Matt Amilian, myself, and Aaron Schnautz (our resident baseball expert) got together to discuss what we expect to happen this weekend at the Stillwater Super Regional. I think we’re all pretty much all in on Josh Holliday. Here are our picks.
The reality of Omaha hit me hard over last weekend. It got me thinking about my expectations for the baseball team prior to the season. I think if I was asked about them back in February, I’d say this team will be competitive in a regional, probably as a 2-seed. Hosting a Super Regional is exceeding expectations and Omaha is a homerun for Holliday.
Schnautz is going to blow me away in providing an analysis on this series. I’m going to let him provide you with the details of the pitching matchups, stats of how OSU hitters hit particular Anteater-style pitchers, how each teams have done against similar opponents, etc. He’s been killing OSU baseball coverage and I’m not making an attempt to match him.
I’m having constant OSU baseball-related flashbacks: Attending Gary Ward’s camp as a kid. Learning to start with an open stance and close it as the pitcher was delivering. Dropping all the money my mom sent with me to baseball card dealers who set up shop in the Stillwater Best Western (looking back, those guys were so shady). I’m recalling names like Lamont Matthews and Billy Gasparino. Holliday has revived the program and the OSU fanbase’s great memories from the glorious 90s (and of course the 80s for many of you).
I feel like I’m being completely irrational about this team because I’m so fired up about the chance of going to the CWS, but this sense of irrationality is very rational and likely to happen (usually not the case being an OSU sports fan). Allie P is going to explode when that last out sealed and the ticket is punched. The Cowboys are going to Omaha.
Pick: OSU in two
I think back to how last season ended with a disappointing finish, and honestly I wasn’t sure there would be much improvement this season. OSU lost a first-round draft pick in ace Jason Hursh, along with a handful of seniors who carried the team. I expected a rebuilding season, but Holliday and Co. reloaded and came back stronger.
OSU started the season well, but dropping two of three to Baylor made it feel like last season was going to happen all over again. Then the Pokes closed the season winning 25 of 31 and the excitement kept building. A trip to the Big 12 Tournament final and a clean sweep of the Regional has Stillwater buzzing right now. The Super Regional sold out in two hours.
I didn’t grow up on the Ventura and Inky teams (a bit before my time), but just throughout this season I have seen more and more people become excited and even ecstatic about Cowboy Baseball. Travis Ford and Marcus Smart might have something to do with that, but I think people are genuinely excited to see an OSU alum running the program the right way and bringing back the glory days that so many people – Amilian and Pistolsguy included – reminisce about.
Irvine matches up as a better Cal State Fullerton, despite being swept by the Titans in the regular season. That doesn’t matter come tournament time. Throw out all the regular season stats and results and look at what this team has done in the postseason. The big difference between Irvine and Fullerton is that Irvine took down the overall top seed in the tournament.
I spent all week telling myself that. ‘This team took down the top seed.’ It’s easy to write them off, but they must be doing something right. I don’t think this series will be a cakewalk for the Cowboys. It’s gonna go three games, but in the end I see OSU returning to Omaha for the first time since 1999, and I have two reasons why.
First, Allie P. is a hitter’s park, and OSU is one of the best hitting teams in the country. I thought Fullerton’s top pitching staff would give the Cowboys fits in the Regional, but that didn’t come close to happening. Irvine’s staff is equally as good, but I don’t think it matters. You’re talking about a Cowboy team that is top 15 nationally in home runs, on-base percentage and runs. Fullerton couldn’t slow that down, and I don’t see Irvine having much success either.
Second, this team has more heart than almost any other team in any sport I’ve watched. Holliday has convinced this group that they can win every game they play, and you see it in the 46 come-from-behind wins in the past two seasons. These guys know the game is never over no matter how far behind they are. That’s one of those intangibles that can make up for what’s missing on the field.
Bad day at the plate? It’s all good, we’ve been here before. Let’s just get a few clutch hits. Pitching staff gave up more 1st inning runs? That’s ok, we’ve got eight more innings to play. The Cowboys can’t be defeated mentally, which is 90 percent of the game according to Yogi Berra. If they believe they are going to Omaha, the only thing left is to play the games.
Pick: OSU in three
I, too, haven’t followed this team as closely as Aaron have but from a distance its felt like this squad’s destiny for this season was always going to be Omaha. As of right now I’d be more shocked if this team didn’t make it to Omaha than I would have been if OSU didn’t win the Big 12 before it played OU in football last December. That’s probably more of a neurological issue with OSU fans and OSU football than it is anything else, but still, we were all pretty sure OSU was winning the Big 12 in football.
Did Amilian and I have a 15-minute phone conversation last night about how we were going to get to Omaha to watch OSU over the next two weeks? Maybe. Could this team do that with ease this weekend leaving the third game of a three-game series for ESPNU producers to slot regular season SEC football game re-runs instead of live college baseball? Of course. But could this all end badly at Allie P. in what seems to be a foregone conclusion? Yes, yes it could.
And yet with Josh Holliday at the helm I don’t fear destiny like I fear her in football or with Travis Ford. Part of that is that OSU has a history in baseball, a good one, as the other two fellas on this thread pointed out. OSU has a long-term relationship with Omaha, Nebraska but that kindling hasn’t been smokey for quite a while (since I was in middle school, actually).
So the intelligent part of me (run your jokes, people, get them all out there) says “be careful here, Irvine is playing with ‘just beat the best team in the country’ house money and they’re going to spend it however they want.” But my heart is all in. My heart is already at the bottom of that dogpile on Saturday or Sunday evening. My heart is already traipsing up I-35 for Nebraska.