STILLWATER — The 2019 Oklahoma State baseball season is less than 10 days out.
The Cowboys travel to UT-Rio Grande Valley to start their season Feb. 15, but before that, the team held it’s annual media day Monday. Here are five thoughts from the first availability of the new season.
1. New Look Cowboys
Last season, 11 Cowboys had 75 or more plate appearances, and six of those guys are back this year.
It could be scary to some to replace that many at-bats, but the six of Colin Simpson, Trevor Boone, Christian Funk, Carson McCusker, Cade Cabbiness and Jake Taylor is a solid group to build off. The media wasn’t given any projected lineup at Monday’s media day, but there are some slots you could begin to piece together. There’s also a lot of intrigue, though, on who can win out some jobs, whether they be returners, incoming transfers or freshmen.
“It’s exciting to see who comes next,” Holliday said. “And there’s a lot of chances for who’s next on this team.”
2. Healthy Rotation
It’s crazy to think the Cowboys still managed to win 31 games last season with how banged up their pitchers were.
2016 Freshman All-American Jensen Elliott made only four appearances after coming back from Tommy John surgery. Promising freshman Mitchell Stone made only two appearances before breaking his foot. Parker Scott had a promising start to his career in 2017 before an injury kept him out most of that season and all of 2018.
That left pitching coach Rob Walton to rely heavily on Carson Teel, Joe Lienhard and Jonathan Heasley, of which only Lienhard returns. The formerly injured trio above will be ready this season, and they’re joined by impressive transfers Logan Gragg and Jake Lyons, as well as returners Peyton Battenfield, C.J. Varela, Brady Basso and Ben Leeper, who combined pitched 163 innings for the 2018 Cowboys.
3. Freshmen From All Over
There are nine freshmen listed on OSU’s roster, and they come from six states.
There’s the usual Oklahoma and Texas kids, but the Cowboys’ staff also brought in a kid from New Jersey (RHP John Kelly), Minnesota (LHP Nate Peterson), Florida (SS Hueston Morrill) and Pennsylvania (C Josh Spiegel).
Holliday said it wasn’t a change in recruiting strategy, more so happenstance on how they ended up in Stillwater.
“John Kelly, from New Jersey, happens to come from the same high school where Coach Walton grew up, so obviously you get a lead sometimes from places where you have relationships,” Holliday said. “Nate Peterson, from Minnesota, came to our camp, so he brought his talents to Stillwater so we could see him. Hueston Morrill is from Florida and played in a lot of major tournaments, couldn’t help but notice him playing and playing so well.”
The freshman class gives OSU 41 players on its roster, who hail from 12 states and one Canadian player (Max Hewitt).
“Our philosophy is going to be to always recruit the best players in the country,” Holliday said, “and that starts for us right here in Oklahoma, where I think some of the best players are, and then branch out from there and get the right kids.”
4. Freshman at Short
Speaking of freshmen: Although it might still be a bit soon to tell, it looks like Hueston Morrill is the frontrunner at shortstop.
When asked Monday, Holliday mentioned Morrill and junior Max Hewitt as possibilities for the position. Perfect Game listed Morrill as a Third-Team All-American as a high school senior at Suwannee High in Live Oak, Florida. The Los Angeles Angels took him in the 36th round of the 2018 MLB Draft, but he chose OSU over that, as well as Kentucky, Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina and UCF.
Hewitt started five games at shortstop last season and four at second. He had a .176 batting average as a sophomore.
5. Ode to Allie P.
Sitting in the Cowboys hitting facility, looking around at the walls listing all of the program’s accomplishments and knowing a lot of that happened in Allie P. Reynolds Stadium is quite the intake.
Since the park opened in 1981, the Cowboys have made 12 College World Series, won 17 conference championships and had 41 All-Americans. Robin Ventura played in Allie P., as did Pete Incaviglia. Josh Holliday went from being an All-American in 1998 and 1999 to becoming the Cowboys’ coach in 2012 all in the span of Allie P.’s era.
During my time at OSU, I spent numerous hours cramped in the stadiums press box eating questionable popcorn and watching baseball. This season, I’ll do it all again, but it will be the last time.
The new $60-million stadium will be something to behold, and it will have its own history starting in 2020. However, it’s crazy to think that this is the last season the Cowboys will play in Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.