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Josh Holliday Says Cancel Your T-Shirt Orders, Pokes Worried About 2017

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At this time of the year, the College World Series isn’t even a thought for the Oklahoma State baseball team after its first appearance in Omaha since 1999. At least it’s not for coach Josh Holliday.

“Throwing it on T-shirts and making slogans, I think that’s garbage,” Holliday said. “I think that’s a pretender’s mentality. You get there by working every single day and playing like it’s your last.”

Holliday and the Cowboys went 43-22 last season. They won seven straight postseason games before losing two against Arizona in the CWS. They were selected to finish second in the Big 12 this year, behind TCU, in the preseason poll, and they have a young but talented roster that has the potential to make it back-to-back years in Omaha.

That’s the goal, but of course it is, Holliday said.

“It’s understood if you play college baseball at a good program, where you want to end up,” Holliday said. “I think everybody knows that, so we don’t even talk about it. … If your team comes together with the spirit and all the things it requires through a long season, then you might find yourself there.”

The spirit was there in 2016. Donnie Walton, Conor Costello and Corey Hassel weren’t only the leaders, but also they were best friends, housemates and best men. Their camaraderie likely had as much with their getting to Omaha as Thomas Hatch’s pitching did.

Luckily for some of the leaders on this season’s team — first baseman Dustin Williams, right-handed pitcher Trey Cobb, outfielder Garrett McCain, among others — they were there to watch it all happen.

“It starts with the guys who came before us,” McCain said. “It’s nice to be able to look at those guys and see how they did things, see the relationships they had off the field and know ultimately how that affected their on-field play. I think kinda trying to mimic that and to reproduce that is gonna be the biggest thing this year.”

They are off to a good start. McCain, Williams, third baseman Garrett Benge and a couple of other players live together. There is a house of four other players across the street and another house of four more next door to them. McCain said there is already a lot of good relationships in the neighborhood that will “definitely help between the stripes.”

Everyone is always over at the house watching sports, playing video games or just hanging out and building chemistry, Benge said. That’s good because OSU lost a lot. All three of last season’s leaders are graduated and gone. Hatch, J.R. Davis, Garrett Williams, Remey Reed, Michael Mertz and Colin Theroux went pro.

There is hope though. Outfielder Jon Littell said there are a handful of guys on the 2017 roster who could fill in like Benge did as a junior college transfer last year.

“We got a couple of really good middle infielders, Ryan Cash and Cameron Dobbs, that I think can help us out right away,” Littell said. “Then in the outfield, we got a junior college transfer Bryce Fischer and then Cade Cabbiness and Trevor Boone are some high school kids out of this state that could be big for us.

“And then on the bump we got some big-time young arms that we’re excited about and seeing how they can help contribute right away.”

The Cowboys also return a pair of arms to bolster the rotation.

Tyler Buffett was an All-Big 12 selection last year, a seventh-round draft pick, and he is a preseason All-American. Cobb is injured and will be out until the start of conference play, he said, but he was a Big 12 Honorable Mention selection in 2016. He was picked in the 12th round of the MLB Draft, but he also returned.

Cobb was drafted by the Cubs, his favorite team growing up, but he said OSU was just his favorite team a little more.

“It’s just one of those things where I looked at our roster and looked at our team and knew we were gonna have a really, really good ball club coming back, but we were also gonna have a really, really young ball club,” Cobb said. “Those young guys needed one of the older guys to be able to come back and that factored into my decision definitely.

“It’s just really hard to leave a culture like this. … It’s one of those cultures that’s addicting, and once you get here, you want to be a part of it, and you want to live it every day.”

Although that culture includes not talking about getting back to the College World Series, Benge said they learned playing as a team is vital to getting there and winning there. That’s what made them so good last year, he said.

“It definitely helps to know how to get there,” Benge said. “Once you know how to get there, you just gotta keep putting in the work and the time and the effort to repeat it.”

The 2016 Cowboys’ experience in Omaha won’t be the mantra of the 2017 OSU baseball team, Holliday said. That much was clear.

“We’re trying to win each day as it comes to us, do the best we can with it and build that day after day after day with the idea that that’s how you get where you’re trying to go,” Holliday said. “We have never talked about it. Are people aware of it? Sure they are, but the tone that we set and the thing we focus on is, ‘Let’s get better today.'”

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