STILLWATER — Few schools can match Oklahoma State's rich baseball history and tradition.
So Friday's first-round pairing of the Cowboys and 'Canes at the Louisville Regional brings together two blue blood powerhouse programs, albeit with something currently to prove.
“It's got a good sound to it, for sure. Let's go,” said OSU coach Josh Holliday. “If you want to consider yourself the best, you have to go out and play the teams that have traditionally been the best or currently are the best.
“I don't really care who it is, to be honest with you. A chance to play is what this is all about.”
Any examination of NCAA Tournament history prominently features Miami and Oklahoma State, who rank among the top 10 in appearances, postseason wins and College World Series berths.
For the Cowboys, the true glory days are somewhat in the past, with their last CWS trip coming in 1999.
The Hurricanes keep rolling along, with their 41 consecutive regional appearances an NCAA record. They've reached the CWS in the '70s, '80s, '90s and 2000s, claiming national championships in the last three of those decades.
Cowboys third baseman Robbie Rea was there as a kid in Omaha, catching the Hurricanes in action.
“Growing up, going to the College World Series as a kid,” Rea said, “you'd always see Miami there. It's a dream come true to be in the tournament, and then to see that team we're playing is Miami, a team you grew up watching, it's going to be a fun day.”
Holliday fully embraced OSU's rich history — a history of which he's heavily invested in as a former player and disciple of both Gary Ward and his father, Tom Holliday — when he was hired last June.
It was a talking point at his introductory press conference, throughout the season with his team and remains at the forefront of everything he envisions the program being.
So Holliday finds reward in reaching the postseason in his first season.
“I'm proud for the program and for all the people that care about it,” he said. “One of the things we talked about doing was restoring that expectation. The next step now is to go out and start winning some of these postseason games.”
While challenging, the Louisville Regional appears manageable.
The host Cardinals are a stout 46-12 and won the Big East regular-season championship, yet were quickly ousted from the Big East Conference Tournament with an 0-2 trip, despite being the No. 1 seed.
Bowling Green is one of this postseason's major surprises, arriving at 24-29, after upsetting its way to the Mid-American Conference Tournament title, seizing the league's automatic berth.
And while Miami carries a premium pedigree, these 'Canes don't appear to be of vintage stock. They finished fifth in the ACC's Coastal Division with the eighth-best conference record overall at 14-16. In league play, Miami ranks 11th among 12 teams in batting average (. 260) and runs scored (3.7 per game), with its 13 home runs tying for last. David Thompson leads the club with a .272 average, with no other 'Canes hitter better than .265.
“We're playing the 2013 Miami Hurricanes, not the big program they put out there,” said OSU center fielder Sauyler Saxon. “And they're playing the 2013 Cowboys.
“It's fun, because it's a name. But you also have to realize what they're putting out there. We feel like we can compete with those guys.”
Miami's strength is its pitching, especially at the front of the rotation. And consider, too, that the Canes played the nation's toughest schedule, according to Warren Nolan's respected RPI calculations.
“Miami is a very good team,” Holliday said. “We know we'll be playing against a group of guys who are postseason savvy. They win in the postseason. And their tradition and the DNA of that program is very strong. It's a challenge right away.”
Oklahoma State and Miami, two of college baseball's most storied programs, have met seven times previously, with the 'Canes holding a 4-3 edge. Three of the meetings have come in the College World Series, where OSU won in 1981 (12-6) and Miami won in '85 (2-1) and '86 (6-2).
Independently, they rank among the sport's all-time best:
Category, OSU (Rk), Miami (Rk)
Most NCAA Appearances, 39 (4), 42 (3)
Most CWS Appearances, 19 (6), 23 (2)
Most CWS Titles, 1 (t15), 4 (t5)
Most NCAA Wins, 134 (t), 176 (2)
All-Time Win Pct., .664 (8), .710 (3)*
* entering this season