STILLWATER — When Josh Holliday returned to his alma mater to coach the Cowboys, optimism of another return — of the good ol’ days — accompanied him.
Quickly, Oklahoma State has been checking off the boxes.
Seasons of 40-plus wins. Check.
Annual postseason appearances. Check.
Conference championship. Check.
Regional host. Check.
Bashing bats … hold that thought.
The No. 7-ranked Cowboys have improved their power numbers modestly under Holliday, and they got a home run in Friday night’s 8-0 win over Binghamton in the Stillwater Regional at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium. Still, in this dead-bat era of college baseball, OSU has adjusted to doing the little things — and doing them well.
That was the storyline again Friday night, as the top-seeded Cowboys coupled small-ball rallies with strong pitching and clutch defensive plays to advance in the regional before a crowd of 2,713. Of OSU’s 10 hits, seven were singles.
“To get bunts down and to score runs when they’re available, that’s good team offense,” said Cowboys coach Josh Holliday. “We eventually got some big swings to create a gap ... but we’ve played that way all year.
“These guys are grinders. They’re tough competitive kids. That’s what it’s going to take to continue to take to win games down the stretch here.”
Up next: a matchup with No. 3-seed Cal State Fullerton, a 5-1 winner over No. 2-seed Nebraska in the other first-round game. Game time is 7 p.m.
OSU, now 46-16, ranked second in the Big 12 with 80 sacrifice bunts, trailing only perennial small-ball master Texas, which totaled 87.
“We work on it a lot,” said Cowboys shortstop Donnie Walton, who followed a Saulyer Saxon sacrifice bunt with a single to score the game’s first run in the third inning. “We bunt pretty much every day. It’s important to execute the small things.”
OSU used a sacrifice fly by Tim Arakawa in a two-run fifth to bump the lead to 4-0.
None of the scoring involved an extra-base hit until nine-hole hitter Bryan Case turned an inside pitch into a drive high up the left-field screen in the sixth. Zach Fish’s two-run double in the eighth made it 8-0.
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