There’s a throwback feel to this Oklahoma State baseball team.
They find a way to win.
They win a lot.
And there’s a toughness and confidence and a will to win that’s reminiscent of the Gary Ward days in Stillwater.
“People are producing,” said Cowboys first baseman Tanner Krietemeier. “The pitching is going real well. Hitters are doing their job. It’s a very confident team right now.”
And a streaking team, riding six straight weekend series wins to the top of the Big 12 standings and as high as No. 7 in the national rankings at 35-13 overall. Among those 35 wins, 21 are come-from-behind verdicts, including four walk-offs.
“That’s not something that every club is able to draw up on a daily basis, but these kids have,” Cowboys coach Josh Holliday said of his team’s rally readiness. “Good bunch. They like each other. And they’ve been very true to our uniform in how they’ve played.
“It plays to the DNA quality this program has in its history.”
Also in the Cowboys’ DNA past: a history of hosting NCAA regionals. And that, too, is in play, with little more than a week remaining in the regular season, followed by the Big 12 Tournament.
Holliday refuses to focus on that. For now, anyway.
His club still faces conference series at Kansas State and against Oklahoma, with a league title on the line as OSU and TCU are tied at 13-5 in Big 12 play.
“I really focus on just staying in the moment,” Holliday said. “That is really, in my experience, the required thought process to be successful from start to finish.
“If you allow yourself to kind of judge where you’re at early in the year, you can get fooled. If you let a struggle in the middle of the year define you, you can get fooled. And if you let success later in the year make you think you’ve done something, you can get fooled.”
Nationally, the perception is that OSU is firmly in play for a regional host role. The Cowboys, winning six straight and 20 of their last 25, have bolstered their RPI, rising to No. 27. Baseball America as OSU hosting in its latest bracketology.
“Sweeping Arizona State was a huge boon for the Cowboys, who climbed 13 spots to No. 27 in the RPI and have a manageable finishing stretch ahead,” wrote Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt. “They’ll need to stay hot to finish inside the Top 25, which would greatly help their cause.”
ESPN also projects OSU as a host, while Perfect Game, another popular college baseball site, has OSU as a No. 2 seed.
SOONERS SEEKING MOUND STABILITY
Oklahoma’s late-season slump has put it in peril of possibly missing the Big 12 Tournament, although the Sooners currently maintain a two-game lead over Kansas State in the chase for the final spot.
Still, OU can’t relax, not with series against the league leaders – TCU and OSU – on deck.
The key: confidence.
“If we play well against the two top teams in the league, you go in there and get a ton of confidence going into the tournament, that's our goal from here on in,” said Sooners coach Pete Hughes. “To get hot at the right time. Might as well do it against the two top teams in the league.”
To do that, OU must be better from the mound. The Sooners rank last in the league in conference-only games with a 5.82 earned run average. And their pitchers have surrendered 201 hits in 1572/3 innings.
“Everything is predicated off the result you get off the little brown circle on your infield,” Hughes said. “Everything – confidence in your team, the start of a game. It relaxes your offense when you get a good start out there and you can go and get shutdown innings.
“(Radio announcer) Toby Rowland told me that 10 of the last 11 innings we scored we didn't have a shutdown inning to accompany that? It's tough. It's a tough way to live.”
OU’S KRITTENBRINK OUT AFTER APPENDIX BURST
Oklahoma reliever Drew Krittenbrink had been feeling ill for a few days when he showed up in the Sooners' clubhouse for Sunday's game against Baylor.
After talking to OU's team doctors, Krittenbrink was sent to the emergency room, where it was discovered his appendix had burst.
“What a move to do that right away,” Hughes said of the team doctor's decision to send Krittenbrink to the hospital. “Apparently it had been burst for 24 hours or so.”
Krittenbrink remains hospitalized and is likely to be out for three weeks or so. The illness forced him to miss Sunday's Senior Day activities.
Krittenbrink has a 3.94 ERA in 292/3 innings.