2013 OPENING DAY: 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19 vs. Alcorn State.
2012 RECORD: 32-25 (13-11 Big 12)
KEY LOSSES: LHP Andrew Heaney, INF Hunter Bailey and INF Mark Ginther.
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: INF Robbie Rea, OF Jarrett Higgins and RHP Jason Hursh.
FIVE THOUGHTS LOOKING AHEAD:
1. It’s a new era of Cowboy baseball, as Holliday enters his first season as head coach. Holliday is the brother of MLB All-Star Matt Holliday and the son of former OSU baseball coach Tom Holliday.
2. The changes don’t stop with Holliday. He brought with him a top-notch coaching staff, including pitching coach Rob Walton (former head coach at Oral Roberts) and assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Marty Lees (former Oregon State associate head coach).
3. The Big 12 has three teams ranked in the preseason Top-25 rankings (Texas, TCU and Oklahoma).
4. The Cowboys lost their ace Andrew Heaney (the ninth overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft to the Miami Marlines), but gain a potential Friday starter in Jason Hursh. Hursh missed last season as a sophomore with Tommy John surgery but says he’s stronger than ever post-rehab. Hursh was drafted in the sixth round of the MLB draft out of high school, and has serious potential.
5. Keep an eye on freshman infielder Donnie Walton, son of pitching coach Rob Walton. A highly touted prep prospect out of Tulsa, he has a chance to make an instant impact.
Q&A WITH HEAD COACH JOSH HOLLIDAY:
You’re a few months in to your first head coaching job, how does it feel?
Holliday: I’m nervous a little bit, to be honest with you. I’m excited about all of the things we’ve got to make sure are in play, so that this first trip, this first experience as a group goes the way you want it to. It’s human nature. It’s kind of like waiting for the arrival of your first child, you know? It’s kind of exciting, yet nerve-wracking at the same time. You don’t want to mess anything up. But I’ve got a great staff. I trust those guys to the last degree. I lean on those guys who have had great experiences in their pasts. That’s one of the strengths of this program – the fact that we have a group of coaches that are very much connected and very much in tune with one another … I feel good about what we’re doing. We’re ready.
What’s surprised you most about your experience as head coach so far?
Holliday: Just how important everything is. How important it is to take care of your players. How important it is to care about your fans. How important it is to reach out and communicate with alumni. How important it is to prepare every single day, for every person who cares about what’s going on with OSU baseball. I ultimately have that responsibility and I love it, because I care about this program so much that I want to make sure that anybody who has an interest in what we’re doing matters to us. And just trying to balance that – knowing what days you can put yourself out there and what days you have to say I’ve got to get ready for what’s going on, on the field.
How do you replace an ace like Andrew Heaney?
Holliday: I think you don’t replace Andrew Heaney, you just hope pitchers throughout your staff elevate their own games individually. Then you hope over that staff, there’s quality innings that are absorbed by other guys. Could one person do that? Never. Andrew was maybe the best pitcher in college baseball last season. He certainly dominated if you look at his numbers.
Who are some newcomers on this team that could make an instant impact?
Holliday: I like Donnie Walton (1B) as a freshman. I like Corey Hassell (OF/2B) as a freshman. They both have worked hard and they both figure into our plan. Alex Hackerott is a freshman (left-handed) pitcher from Sand Springs that’s throwing the ball really well. He figures to get some opportunities early. As far as new faces and new guys to the program, I think Nick Dolsky is a right-handed pitcher people will enjoy watching. Tyler Nurdin (Soph, LHP) was here last year, but didn’t compete … He’s really throwing the ball well for us so far. Tanner Krietmeier (Junior, 1B/RHP) is a first-year guy that you’re going to see on the field that is an exciting player. I think he brings a level of toughness to the team. He was part of a junior college national championship last year. He understands what we’re trying to do here in terms of winning.
Jason Hursh said this team is much closer on and off the field compared to last season. How important is that for your team’s success this year?
Holliday: I’m glad to know he said that. I hope these guys like each other. We’ve talked a lot about being a team and what it means to be a team. But just because you talk about something doesn’t necesarrily mean it occurs. So I like to think that they see themselves that way. And I hope they like each other, because one of the greatest experiences of my lifetime was being on a connected team – a team that cared about each other, played to win and had pride in what the program stood for. That’s really important. Can it go along way? You better believe it.