Criticism of the Cowboys began quickly. The announcement of this year’s NCAA baseball tournament field was less than half an hour old when Oklahoma State came under fire Monday. Its at-large bid was scrutinized, and its inclusion was questioned during ESPN’s selection show.
The Cowboys are an easy target with their losing record in conference play and their failure to make the Big 12 Tournament. But they have no need to apologize. They belong in the NCAA Tournament with their No. 27 RPI and their 32 victories. Truth is, with the pressure off, the Cowboys might be among the most dangerous teams in the field. Sounds crazy, right? How could a team that failed to make its own conference tournament be a threat in the NCAA Tournament? That just doesn’t seem possible. OSU is a team built around pitching. Andrew Oliver, Tyler Lyons and Tyler Blandford are all stout, and three awesome arms always give a team a chance. The Cowboys’ biggest problem down the stretch was hitting. They have good hitters, but as a whole, their confidence was shot and their anxiety was high. All of it seemed to start at Nebraska. The Cowboys opened Big 12 play against the Cornhuskers with a pair of ugly losses, Oliver getting shelled on Friday and Lyons following suit on Saturday. Losses would’ve been one thing, but when neither of the team’s aces made it out of the fourth inning, that shook the Cowboys’ confidence. They played like they needed to be perfect from then on. And it showed. The harder they tried, the worse they played. Now, though, the pressure is off.