OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma State coach Josh Holliday wants to take the Cowboys back to where they were during his playing days.
Holliday was a senior on the 1999 team that reached the College World Series, the school's most recent team to get to Omaha, Nebraska.
For Holliday to come full circle, Oklahoma State (48-16) will need to beat UC Irvine in a best-of-three super regional starting Friday night with Game 1.
Holliday said it felt a bit like old times when the Cowboys knocked off Cal State Fullerton in regional play to advance.
"The players picked each other up and did what teams do — they found ways to win," he said. "I'm really proud of them. This is a tribute to them and our fans for helping us feel like we've arrived a little bit again. Having this ballpark full of people and seeing the way our kids respond to the crowd is something that I've ached for ever since we came back to Stillwater."
Oklahoma State features Big 12 Player of the Year Zach Fish. The outfielder sprained an ankle during the Big 12 Tournament, but he recovered and played in the regional. Shortstop Donnie Walton, the most valuable player of the Stillwater Regional, said the Cowboys are confident. Oklahoma State has come from behind in 28 of its 48 wins, so an early deficit won't be a concern.
"We put a lot of hard work in throughout the season," he said. "We had some ups-and-downs. One thing about this team is that we're resilient. Even when we're down, we're calm, and we can come back and make a run at it."
UC Irvine (38-23) knocked off No. 1 national seed Oregon State in regional play and makes its fourth super regional appearance in its Division I history. The Anteaters beat the Beavers 14-2, then lost 4-0 to set up a winner-take-all game. Irvine won the title game 4-2 to advance.
"Everybody can imagine, we're justifiably proud of our team," Cal Irvine coach Mike Gillespie said.