OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma State’s weekend was exhausting, but the final payoff brought ice cream and new hardware for the trophy case.
The Cowboys earned their second Big 12 championship in three seasons by capturing a 5-2 victory over West Virginia on Sunday afternoon at Bricktown Ballpark.
Just to get to that game, OSU had to win a morning game against TCU that was postponed from Saturday night.
The victory continues a month-long wave of momentum that is now blazing toward the NCAA Tournament.
“Coming in, I knew we were pretty special as a team,” said shortstop Andrew Navigato, a junior college transfer in his first OSU season. “Going in on day one, it was just having the team chemistry that we have.
“It’s been an amazing run for us. We put the hard work in, and it’s a great feeling to get this championship.”
Later Sunday, OSU was selected as one of 16 NCAA regional hosts. In its final season, Allie P. Reynolds Stadium will serve as the site for the four-team Stillwater Regional, Friday-Monday.
The Big 12 title will only enhance an argument for a national seed, which ensures home games to the College World Series as long as they win. The seeds and the rest of the NCAA field will be announced at 11 a.m. Monday on ESPNU.
OSU coach Josh Holliday said he doesn’t worry about things he can’t control but has confidence in the work that the NCAA Tournament selection committee does.
“If our resume kicks out as one of the top eight, then they’ll reward it to us. I think we’ve played pretty good and we’re proud of what we accomplished,” the OSU coach said. “There’s a lot of good teams out there. Those seeds jump pretty quick. I certainly think our kids have proven that we’re one of those good teams. Hopefully we’ll get recognized for that … if that’s a reward for the way we’ve played, then we’ll be very honored to have it.”
The Cowboys played three baseball games in a 26-hour period. In the 27th hour, the players loaded the team bus for victory ice cream promised by Holliday.
“I’m incredibly proud of these kids. It was a kind of a long, grueling tournament to be honest with you. Not in a bad way, but it required us to be on point for a good number of hours each day,” Holliday said. “We played some high-quality teams. Many, many kids stepped forward over the course of the week that allowed this to happen.”
Saturday night’s stormy weather in the Oklahoma City area postponed a likely 10:15 p.m. start against TCU to 9 a.m. Sunday at Bricktown Ballpark.
Instead of being miserable, the Cowboys bonded over the schedule change.
“That’s one of the most chemistry, team-building things that I’ve been a part of,” said Colin Simpson, who was named the tournament’s MVP. “I’ve played a lot of doubleheaders here and those doubleheaders just bring everything together. It takes every single guy in the dugout and every single guy in the bullpen to win those doubleheaders. That’s one of the best team-building things that I’ve been part of.”
The Cowboys rallied in the 10th inning, when Alix Garcia’s two-out, walk-off single provided the winning margin in a 7-6 triumph over the Frogs.
OSU pitching coach Rob Walton then plotted the Cowboys’ course to a championship, Holliday said.
To get to the title game, he put together his most-rested arms —Jake Lyons, Logan Gragg, Brady Basso and Peyton Battenfield — in the TCU victory.
Thirty minutes later, Walton handed the ball to redshirt freshman Brett Standlee, who hadn’t pitched since a May 12 game at Oklahoma.
How did the Jenks High School graduate respond? The right-hander tied a career-high with seven innings of work while scattering seven hits and striking out three for the win.
“We used pretty much every arm in the bullpen before that game so I knew I was going to have to go as long as I could,” Standlee said. “I wouldn’t say there was a ton of pressure because we have a great offense and guys were swinging it well. I knew if I could go out there and compete as well as I can and keep them off the scoreboard, we would be all right.”
Said Holliday: “Brett Standlee might be a totally different pitcher for the rest of his career because of what just happened on that field. That might springboard him forward and allow him to climb and believe in himself.”
The Cowboys trailed 1-0 when a big fifth inning set up the victory. Simpson drew a bases loaded walk to tie the game at 1 and set the stage for Navigato.
The Oklahoma State shortstop laced a shot off the left-field wall — just missing a home run by inches — to score two runs. Simpson was gunned down at the plate to end the inning. OSU held a 3-1 lead.
OSU scored two insurance runs in the eighth inning when Carson McCusker and Garcia had RBI singles.
There will always be critics of conference tournaments, especially with the NCAA Tournament just days away.
OSU will always play to win, Holliday said.
“You never shy away from a chance to capture a moment in athletics. My gosh, you know how hard it is to get to the finals of this tournament? Why wouldn’t you want to win the damn thing?” Holliday said. “I say that because that’s what we’re trying to teach them — play every single pitch the right way and never take your eye off the moment.
“Keep doing it and you might wake up and be ultimately where you want to be.”
OKLAHOMA STATE 5, WEST VIRGINIA 2
WVU 001 000 001 — 2 8 2
OSU 000 030 02X — 5 6 0
Snyder, Jeffrey (4), Reid (5), Kessler (6), Helverson (8) and Gonzalez Standlee, Basso (8), Battenfield (8) and Simpson. W: Standlee (3-1). L: Jeffrey (0-1). Save: Battenfield (3).
OKLAHOMA STATE 7, TCU 6
TCU 001 301 000 1 — 6 13 5
OSU 220 001 000 2 — 7 11 0
Eissler, King (3), Green (7), Coughlin (10) and Humphreys Lyons, Gragg (4), Basso (7), Battenfield (9) and Simpson. HR: Henry (6) Cabbiness (7). W: Battenfield (4-3). L: Coughlin (2-1).