OKLAHOMA CITY – Josh Holliday has an Oklahoma State baseball team that’s launched home runs all season.
On Wednesday night, the bomb squad continued with two more home runs to fuel a 5-2 victory over TCU in a Big 12 Tournament game on Wednesday night.
The victory vaults the Cowboys into a winners bracket game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against Baylor, which defeated Oklahoma 8-2 earlier in the day at Bricktown Ballpark. TCU will face the Sooners in an elimination game at 12:30 p.m.
Colin Simpson hit a solo home run in the second inning and Trevor Boone added a two-run shot in the sixth inning to give the Cowboys a total of 80 homers this season. It’s the most by an OSU team since the 2009 squad hit 81.
Entering this week, OSU had the sixth-most home runs nationally. Before the tournament, Holliday was asked about the team’s power.
Holiday said he has a lot of strong players who have worked hard in the weight room and then took a solid approach to their game.
“They said let’s put the time in to get their swings in position to hit mistake pitches,” Holliday said. “I would say it’s a combination of who they are, what our identity is as a team, where our strengths are as a group and playing to our strengths.”
Holliday said he wouldn’t ask some sluggers to lay down sacrifice bunts, but rather ask them to hit a drive into the gap.
“I’m going to try to coach them in a capacity where they feel very empowered to play the game to their strengths,” Holliday said.
The sixth inning was a good example of the mindset.
After Cade Cabbiness reached on an infield single and Hueston Morrill reached on a walk, Andrew Navigato slammed a one-out double to the left-center field gap. Simpson tagged a run-scoring sacrifice fly, and Boone ended scoring by hitting an 0-2 pitch into the Cowboys’ bullpen in the last inning.
"We had some decent swings the first time through the order. The second time through, he was dominant. We had a hard time getting the bat on the ball," Holliday said of TCU starter Nick Lodolo. "That’s nothing that we did wrong. Sometimes the guy on the other side of the field is throwing pitches that are very difficult to handle. But the third time through, we made a little bit of an adjustment and got some clutch swings."
Oklahoma State’s four-run frame snapped a one-all tie where all attention was on Lodolo and OSU starter Parker Scott. Both only allowed a solo home run in the first five innings.
"We pitched well. I’m really proud of the way Parker competed and fought through innings four, five and six," Holliday said. "TCU has a very athletic lineup and they are hard to strikeout. He did a very good job. He would probably tell you that he competed from his gut in those four, five and six. It was a muggy night out there and his endurance has been building all year long. I’m really proud of his effort."
Scott said he didn't learn he was going to start until an 11 a.m. text message from OSU pitching coach Rob Walton.
"Usually it is the day before, but we were ready to go – me, Jensen (Elliott) and Joe (Lienhard)," Scott said. "We were just waiting for the call and 11 o’clock he let me know.
Lodolo seemed to have the Cowboys handcuffed entering the sixth inning. After Simpson’s shot in the second inning, he didn’t allow a hit in the next four innings and struck out eight straight batters at one point.
The OSU sixth inning changed the game’s complexion and allowed the team to reach for the bullpen.
Scott (3-1) scattered four hits and struck out four before being relieved by Logan Gragg in the seventh. Ben Leeper finished the game by throwing a scoreless ninth.
Lodolo fell to 6-5 this season.
The Cowboys are familiar with Baylor. The teams played two games in Stillwater in the regular season's final weekend.
"They’re good. This four-team pod that we’re in, you look at how good those teams are, this is better than most regionals will be, for sure," Holliday said. "We faced one of the best pitchers in the country tonight, we’re playing a team tomorrow that was in first place until the last day. They’ve had a heck of a season and are talented. Us and OU have really good squads.
"It’s a great tournament and it’s a fun tournament. It is nights like tonight where you stick around all day long with anxious energy to play and then you finally get on the field and something great happens. They will never forget that night. You don’t have to watch quite as much film. That’s good. They are pretty fresh in our minds. They are a really good team."
OKLAHOMA STATE 5, TCU 2
TCU 001 000 001 — 2 4 1
Oklahoma State 010 004 00x — 5 6 1
Scott, Gragg (7), Leeper (9) and Simpson; Lodolo, Coughlin (8) and Humphreys. HR: TCU, Wolfe (5), Guenther (9); OSU, Simpson (13), Boone (19). W: Scott (3-1). L: Lodolo (6-5).
Big 12 Tournament
At Bricktown Ballpark, OKC
Game 1: No. 4 West Virginia 12, No. 5 Kansas 8
Game 2: No. 1 Texas Tech 7, No. 8 Kansas State 4
Game 3: No. 2 Baylor 8, No. 7 Oklahoma 2
Game 4: No. 3 Oklahoma State 5, No. 6 TCU 2
Game 5: Kansas vs. Kansas State (FSOK), 9 a.m.
Game 6: Oklahoma vs. TCU (FSOK), 12:30 p.m.
Game 7: West Virginia vs. Texas Tech (FSOK), 4 p.m.
Game 8: Baylor vs. Oklahoma State (FSOK), 7:30 p.m.
Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 7 loser (FSOK), 3:15 p.m.
Game 10: Game 6 winner vs. Game 8 loser (FCSC), 7 p.m.
Game 11: Game 9 winner vs. Game 7 winner (FSOK), 9 a.m.
Game 12: Game 10 winner vs. Game 8 winner (FSOK), 12:30 p.m.
Game 13*: Game 9 winner vs. Game 7 winner (FSOK), 4 p.m.
Game 14*: Game 10 winner vs. Game 8 winner (FSP), 7:30 p.m.
Championship: Game 11/13 winner vs. Game 12/14 winner (FSP), 1 p.m.
* If necessary