Oklahoma State arrived at the Big 12 Tournament with little to prove, having finished second in the regular season and standing just one shy of the 40-win mark.
Still, Cowboys coach Josh Holliday didn't anticipate — or want — an 0-3 run through pool play, which is what his club was left with after Saturday's 6-5 loss to West Virginia in 10 innings.
And although recent projections pegged OSU as safely in the NCAA Tournament, Holliday admits he'll carry a tinge of anxiety into Monday's bracket announcement of the field of 64.
“I'd be lying to you as a human being if you didn't say that you thought about that a little bit as a coach, just because you want to finish strong,” Holliday said Saturday, after his team blew a lead for the third straight day.
Still, reflecting further, Holliday focused more on his team's season-long performance than one lost weekend.
“The body of work that our team has put together is a strong one,” he said. “If 39 wins and a second-place finish in the Big 12 Conference isn't enough to get a postseason berth, I would be surprised of who those teams are that are more deserving than our team.
“We'll humbly wait for an opportunity to play. If we are given an opportunity, we will make the most of it.”
The bracket will be revealed Monday, as ESPNU carries the Road To Omaha Selection Show at 11 a.m.
“We feel really good about where we're at,” said senior shortstop Randy McCurry, who got OSU off to a positive start with a two-run, first-inning home run. “We still have things to get better at, obviously, but we still feel really good about it.”
The Cowboys don't feel so good about their Big 12 Tournament stay.
They led 5-0 through their at-bat in the sixth inning against West Virginia, yet couldn't finish, again. They carried a two-run lead into the ninth on Thursday, before losing to TCU, then wasted a four-run lead before falling to Kansas Friday night.
Jacob Rice, a Tulsa Union product, drove in the winning run for the Mountaineers with a single to right field, as Bobby Boyd just beat the tag from Cowboys catcher Victor Romero, after a strong throw from Zach Fish.
“No one is ever going to roll over,” Holliday said. “You have to continue to execute at a high level, from start to finish. One pitch, one play can change the complexion of the entire game, as we learned these three games.”
The Cowboys led 2-0 on McCurry's blast, then tacked on a run in the fourth and two more in the sixth to go in front 5-0, a seemingly good position with starting pitcher Mark Robinette dealing on the Mountaineers.
Robinette retired 13 straight batters into the sixth, when Rice stunned the Cowboys and started a five-run rally with a two-out bunt single.
“(Robinette) had one of those innings,” Holliday said, “and with two outs it looks like he has a chance to wiggle out of it with no damage. They laid out a two-out bunt. A heckuva play. Extended the inning. Bought them time.”
Time eventually for two big blows, back-to-back homers, the first a two-run shot by Ryan McBroom, followed by a solo shot by Brady Wilson to tie it.
The Cowboys threatened in the eighth, loading the bases with one out. But a double play ended that chance.
West Virginia produced in the 10th, after Boyd's leadoff single and a sacrifice, with Rice delivering on his hit to right and putting some drama into OSU's NCAA Tournament watch party.
“I'm proud of my guys, man,” Holliday said. “I'll be proud to put this uniform on with them anytime. They give great effort. Even though it's frustrating, it's also encouraging, because the will to compete is in there.
“Hopefully we'll get a chance to change the mojo a little bit.”