Cowboys hoping to carry momentum into Bedlam series

Jason Elmquist/Stillwater News Press Oklahoma State’s Joe Lienhard, second from right, and his Cowboy teammates hope to continue their recent success against in-state rival Oklahoma this weekend. The series begins at 7:05 p.m. Friday in Tulsa and continues in Oklahoma City on Saturday and in Norman on Sunday. The Cowboys have won eight-straight games over the Sooners.

STILLWATER, Okla. — Less than 24 hours after coaching his Oklahoma State baseball team to biggest weekend sweep of the season, Josh Holliday was back at home enjoying time with family.

He did that as the Bedlam series with in-state rival Oklahoma hangs in the balance just a few days away.

The seventh-year OSU coach was sitting with family in a place he spent many hours as a youth growing up in Stillwater – Couch Park. The Stillwater High graduate played many games on that baseball diamond, but Monday, he was watching the game from a different perspective.

He was playing his role as uncle to his nephew, SHS freshman Jackson Holliday, and brother to Matt Holliday, an assistant coach on the SHS baseball team.

He watched Jackson accomplish something he didn’t do as a Pioneer. Holliday watched Stillwater defeat Enid and clinch a berth in the state tournament.

“It was awesome,” Holliday said. “That was actually a pretty cool thing to see – go to Couch Park and watch my nephew play. Obviously, it’s my high school and that was pretty cool. It was a great game. It’s neat for our family to all be together – my dad, mom, my brother and his wife and all their kids and my wife and all our kids just out there together watching a high school baseball game. It’s pretty awesome.”

The OSU baseball coach was focused on one thing – enjoying time with his family, which all lives in Stillwater now. He was even hoping to drive to Bixby for the Pioneers’ opening game of the state tournament Thursday afternoon.

That game came a day before Holliday and his Cowboys will be back in the Tulsa area for another key weekend series. The Bedlam series will begin at 7:05 p.m. Friday at ONEOK Field in Tulsa as the Cowboys and Sooners fight for in-state bragging rights.

The penultimate Big 12 Conference series will continue at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City and at 12:05 p.m. Sunday at L. Dale Mitchell Park in Norman.

The Cowboys (28-16 overall, 10-8 Big 12) are fresh off their sweep of previously No. 2 Oregon State in Corvallis, Oregon. It was the first time Oregon State has been swept at home in a nonconference series since 1947, according to Holliday.

That came after a weekend where the Cowboys were swept at Texas Tech, which followed a home weekend where OSU swept Texas. Following the three wins over Oregon State, the Cowboys jumped to No. 16 in the polls and No. 11 in the RPI.

“It proved a lot – more about to us as a group – how important it is to be strong minded and not let previous results dictate your future, whether good or bad,” Holliday said. “Had a tough weekend the weekend before and then bounced back and had a great weekend.

“… Obviously, the wins are big in the grand scheme of things, but the bounce back, the toughness and the decision to let go of the disappointment is a step in the right direction, and it’s also a big part of maturing and growing up.”

This week, leading up to the Bedlam series, has been finals week at OSU, which has made scheduling practice difficult, along with the rain. Yet, Holliday has remained upbeat about his team’s preparation for the Sooners.

“This is one of those weeks where you have to be flexible with your kids – make sure you allow them time to study and keep them fresh,” Holliday said. “I’m glad it’s an OU series after exams, because that immediately pulls your focus back together and the adrenaline that kicks when you go travel and play in big venues in front of big crowds I think will help get the kids back in the moment. You just work around exams, keep the kids fresh and try to stay sharp.”

Lopsided series

Holliday is 21-6 against the Sooners (30-18, 8-10) since he was hired in 2012. His Cowboys have won the past eight games, with their last loss coming May 15, 2016, in the final game of the weekend series. The two rivals split the four games in 2016.

Last year, OSU won all four games by an average of 7.5 runs per game. The closest game was a 7-1 win. In 2017, the Cowboys won all three games. The Cowboys needed to win the final two games of that Bedlam series to clinch a spot in the Big 12 tournament.

Dinger disparity

While the Cowboys and Sooners have similar records, they’ve gone about their season in different ways, especially at the plate. The Cowboys have blasted 62 home runs this season, while OU has hit only 22. The 62 home runs leads the conference by 13.

OSU junior Trevor Boone has 16 home runs this season, which also leads the conference. Andrew Navigato has blasted 11, while Christian Funk has hit nine for the Cowboys.

For the Sooners, Tyler Hardman leads the team with five home runs. Brady Lindsly, Brylie Ware and Cade Cavalli each have four on the season.

Possible pitchers

The Cowboys have started the same three pitchers the past three weekends. It’s begun with Jensen Elliott (6-3, 4.24 earned run average) in the opener, followed by Parker Scott (2-1, 1.65 ERA) and Brett Standlee (2-1, 4.00 ERA).

For the Sooners, last weekend’s starters were Nathan Wiles (7-2, 3.81 ERA), Levi Prater (6-4, 2.45 ERA) and Ben Abram (6-2, 3.66 ERA). Cavalli (5-2, 3.10 ERA) has also started 10 games on the bump. Jaret Godman – two starts – is the only other pitcher to start a game this spring.

Gillispie writes for Stillwater News Press, a CNHI News Service publication.