If someone were to write the story of the 2019 Oklahoma State baseball team, it could be done in two chapters.
The Chapter I title: The Ballpark.
The Chapter II title: The Ballclub.
So much of this year’s Cowboys narrative centered on Allie P. Reynolds Stadium, and how this season was OSU’s final run in a 39-year-old, packed-full-of-memories park that once was the home of Hall of Famers Pete Incaviglia and Robin Ventura.
If not for historic rainfall totals that ruined The Ballpark’s playing surface, Allie P. would have been used as an NCAA Tournament venue this weekend. It would have been a nice marriage of nostalgia and high-stakes competition.
As the Allie P. storyline won’t be a weekend talking point, all focus shifts to The Ballclub — the 36-18, Big 12 champion Cowboys.
Displaced by soggy conditions in Stillwater, Oklahoma State is a regional host at the downtown Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City.
The Cowboys’ advantage won’t be as pronounced as it would have been at Allie P., but it’s an advantage nonetheless as the OKC stadium is, in a sense, a home away from home.
In seven seasons with Josh Holliday as head coach, the Cowboys are 19-13 in games played at Bricktown. The most recent of those games was played last Sunday, when Oklahoma State defeated West Virginia to capture the Big 12 Tournament title.
For a few days, Oklahoma City is at the center of the Oklahoma State universe. USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium and Bricktown Ballpark are separated by only six miles.
At the same time the Cowgirls softball team is an interesting Women’s College World Series participant, the Oklahoma State baseball program launches its quest for its 21st College World Series appearance.
In the OSU-hosted double-elimination regional, the Friday schedule matches Nebraska and UConn at noon. The Cowboys clash with Harvard at 6 p.m.
How about this for a contrast? Oklahoma State next year moves its baseball operation to $60 million O’Brate Stadium. Meanwhile, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Harvard program plays its home games at O’Donnell Field, which looks like a high school facility and was built in 1898.
With a victory over Columbia, the Harvard Crimson emerged as the Ivy League Playoff Series champion and secured that league’s automatic NCAA berth.
Against a Harvard program that in 2008-17 had 10 consecutive losing seasons, Oklahoma State has to be considered a huge favorite — just like Virginia was a huge favorite over 16th-seeded Maryland-Baltimore County in the 2018 NCAA basketball tournament.
As Holliday is presuming nothing, OSU’s hottest pitcher — Jensen Elliott — will get the Friday start. Offensively, the Cowboys are driven by Trevor Boone (a former Memorial star who has 19 home runs) and Colin Simpson (who has gotten extra bases on more than half of his hits this season).
“I don’t believe you ever look past the first game,” Holliday said. “I never have, no matter what you think of the seeding. We’re going to throw Jensen in Game 1 and come out and play a really good Harvard team. From there, we’ll handle the next opponent.”
Simpson has homered in seven of Oklahoma State’s past 10 games.
“It’s all just started clicking lately,” Simpson said in response to a question about his recent hot streak.
The same could be said for the Cowboys team as a whole.
In April, OSU was 7-8. The month ended with three losses at Texas Tech. When the calendar rolled to May, the Cowboys ascended to a better and more consistent level of performance.
In May, OSU is 11-2.
The month began with a statement by the Cowboys — a three-game road sweep of then-No. 2 Oregon State.
The month ends on Friday — not at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium, which would have been the best-case scenario, but in Oklahoma City.
There’s no place like home, but these Cowboys do seem quite comfortable in Oklahoma City.