Feb. 12, 2013
The second Josh Holliday era begins at Oklahoma State in 2013.
A former star player for the Cowboys, Holliday took over as OSU’s head coach in June.
“We’re excited to get this thing going, and we know we face some challenges,” Holliday said. “We’re looking to find the right mix of players that complement each other and put them in position to be successful.
“We’ve got to re-establish our pitching staff with some guys that are coming off injury and some guys that have no experience at this level. But we’re optimistic about the potential of some of these guys and the progress they’ve made.
“Offensively, we want to take the strengths of our current players and put them in positions to utilize those strengths. When you look at our lineup, you see some guys with some speed, see some guys with some bat control, you see some guys with power. So you’re trying to let each player attack the game inside his strengths, and you hope that what that ends up creating is a good, balanced offensive attack.
“We’re going to play good, solid fundamental baseball and use guys to put as many quality at-bats together as possible back-to-back-to-back-to-back. We want to be aggressive and run the bases as much as we possibly can.”
Here is a breakdown by position of the 2013 OSU Cowboys.
A number of Cowboys will battle for playing time behind the dish.
“The catching position is one that has a lot of good competition,” Holliday said. “Those guys have improved and will need to continue to grow as the season goes on.”
Just one player returns with any catching experience, that being senior Victor Romero. The California native played in 24 games last season and made five starts behind the plate.
Junior Rick Stover joined the Cowboys last year after a successful JUCO career but redshirted.
Another who is in the mix at catcher is sophomore Gage Green. As a freshman, Green played in 31 games and became a regular starter in left field late in the year. The new coaching staff moved Green to catcher in the fall believing he has the potential to win the job.
A trio of Cowboys are trying the win the job at first base.
Tanner Krietemeier began his career at Nebraska before earning JUCO All-America honors at Iowa Western Community College last season. The switch-hitting junior had an impressive fall, showcasing power from both sides of the plate.
A pair of Cowboy veterans are also in the mix at first. Trey Whaley earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors as an outfielder a year ago but could make a move to the infield, while the versatile Randy McCurry has experience.
With All-Big 12 performer Robbie Rea making the move to the hot corner, the Cowboys will have a new second baseman this season.
Yet another newcomer will be manning the middle of the infield for the Cowboys in freshman Donnie Walton. A 36th-round draft pick of the New York Mets last June, Walton proved a model of consistency with both his glove and bat in the fall.
Walton underwent minor knee surgery during the winter, and McConaughy and Bass provide depth to the position if needed.
Robbie Rea’s transition from the junior college to the Division I level was highly successful in 2012 as he earned All-Big 12 Second Team honors by hitting a team-high .324 and ranking in the top 10 in the conference in hits and doubles.
The Cowboys hope Rea can make another positive transition as a senior, this one as he moves from second base to third base, and Holliday said Rea’s presence has been huge on an infield of unknowns.
“It’s stabilized our infield defense and given us a very good defender at third who can captain our infield in terms running our bunt defenses and providing us an older player with a strong and stable mind at the position,” Holliday said.
The Cowboys’ outfield depth should be a strength in 2013 as OSU returns a veteran group of six players that started games in the outfield last season.
In center field, senior Jarrett Higgins has looked impressive coming off a season in which he led OSU with 17 stolen bases despite being limited to just 35 games due to injury.
“(Higgins) has worked extremely hard and invested a lot, and he profiles extremely well in center field because of his speed, his arm and his instincts,” Holliday said. “We like him very much and think he has a chance to really do some big things for us.”
Junior Saulyer Saxon became an outfield starter down the stretch last season and made the most of the opportunity by hitting .299. He and fellow junior Aaron Cornell, along with Gage Green, will battle to hold down the spot in left field. Cornell played in 21 games a year ago, starting nine.
Sophomore Zach Fish started 41 games in his first collegiate season, 29 of those coming in right field. Fish showed flashes of the power that made him a 24th-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers in 2011 and will be among the favorites to win the right field job.
Whaley could also find a home in right, while freshman Blake Brom was a prep star in Texas who will push the veterans.
Pitching was OSU’s strength in 2012, but the majority of that staff, including All-American and first-round Major League Baseball Draft pick Andrew Heaney, are gone.
The Cowboys will attempt to replace that group with a talented but largely unprogven group in 2013.
“When you look at our pitching staff right now, the biggest question is trying to get guys who don’t have a ton of experience at this level molded into a quality pitching staff, one that we can use and put guys in position to be successful, match them up in the right situations, put them in the right roles where they’re comfortable and start to get guys to identify roles and pitch inside of them,” Holliday said. “There’s a lot of unknowns, but at the same time there’s a lot of excitment to see who will handle these opportunities when they’re given.”
The Cowboys are hopeful that sophomore Jason Hursh can step into a role as an ace. After going 1-1 with a 2.73 in 10 appearances as a freshman, the right-hander missed last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
A healthy Hursh, who was a sixth-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010, could have a huge impact on the rotation in 2013.
“(Hursh) appears to be very healthy and is throwing the ball well,” Holliday said. “We’re excited about what he brings to the table in our rotation.”
Another Cowboy coming off an injury that caused him to miss the entire 2012 season is sophomore southpaw Tyler Nurdin. A MLB Draft pick after his only junior college season in 2011, Nurdin will contend for a spot as weekend starter.
Newcomer Nick Dolsky has actually pitched against the Cowboys, that coming in 2011 when he was a redshirt freshman at Nebraska. After winning nine games and tossing four complete games at Des Moines Community College a year ago, the 6-foot-7 righty looks to add another power arm to the OSU rotation.
In veterans Randy McCurry and Vince Wheeland, the Cowboys have a pair of right-handers who can help as starters or out of the bullpen. McCurry has made 61 career appearances and is 10-8 with 11 saves and a 2.89 ERA, while Wheeland was used as a weekend starter in Big 12 play a year ago and was 2-1 with a 4.04 ERA.
Randy McCurry has made 45 relief appearances in his career and ranks fourth on OSU’s career saves lists, and his younger brother, Brendan, is also expected to be a force in the Cowboys’ bullpen in 2013.
Joining that duo are senior Kenton Bevacqua, who was 1-1 with a 1.20 in 12 outings as a junior, and sophomores Kyle Bagnell and Jon Perrin, who combined to pitch in 16 games in their first collegiate seasons.
JUCO transfers Reid Barnett and Shawn Hunter, along with freshman Alex Hackerott, add depth to the rotation, while Holliday believes newcomer Kyle Gehrs has the potential to be a difference maker out of the Cowboy bullpen.
“(Gehrs) had a successful track record in junior college and summer ball as a closer, but he came to us injured and getting him healthy and keeping him healthy is our greatest obstacle,” Holliday said. “Once he gets healthy, he can give us a really good left-handed look.”