Josh Holliday's faith doesn't waver.
As a player, an assistant coach and now a head coach — not to mention a Holliday — he's always been focused on the bright side of life.
And that's the outlook now, as his pieced-together first Oklahoma State team faces its first real round of adversity.
The Cowboys are coming off a lost series at Kansas, dropping them into the middle of the pack in the Big 12. Their ace, Jason Hursh, is scuffling. And their most hardened veteran, shortstop and pitching swingman Randy McCurry, is hurting with a turf toe.
All this as OSU heads to TCU for a weekend series, trying to right itself and remain in the conversation for an NCAA Tournament berth.
“I told the kids, ‘We're just going to keep getting a little bit better each time, because we're on the verge of stringing together some good ball games.'
“That's what my instincts tell me,” Holliday said.
At 4-4 in the Big 12 after losing two of three at KU, the Cowboys need to make a strong push to elevate themselves nationally. The conference is dealing with perception problems, which seem quite real when RPIs are examined. Only league-leader Oklahoma, at No. 21, ranks among the Top 50.
OSU sits at No. 111.
And in what has to be considered a down year for the conference, the Cowboys have to make the most of any opportunities to move up. That means taking care of business against the likes of struggling teams like TCU and Texas Tech, but also taking series from OU and Kansas State. The Cowboys also can make some headway in two weeks at the TD Ameritrade Classic in Omaha, where they'll face Creighton and Rutgers in single games, and Nebraska twice.
The ideal scenario for OSU: finish high in the Big 12 standings, with a strong overall record, and push the RPI at least toward No. 50.
The key could be Hursh, who started so strong, yet has been battered in his last two series-opening outings, losses to Texas and Kansas. The best recipe for series wins involves Friday night success, putting the pressure and the rally caps on the opposing dugout.
“Jason hasn't pitched his best the last two times out, no question,” Holliday said. “He hasn't been as sharp. But I think that's a growth process. Remember, it's a redshirt sophomore who didn't pitch last year. He's a guy who's still honing his craft.”
Hursh is the closest thing the Cowboys have to an ace, a power pitcher capable of dominating. Even with his two subpar outings, his earned run average remains stout at 2.63. So there's clearly plenty to work with.
“You come out aggressive and you establish yourself early in the year and people try to make adjustments back to handling you,” Holliday said. “It's his opportunity to make adjustments back to the competition — which is to make sure that he's getting in the locations that he was using early in the year and not relying on power alone to beat the bat, but rather to beat the bat with location and movement.”
It's adjustment time for Hursh.
And for the Cowboys.
Big 12 baseball: Up next for OSU and OU
Friday: at TCU, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday: at TCU, 4 p.m.
Sunday: at TCU, 1 p.m.
Tuesday: at Missouri State, 6:30 p.m.
April 19: Kansas State, 7 p.m.
April 20: Kansas State, 3 p.m.
April 21: Kansas State, 1 p.m.
Friday: at Baylor, 6:35 p.m.
Saturday: at Baylor, 3:05 p.m.
Sunday: at Baylor, 1:05 p.m.
Tuesday: Arkansas-Little Rock, 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
April 19: New Orleans, 6:30 p.m.
April 20: New Orleans, 2 p.m.
April 21: New Orleans, 1 p.m.