Oklahoma State concludes the regular season with a league series against Kansas beginning Thursday at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium. The Cowboys are 32-18 overall and second in the Big 12 Conference standings with a 13-8 mark. Thursday's series opener is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. start, with Friday's game at 6 p.m. and Sunday's finale set for 3 p.m.
Led by Donnie Walton and his .344 batting average, the Cowboys are hitting a collective .257, while the pitching staff has posted a Big 12-best 3.26 ERA.
The Cowboys are coming off a 38-20 season in which they made their third consecutive NCAA Regional appearance, and expectations are again high. OSU was ranked in the top 10 nationally in four different preseason polls and returns seven starters from 2015, including All-Big 12 Conference performers Donnie Walton, Ryan Sluder and Corey Hassel.
The 2016 season marks OSU's fourth under Holliday, who compiled a 127-57 record in his first three seasons at his alma mater.
About The Jayhawks
Kansas is 20-32-1 on the season and in ninth place in the Big 12 standings with a 6-14 conference mark; the Jayhawks are 4-16 on the road in 2016. Junior catcher Michael Tinsley (.386, 2 HR, 40 RBIs) is the Big 12's leading hitter on a club with a .282 team batting average, while the pitching staff sports a 6.21 ERA.
Expected to start on the mound for KU are:
Thursday - LHP Ben Krauth (5-5, 2,93) Friday & Saturday - TBA
OSU is 136-52 all-time against Kansas. The Cowboys are 5-5 vs. KU under Josh Holliday, losing series in Lawrence in 2013 and 2015 and sweeping the Jayhawks in Stillwater in 2014.
Watch, Listen, Follow
Thursday's series opener will stream free online at www.okstate.com/live and will also be televised in Oklahoma City and Tulsa on Cox Cable channel 703/HD 1333 in OKC and 1003/HD 1333 in Tulsa. The final two games of the series air on the FOX family of networks, with Dave Hunziker and Cowboy Baseball Hall of Famer Tom Holliday on the call. Friday's game is on FOX Sports Plus with Saturday's finale on FOX Sports Oklahoma.
All OSU baseball games are carried live by Stillwater Radio and air on KSPI 93.7 FM or 780 AM. Rex Holt, who is in his 34th season on the air with Cowboy baseball, will call the action, with Matt "Chief" Davis providing color commentary. Radio broadcasts are also available online at okstate.com/watch.
Live stats for all games can also be found at okstate.com, with links available under the Schedule tab on the baseball home page. Additionally, fans can follow the official OSU Baseball Twitter account, @OSUBaseball, for in-game updates.
In The Polls
OSU remained in this week's national polls and is ranked as high as 12th by Perfect Game. The Cowboys are also ranked No. 14 by Collegiate Baseball, 15th in the NCBWA and USA Today coaches polls, 20th in the Baseball America poll and No. 21 by D1Baseball.com.
OSU has been ranked in at least one national poll for 65 consecutive weeks dating back to 2013 when the Cowboys were in the polls for the final 14 weeks of the season. During that time, they have spent 16 weeks in the Top 10 and been ranked as high as No. 3 (by the NCBWA in 2014). They finished the '14 season ranked 10th in each of the final polls, marking the 19th time in program history OSU ended the season in the top 10 in the national polls.
Home Sweet Home
Allie P. Reynolds Stadium has been home to Oklahoma State baseball since April 4, 1981, and in those 35 seasons, the Cowboys have been nearly unbeatable on their home field.
OSU is 895-215 (.806) all time at Reynolds Stadium and has lost more than two consecutive games on its home turf only six times (six in a row in 2007; four straight in 2016; three in a row in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014).
The Cowboys are 15-7 on their home field in 2016.
Big 12 Home Series Winning Streak Snapped
Prior to being swept by Texas Tech (April 8-10), OSU had not lost a three-game Big 12 Conference series at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium since 2012 when it was swept by Texas A&M on the final weekend of the season. From 2013-15, the Cowboys won nine consecutive three-game league series on their home field following a split in a rain-shortened two-game series with Baylor to open league play in 2013. (In 2015 OSU lost its only game vs. West Virginia in Stillwater — the final two games of the series were canceled due to weather).
