Feb. 10, 2012
Oklahoma State baseball will have a new look in 2012, and it's not just because of the recently added signage on the outfield walls at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.
Of the 35 players on the Cowboy roster this season, 25 of them have never taken the field in an OSU uniform.
However, coach Frank Anderson's ballclub does have a talented core of veterans returning from a 2011 squad that went 35-25 and advanced to the NCAA Nashville Regional.
Among the OSU returners are four position starters, including All-Big 12 Second Team performers Jared Womack and Gabe Weidenaar, while the pitching staff returns seven-game winner Andrew Heaney and several talented relievers.
"Fortunately the 10 that we have returning are 10 that have a pretty good chance to play every day and who have contributed in the past," said Anderson, who is entering his ninth season as OSU's head coach. "But we like our new guys. We've got an influx of freshman with a couple that have a really good chance to start right away. The mix of new guys with the veterans we have returning gives us a pretty strong nucleus."
"For one thing, they know how to practice," Anderson said. "A lot of times in baseball coming out of high school you don't have many kids who have gone through the organized and structured practices. You have to learn how to practice, and those returning guys give us a base to help those younger guys along."
OSU will count on a pair of seniors to provide pop in the middle of the lineup as Womack and Ginther combined for 18 home runs and 79 RBIs a year ago.
"We've got some power with Ginther and Womack, and with guys like Higgins, Cornell and Saxon, we've got the ability to steal a lot of bases," Anderson said. "It's a lineup that has a good combination of things you need to have to be successful."
Fish was a high school All-American who was a 24th-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers, while Green is a versatile player with an impressive grasp of the game.
"They're both athletic kids, and they're both strong," Anderson said of Fish and Green. "As far as the transition physically, they've been able to stay up with everything that we've done.
"Fish, you don't want to put too much on him but he's a tremendous talent and we're expecting good things out of him. Gage's dad was a coach so he has pretty good knowledge, and he doesn't give in ever on anything. He's highly competitive, and you combine that with the fact that he's pretty talented and you've got a pretty good player."
The Cowboys also recruited the junior college ranks hard, signing 16 JUCO players, with Robbie Rea, Victor Romero, Brandon Bass, Aaron Cornell and Jarrett Higgins among those battling for spots in the lineup.
The pitching rotation will be anchored by Heaney, who has 12 career wins for the Cowboys and who is coming off a standout summer in the prestigious Cape Cod League. The junior southpaw is considered the 45th-best prospect for the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft according to Baseball America.
Also returning on the hill are junior Randy McCurry, who has 11 career saves and who will battle for a spot in the starting rotation, along with relievers Barnes, Weidenaar and Vince Wheeland. The rotation did take a hit when sophomore Jason Hursh was lost for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in the offseason.
The Cowboys also added a talented transfer from Arizona State in senior lefty Kyle Ottoson, who should bolster OSU's staff immediately.
"I really like our pitching staff," Anderson said. "It's got some newness to it, but it's got a chance to keep us in most of the games.
"We've got a lot of talented guys in the bullpen, guys with some pretty good arms who have a chance to pitch every day."
Here is a breakdown by position of the 2012 OSU Cowboys.
A trio of Cowboys could see time behind the plate.
Womack was an all-conference performer as a junior after hitting .282 with eight home runs and 46 RBIs, a total that ranked second on the team.
Victor Romero was a JUCO All-American as a sophomore and can hit for average and power.
Green's versatility could see him earn time behind the dish. A two-time All-State performer, he hit .493 as a high school senior.
Several Cowboys will vie to replace Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Zach Johnson at first base.
Rea, an All-American at Cowley County Community College, could play a variety of infield spots and will also see time on the mound.
Weidenaar spent the majority of his time in center field a year ago but saw some action at first and could again.
Rea and Weidenaar could also see time here, while Bass hit .372 with 52 RBIs in leading Iowa Western to the 2010 NJCAA national championship.
Bailey returns to his middle infield spot for his senior season after starting 59 games there a year ago. As a junior, the slick-fielding shortstop also hit .265 and ended the season on a tear, hitting .375 in OSU's last 26 games.
An offseason injury might keep Bailey out of the lineup early and filling that void could be Bass or freshman Mike Bernal, who hit over .400 as a prep senior in El Paso, Texas.
The hot corner will once again be manned by Ginther, who has started every game there in each of the last two seasons. A two-time MLB Draft pick, Ginther is hitting .305 with 27 homers and 110 RBIs in 152 career games for the Cowboys.
Others who could see action at third include Jones and Jordan Mings, an all-conference performer in the JUCO ranks.
The Cowboys' outfield depth should be a strength in 2012.
Fish is a likely starter in right field. In four high school seasons, he hit .438 with 47 home runs, including a senior season that saw him set a state record with 24 round trippers.
Several players will battle for the job in center. Sophomore Saulyer Saxon played in 14 games for the Cowboys a year ago, while JUCO stars Cornell and Higgins look to earn that spot.
Higgins set a school record with 64 stolen bases as a sophomore at San Jacinto Junior College and racked up 112 steals in his two seasons there.
"(Higgins) might be the fastest guy we've ever had in the program," Anderson said. "And he's a baseball guy and not so much an athlete trying to play baseball - he has some baseball skills."
In left field, redshirt junior Trey Whaley, Green and Womack are all in contention for playing time.
Heaney has made 36 appearances and logged over 133 innings in his first two seasons in Stillwater, and the 6-foot-2, 174 pounder now looks to become the ace of the Cowboy pitching staff.
"Now (Heaney) just needs to take it up a notch," Anderson said. "He needs to be able to win the 1-0, 2-1 games like Andy (Oliver) and Tyler (Lyons) have done in the past. Physically, he's capable of doing that."
In Ottoson, the Cowboys have another hurler who has pitched in big games. As a junior at Arizona State, he made 15 appearances and was 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA. The Colorado native is also a four-time MLB Draft pick.
McCurry has appeared in 46 career games on the mound for the Cowboys, with all but four of those in relief. That could change for the junior, who will look to earn a spot in the starting rotation this year. In his first two seasons, McCurry was 6-5 with 11 saves and a 2.54 ERA.
Anderson says JUCO transfer Chase Stevens "may be the most competitive guy we've got on the mound." A right-hander, Stevens was 11-6 in two seasons at Seminole State Junior College and recorded 145 strikeouts in 107 innings of work.
Freshman Jon Perrin, who hails from Olathe, Kan., is another newcomer who has been impressive on the hill.
The Cowboy bullpen appears to have solid depth.
Barnes returns for his senior season after making 23 relief appearances a year ago and going 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA.
Vince Wheeland is also back. As a freshman, the Californian had six outings in relief.
Weidenaar showcased his ability as a two-way player a year ago by posting a 0.42 ERA in 15 appearances. He struck out 18 and allowed only one earned run in 21.2 innings, and opponents hit just .189 against him.
Ginther has appeared in just three games on the mound in his career but could be counted on as another arm in 2012.
Along with his offensive exploits in junior college, Rea was 9-3 on the mound, while fellow JUCO product Kenton Bevacqua helped lead Solano Community College to a pair of conference championships.