When Oklahoma State’s Zach Fish slid hard into second base Saturday at the Big 12 Baseball Tournament and was slow to get up, Cowboys fans gasped.
So did Fish.
The Big 12 Player of the Year's absence from the rest of the weekend would be one thing, but missing him in the NCAA Tournament would have been a significant blow to the lineup and a devastating blow for Fish. He’d rolled his ankle before, but this seemed worse.
“I thought I was done for the year, no doubt about it,” Fish said Wednesday as the Cowboys prepared to host the Stillwater Regional at Reynolds Stadium. “It hurt worse than the first time I sprained it.”
Alas, the ankle checked out as a sprain, nothing worse. And no ankle sprain will keep Fish from trolling at tournament time.
“After about 48 hours it was fine,” he said. “Good to go. I’ll be good for Friday.”
That's good news for the Cowboys, with Fish representing the club’s best power bat and a major element to the middle of the order. OSU’s home run (11) and RBI (44) leader, Fish ranks in the Big 12’s top 10 in six offensive categories.
While he might be relegated to designated hitter duties this weekend, just to limit sudden starts and stops in the outfield, the presence of Fish’s bat is the big thing.
And the bat will be present.
Workers spent the early part of the week adding padded chairback seats to the bleachers at Reynolds Stadium to make it more comfortable for fans.
The seats, which were added at the request of Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder, were brought over from Boone Pickens Stadium.
The seats also added another dose of bright orange to the stadium.
“We have a great group of people working hard around here,” OSU coach Josh Holliday said. “Our administration is on top of everything that they needed to be to get this opportunity to host. The field looks great. The facility looks great. A lot of people have done a tremendous amount of work to make this look great for us.”
COWBOYS EARN ALL-AMERICAN HONORS
Oklahoma State closer Brendan McCurry and Fish were named Louisville Slugger NCAA Division I All-Americans, Collegiate Baseball announced Thursday.
McCurry was a second-team selection, and Fish earned third-team honors as an outfielder.
McCurry is 5-0 with a 0.42 ERA with 18 saves, setting single-season and career (26) school records in the process.
Fish is hitting .320 with 11 home runs and 44 RBIs. He was named the Big 12 Player of the Year, splitting time between right field and designated hitter.
CORNHUSKERS BACK AFTER ABSENCE
Third-year Nebraska coach Darin Erstad has his alma mater back in the postseason for the first time since 2008.
The Cornhuskers struggled early in the season before a strong finish earned them the No. 2 seed.
“Coach pretty much laid it out for us that we were underachieving,” outfielder Michael Pritchard said. “We had beat some good teams, we had beat Oregon State and had played some really good baseball early. We came back and played Marquette and lost and weren’t playing well. Coach challenged us and said, ‘Hey, we can either go up or down.’ I think we’ve responded pretty well.
“Coach always talks about writing a chapter and finishing your career out how you want to finish it out. Being a mediocre team wasn’t something we wanted to be a part of. We just dug down deep and started playing really good baseball and whatever we did works.”
BEARCATS ENJOYING TRIP
Binghamton outfielder Shaun McGraw is trying to soak up the atmosphere on the Bearcats’ trip to Stillwater as much as possible — on and off the field.
“All you have to do is just look at some of these pictures of the stadium packed with people,” McGraw said. “At our conference tournament, we played in front of maybe 200 people. I’m looking forward to playing in front of a big crowd and live atmosphere, with people on top of you. I think we’re ready for it after last year when we went to a regional at N.C. State and competed well.
“I haven’t gotten a real good chance to look around Stillwater yet, but we’re going to Eskimo Joe’s later, which I hear is pretty good. The playing surface is unbelievable. We just came from a minor-league park and the surface was nice, but the field, the grass and the infield dirt — there’s just something about it. It’s beautiful. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
FULLERTON’S DOMINANT ARMS
The Stillwater tournament might feature the best collective pitching of any regional this weekend between Oklahoma State’s outstanding bullpen, Nebraska’s well-rounded staff and Cal State Fullerton’s group of arms.
Fullerton leads Division I with a 2.03 ERA, walks just 1.46 batters per nine innings and a 1.00 WHIP.
Fullerton faces Nebraska at noon in the opener.
“I think from a pitchability standpoint, this is as good as it gets, their ability to mix pitches and their location,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said. “In all the games that we’ve watched, their ability to execute pitches set hitters up and be able to work the ball from both sides of the plate with multiple pitches, you don’t see that very often from a whole staff.
“They have three guys that are like that.”
BY RYAN ABER AND JOHN HELSLEY