Building A Winner
In the first three seasons as head coach at his alma mater (2013-15), Josh Holliday built quite an impressive resume. Just a few of the highlights:
• OSU's .690 winning percentage was the highest among Big 12 teams from 2013-15;
• OSU has finished first or second in the conference standings each year (1st in 2014, 2nd in 2013 and 2015);
• The Cowboys finished in the top 10 in the national rankings in 2014 after ending the 2013 season ranked as high as No. 19. Counting the 2016 preseason polls, they've been nationally ranked for 52 consecutive weeks.
• In 2014, OSU advanced to the third Super Regional in program history and won its first-ever Big 12 Conference regular season championship;
• OSU has hosted two NCAA Regionals and been the top-seeded team both times;
• The Cowboys have earned three NCAA Regional berths and advanced to the regional championship round twice;
• OSU has won at least five of its eight Big 12 Conference series each season (5 in 2013, 7 in 2014, 6 in 2015).
Big 12's Best
Oklahoma State's .690 winning percentage (127-57) from 2013-15 marked the highest in the Big 12 Conference during that span. TCU came in second at .677, with the Cowboys only trailing the Horned Frogs by one in the win column.
OSU has also finished first or second in the league standings each of the last three years, and the Cowboys are the only Big 12 team over that span to finish over .500 in conference play each year.
Come-from-behind victories have become a trend for the Cowboys under Josh Holliday. OSU has overcome deficits to win 68 games in Holliday's four seasons, notching 18 comeback wins in 2013, 28 in 2014 and 15 a year ago.
OSU is 38-21 in one-run games since 2013, including a 12-8 mark this season. After losing their first five one-run games this season, including four via walk-off, the Cowboys won nine in a row before dropping two at West Virginia. Under head coach Josh Holliday (2013-pres.), 39 of the Cowboys' 75 losses have come by two runs or less, including 12 in 2016.
In its first three seasons under the direction of coach Rob Walton, OSU's pitching staff turned in impressive numbers.
The Cowboys' success under Walton from 2013-15 includes 12 All-Big 12 pitchers, two consensus first-team All-Americans, a Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and a first-round Major League Baseball Draft pick.
Here's just a sampling of how the Cowboys have performed under Walton:
• OSU's pitching staff led the Big 12 in ERA in conference-only games in 2014 (2.43) and 2015 (2.50).
• The Cowboys' 2.84 ERA in 2015 ranked eighth nationally and was the lowest by an OSU pitching staff since 1973.
• OSU recorded seven shutouts in both 2013 and 2014, marking just the fourth and fifth times in program history the Cowboys had reached that mark. In the 26 seasons prior to 2013, the program had reached seven shutouts only once.
• Over the last three seasons, OSU has seen Jason Hursh drafted in the first round of the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft, Brendan McCurry (2014) and Michael Freeman (2015) named first-team All-Americans and Freeman garner Big 12 Pitcher of the Year honors.
• Freeman's 1.31 ERA ranked sixth in the NCAA in 2015 and was the fifth lowest in a single season in OSU history.
• McCurry set OSU records for single-season saves (19) and career saves (27).
OSU leads the Big 12 with a 3.26 team ERA, with Thomas Hatch posting a league-best 1.97 ERA and three other Cowboys in the top 10 — Tyler Buffett (5th at 2.64), Jensen Elliott (9th at 3.41) and Trey Cobb (10th at 3.45).
OSU also leads the conference with a .239 opponent batting average, four complete games and 15 saves and ranks second in strikeouts (443) and shutouts (7).
Back In The Saddle
Donnie Walton spurned professional baseball last summer to return for his senior season with the Cowboys in 2016.
Walton has established himself as one of the Big 12's elite players since arriving on campus in 2013. In 210 career games, which ranks 10th on the program's all-time list, the switch hitter owns a .315 batting average to go along with 10 home runs, 125 RBIs, 43 doubles and an OSU-record 55 sacrifice bunts (which ranks seventh on the NCAA's all-time list).
Primarily a shortstop throughout his career, Walton is one of just nine players in OSU history to earn All-Big 12 First Team accolades twice (in 2014 & 2015), with no Cowboy ever achieving that status three times.
