STILLWATER — Donnie Walton drilled a ball to right field, then took off, conjuring up some fantasy scenario as he watched it continue to carry.
“I hoped that fence would come in, so it would go over,” Walton said.
No help needed, as the Cowboys freshman got just enough for his first career home run Thursday night, the initial big blow in No. 16 Oklahoma State's 7-4 win over West Virginia at Reynolds Stadium.
“About time, huh?” Walton said after the game.
Not necessarily, since the Cowboys don't rely on their 5-foot-9, 176-pound second baseman for much muscle.
Still, they'll take it, especially in this dead-bat era of college baseball. Even first-year Cowboys coach Josh Holliday, whose OSU roots go back to the big-blast days of the program, recognizes how times have changed. His team, which entered the series with eight home runs in 20 conference games, actually puts more emphasis on small ball, which also paid off Thursday night — again with Walton — on a safety squeeze that produced a run.
“Home runs are nice, I'm not going to lie to you,” Holliday said. “When one swing of the bat can create two and three runs, that's a heck of a lot better than needing five singles.
“College baseball is different (now). You don't get many of those. So when you do get 'em, yeah, they're sweet.”
Something else sweet: winning, which this team continues to do, improving to 38-13 overall and 12-9 in the Big 12 and moving into a second-place tie with Oklahoma in the conference standings.
West Virginia dropped to 30-24 and 12-10.
The Cowboys won their latest with solid pitching and contributions from several spots in the lineup. Aaron Cornell, getting a start in left field, went 2-for-4 out of the eight hole and clubbed another unexpected homer, his second of the season. Jarrett Higgins added two hits from the nine spot.
Cleanup hitter Randy McCurry did his thing with a 3-for-4 day that featured two doubles and a run driven in.
Ace Jason Hursh went six innings, leaving after 89 pitches with a short-rest start likely in a Big 12 Tournament opener on Wednesday. He went the distance and threw 133 pitches in last Friday's win over OU. This time, Hursh allowed five hits and struck out five, walking none, to improve to 6-4.
“It always starts on the mound,” Holliday said. “Jason gave us another very good start. Anytime you go six strong innings and you leave with a lead … I thought he pitched with really strong courage tonight, coming off a short week of rest and such an emotional effort last week.”
Vince Wheeland and Brendan McCurry finished with three innings of one-run relief.
The Cowboys showed their versatility, with the two long balls, the squeeze, another sacrifice and a sacrifice fly, and three stolen bases.
“We've got it all,” said Randy McCurry. “We've got guys who can hit the long ball. And some guys who don't normally hit the long ball; they did tonight.
“But we play the other side of the ball, too, with the bunting and all of it.”
OSU may avoid Mountaineers ace Harrison Musgrave, the Big 12's hottest pitcher, who is 8-1 overall and 5-2 with a 1.02 earned run average in conference play. Musgrave had last week's start pushed back a day by rain, then tossed 143 pitches in Saturday's win over TCU.
That combination will likely shift Musgrave's focus to the Big 12 Tournament, although he could pitch a couple of innings Sunday just to get some work.