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Oklahoma State baseball: How O'Brate Stadium is giving Cowboys an early advantage

Oklahoma State coach Josh Holliday, pictured in 2019, realizes how precious baseball is after the pandemic ended the season early last year. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma State coach Josh Holliday, pictured in 2019, realizes how precious baseball is after the pandemic ended the season early last year. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

STILLWATER — The COVID-19 pandemic abruptly ended Oklahoma State’s baseball season last March with the Cowboys riding high.

They were on a five-game winning streak just nine days before the grand opening of O’Brate Stadium.

OSU was 13-5 and coach Josh Holliday was pleased with the team’s progress.

That makes next week’s season opener even more meaningful.

“All the excitement about the season is good,” Holliday said. “From being back on campus second semester to being in the facility to being re-engaged with competition as a group and looking forward to playing again.

"All these things are positive. They make you feel whole and alive again, especially last spring, summer when the opportunity to compete was not there. You realize how precious that is.”

OSU opens the season Friday, Feb. 19, at Sam Houston for a three-game series. The Cowboys’ unveiling of the new stadium is Tuesday, Feb. 23, when they host Arkansas-Little Rock.

Here are four takeaways from Tuesday’s opening media session:

O’Brate’s advantage

It’s likely that the Cowboys are stuck working out indoors the next 10 days or so with the temperature feeling more like the North Pole than Oklahoma.

And that’s not as big of an issue in O’Brate Stadium. The indoor facilities are spacious, heated and well lit.

“That’s obviously a luxury,” Holliday said. “It’s something that we don’t take for granted. From that standpoint, we’re really enjoying the space, the flexibility of the space and it allows us to stay on schedule. Definitely a huge perk of this beautiful facility.”

Holliday said small groups began rotating through the indoor facilities for workouts at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

And in a pandemic season, workouts have been different. OSU has had a handful of full-squad workouts with scrimmages.

The Cowboys have also had short workouts. For example, a pitcher might workout for an hour and leave after getting in his bullpen and workouts.

“I’ve had to learn to be OK with that,” Holliday said. “So much of the team and the baseball experience is the time spent together. At times this year, we’ve had to stay away from that for safety.

“But the work has been good. The team has been together on certain days of the week when it makes sense, and typically that’s an outside day when being outside is the safest way to play baseball and all be here at the same time.”

Drillers aid Cowboys

Due to the pandemic, summer college baseball leagues were limited.

The Tulsa Drillers became a lifesaver for many players, including several Cowboys, with the Texas Collegiate League.

Five OSU players were on the roster — Cade Cabbiness, Max Hewitt, Bryce Osmond, Kale Davis and Hueston Morrill. Osmond had a breakout summer and was one of the best pitchers in the league.

And the players got a chance to work extensively with Tom Holliday and Mickey Tettleton, who coached the team.

“It definitely helped to not get me out of touch with the game,” Cabbiness said. “We ended in March, so there was a good stretch there where it was up to you whether or not you got any ABs or able to go hit anywhere.”

“So, when that opportunity presented itself, it was something you jumped on real quick. I didn’t want to not be playing baseball for that long, especially if I was going to be coming back this year.”

Hewitt now full-time catcher

Last season, Max Hewitt was a breakout star.

He batted .410, which was second in the Big 12. He also played second base and catcher outside of being the designated hitter three times.

Don’t expect him to play much second base this spring.

Holliday said Hewitt is playing catcher 99% of the time in practice.

“I feel really good about it,” Hewitt said. “We’re a year into this catching deal now. I’ve just had more time to pour into the fundamentals and the art of catching. I feel really good about it going into this year.”

Hewitt said his receiving improved after playing for the Drillers and working with Tettleton, a former big-league catcher.

A deep roster

The pandemic led the NCAA to expand rosters, and it benefits the Cowboys.

Last season, they had a veteran team and that’s no different this spring with the return of the majority of the roster.

The entire weekend rotation — Parker Scott, Justin Campbell and Osmond — return. Hewitt, Cabbiness, Carson McCusker, Alix Garcia and Morrill all return. So does versatile pitcher Brett Standlee.

Mix in Caeden Trenkle, who ended the season with a seven-game hitting streak, and a freshman class featuring two-way star Nolan McLean, and the Cowboys have a ton of talent.

“I’m excited about all of them,” Holliday said, “and I mean that because you never know sometimes going into a season who’s going to emerge, you never know how a kid’s going to react to competition.

“I think we’ll need our entire roster to be locked in, in order to get through the year just following the football and basketball seasons and the well publicized stops and starts and roster challenges that all the sports have faced.”

Jacob Unruh

Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the... Read more ›