A 23rd-round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers last June, Walton chose not to sign a pro contract and instead starred in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League. He was named the CCBL All-Star Game MVP and then earned the Star of Stars Award as the most valuable player of the CCBL playoffs after leading the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox to the league championship.
Walton was one of 50 players on USA Baseball's 2016 Golden Spikes Award Preseason Watch List and was recently named to the Brooks Wallace Award (nation's top shortstop) Watch List by the National College Baseball Hall of Fame.
Corey Hassel played in 86 games and hit just .208 in his first two seasons at OSU, but the Stillwater native had a breakout junior campaign for his hometown Cowboys in 2015.
Used mostly as a late-game defensive replacement and pinch runner in 2013 and 2014, Hassel became a regular starter in the outfield as a junior and led the Cowboys with a .312 batting average. He also topped OSU in multi-hit games (18) and multi-RBI efforts (11) en route to All-Big 12 Second Team honors. In conference play, Hassel hit .344 with two home runs and 18 RBIs and led OSU in numerous offensive categories, including RBIs, hits (31) and doubles (6).
The only Cowboy to start all 50 games this season, Hassel leads OSU with 16 doubles, 14 sacrifice bunts — which also ranks eighth nationally — and 13 stolen bases.
The Candyman Can
Tyler Buffett was reliable on the mound in his first two seasons in Stillwater, but he has taken on a starring role in 2016.
In a team-high 30 appearances, 28 of those in relief, the junior right-hander is 6-2 with eight saves and a 2.64 ERA, with the six wins and eight saves marking career highs. He leads the Big 12 in appearances, ranks second in opponent batting average (.215) and saves and is fifth in ERA.
In the month of March, Buffett appeared in 11 of OSU's 18 games and went 4-0 with four saves and a 1.54 ERA to go along with 27 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings. He was named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week twice (March 7th and 28th).
Named to the National Pitcher of the Year Award Watch List by the National College Baseball Hall of Fame and the NCBWA's Stopper of the Year Watch List, Buffett is 2-0 with five saves in 12 relief outings in Big 12 play. He has allowed only three runs in 17.1 innings while racking up 19 strikeouts against league foes.
Dustin Williams tied for the OSU lead with six home runs last season — and in 15 games this year, he'd already equaled his long ball total of a year ago.
The Cowboys' junior first baseman currently leads the Big 12 lead with 13 homer2, the most by an OSU player since 2011 when Zach Johnson also had 13.
The left-handed hitting Williams was named the Big 12 Player of the Week on March 14 following a three-game stretch that saw him go 5-for-11 (.455) at the plate with four home runs, seven RBIs, 17 total bases and a 1.545 slugging percentage. He homered in all three games — including twice in one of them — and also drove in multiple runs in each contest.
Trey Cobb became the Cowboys' go-to pitcher out of the bullpen in 2015. His team-high 31 appearances marked the third most in a single season in OSU history, and the right-hander compiled a 5-2 record and two saves to go along with a 2.61 ERA. In 58.2 innings — all in relief — Cobb racked up 53 strikeouts, and opponents hit just .221 against him as he earned honorable mention All-Big 12 accolades.
Cobb has made 16 appearances this season, 10 of those as a starter, and is 4-7 with two saves and a 3.45 ERA. He also ranks third in the Big 12 with a team-high 79 strikeouts in 62.2 innings, including a career-high 13 in six innings of work in a win against 18th-ranked Michigan and 12 in a victory vs. Baylor.
The opening day starter for the Cowboys vs. UT Arlington, Cobb's next six appearances came in relief before he re-joined the weekend starting rotation March 14 against Abilene Christian.
Cobb has twice been named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week this season — April 4 and April 18.
Garrett Benge put up video game numbers at the junior college level last season, and he's proving to be a valuable hitter in his first season in an OSU uniform.
As a freshman at Cowley County CC, Benge was the 2015 NJCAA Division I Player of the Year after hitting .502 with 19 home runs, 97 RBIs, 26 doubles and four triples. In 59 games, he collected 103 hits and a .946 slugging percentage.
