett Benge, Carson is listed as an outfielder and a right-handed pitcher, so look for him to do a little bit of both in his redshirt freshman season.

“He’s an odd little cat, but he’s really, really good at baseball,” McLean said. “Super gifted in everything he does. He’s one of those guys who will never do something and his first time doing it, he’s better than other people at it.”

Tyler Wulfert: A transfer from Midland Junior College in Texas, Wulfert hit .390 with 26 home runs, 26 doubles, 13 triples and 111 RBIs in two seasons at the junior college level. He is listed as an infielder and an outfielder on the Cowboys’ roster and has apparently raised eyebrows this offseason with his ability to get on base.

“I don’t think Tyler Wulfert has gotten out yet,” McLean said. “Every time he swings the bat, he hits the ball hard.”

Nolan Schubart: A true freshman, Schubart was committed to play at Michigan before a coaching change reopened his recruitment and he ended up in Stillwater. Listed as a 6-foot-5 outfielder and first baseman, Schubart was an All-American and hit .354 with 13 home runs and 42 RBIs as a high school senior.

Brian Hendry: A 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher who transferred from St. John’s, Hendry missed last season because of injury, but in 2021 he recorded 46 strikeouts in 58 innings for the Red Storm.

Brennan Phillips: A left-handed freshman from Owasso, Phillips was an All-American as a high schooler. He had a 1.04 ERA as a high school senior, somehow a little worse than the 0.96 ERA he posted as a junior.

McLean Is Back

Nolan McLean was drafted with the 81st pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, a selection that usually sees ballplayers forgo the remainder of their college eligibility and start their pro career — but McLean turned it down.

When McLean and the Baltimore Orioles couldn’t reach an agreement, he said he called OSU coach Josh Holliday. Holliday, who was at a high school event, said McLean asked if Holliday still had a spot for him. Holliday said he laughed. So, after hitting a team-best 19 home runs last season and throwing heat from the mound, McLean is back in the orange and black for his junior year.

“Yeah, so I got drafted by the Orioles, and we just couldn’t come to an agreement,” McLean said. “So I called up Josh, and obviously he said, ‘Yeah, we’d love to have you back.’ So, I still had a place here, and I was more than happy to come back and get to have one more year at this place.”

On the mound last season McLean was used out of the bullpen and as a closer. He and Holliday mentioned there is a chance he starts games on the mound this season.

“Whatever the team needs,” McLean said. “My arm has built up enough shape to be a starter, closer, both. Whatever I might need to do, I’m gonna be able to do it.”

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