Now manning the hot corner in Stillwater, Benge has swung a consistent bat for the Cowboys as he's hitting .317 and ranks second on OSU with 35 RBIs and a .489 slugging percentage.
J.R. Davis made history in the series finale at West Virginia when he joined Josh Fields (2003) and Zach Johnson (2011) as the only OSU players to hit for the cycle during the Big 12 era (since 1997). The Cowboy second baseman is also one of just 18 Big 12 players to ever hit for the cycle.
After leading off Sunday's game vs. WVU with a walk, Davis delivered an RBI triple in the third and a leadoff single in the sixth. In the eighth, he hit his first-career home run, a two-run shot, and then in the ninth he recorded an RBI double to complete the cycle. He finished the historic day 4-for-4 with a career-high four RBIs and three runs scored.
Davis, a JUCO transfer who had not played since 2014 prior to joining OSU this season, appeared in just one of the Cowboys' first nine games this season but was inserted in the starting lineup at second base March 1 vs. Indiana State and has not left since. He owns a .340 batting average in 42 games, and the Cowboys are 24-9 with Davis batting in the leadoff spot.
Friday Night Filth
Thomas Hatch missed the 2015 season with a sprained UCL, but he has returned to the OSU rotation as the Cowboys' Friday night starter this year and is consistently displaying the talent he showed glimpses of as a freshman two years ago.
Hatch has made 13 starts as a redshirt sophomore and is 5-2 with a Big 12-best 1.97 ERA. The right-hander also leads the conference with 91.1 innings pitched, and he has worked six or more innings in 10 of his 13 starts, including three complete games.
Hatch's three complete games also leads the Big 12, and he's been dominant in those performances (vs. TCU, Texas and Prairie View), tossing shutouts in all three to become just the 10th pitcher in Big 12 history to record three shutouts in a season. Against No. 4 TCU, he racked up a career-high 10 strikeouts and did not allow a runner past first base until the ninth inning; he followed that with six-strikeout effort in blanking Texas as he became the first Cowboy pitcher since All-American Andrew Heaney in 2012 to record consecutive shutouts. Against PVAMU, he took a perfect game into the seventh and struck out a career-high 11 while allowing just two hits and facing only one hitter over the minimum.
In Big 12 play, Hatch is 3-2 with a 2.28 ERA and has tossed two shutouts in seven starts.
Of the 72 hits Hatch has allowed this season, only six have gone for extra bases (four doubles, two home runs).
Hatch Went Streaking
Thomas Hatch did not allow an earned run in 38 2/3 consecutive innings over a stretch from the seventh inning of his start against Texas Tech on April 8 until the fourth inning vs. Oklahoma on May 13. The only runs he gave up during the streak were two of the unearned variety against Baylor on April 15.
Hatch also recorded a streak of 33 consecutive scoreless frames from the seventh inning vs. Baylor until the fourth frame against Oklahoma.
OSU's pitching staff is arguably the best in the Big 12, and Jensen Elliott is a big reason why. The freshman right-hander has been in the Cowboys' weekend starting rotation throughout the year, making 13 starts and compiling a 7-2 record and 3.41 ERA. He leads OSU with four wins in Big 12 play, where he's 4-1 in seven starts.
Elliott won his first-career start on Feb. 20 at UT Arlington with five shutout innings, and in the series finale at West Virginia he became the first OSU freshman since Matt Smith in 1998 to throw a complete game. In that game, he threw 133 pitches and allowed just one run on four hits while striking out four in a performance that earned him Big 12 Pitcher of the Week honors. He was also named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week on April 18 following his win over Baylor.
OSU has had 10 Big 12 weekly award winners in 2016, which is tied for the second-most in a single season in conference history (the record is 11 by Baylor in 2012), and the Cowboys set a record with seven pitcher of the week honorees.
Tyler Buffett (March 7 and March 28), Trey Cobb (April 4 and April 18) and Thomas Hatch(April 25 and May 9) have each been named Big 12 Pitcher of the Week twice, while Jensen Elliott has been the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week (April 4) and Newcomer of the Week (April 18). Other winners are Dustin Williams (Player of Week on March 14) and J.R. Davis (Newcomer of Week on April 4).