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February 28, 2013

Oklahoma State baseball hope to cool off hot-hitting UC-Davis

STILLWATER, Okla. — Baseball is a game of repetitiveness and habits. So when something like a snowstorm blows through the Oklahoma plains, forcing the Oklahoma State baseball team to cancel its games with Arkansas-Little Rock, it might throw a kink into the daily rituals of a baseball player.

Unless you play for Oklahoma State.

“It didn’t really snow as much as we thought,” Oklahoma State sophomore pitcher Jason Hursh said. “(Coach) Josh (Holliday) actually told us that no matter how much it snows, we were going to be there the next morning pushing snow off the field. We were going to play this weekend no matter what.

“We got some great practice in the indoor and our hitters got to swing the bats a little bit and our pitchers got to keep throwing, so itt didn’t really kill our vibe too much. If anything it kind of let our bodies catch up with what they’ve been through the last couple of weeks.”

Now the Cowboys (7-1) are hoping that unexpected rest pays off as the host the University of California-Davis for a three-game series, Friday at 3 p.m. at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.

“It’s all how you look at it,” Holliday said. “We chose to view this week as kind of an opportunity to attack some areas that we needed to get better at. We viewed the snow as a blessing. It gave us a little bit more practice time, it allowed us to hunker down academically with some midterms coming up.

“When you have games taken away, you gain some chances to train. So we just tried to train at a very high level and we just tried to focus on some things the first eight games revealed to us.”

Oklahoma State comes in winning its last five games, albeit two of those wins were the come-from-behind variety.

And while UC-Davis may not look like a team that could give the Cowboys much trouble with a 5-4 record, the Aggies have proven that they have what it takes to put up some runs — even in the frigid temperatures that are expected in Stillwater this weekend.

“They’re obviously a very good offensive team,” Holliday said. “Their team batting average would reveal that to you. I think they’re hitting in the .330s or .340s already. ... They’ve played eight games against two Pac-12 opponents — four with Washington and four with Utah. So any time a team comes out and plays quality opponents and puts a good offensive effort together, it tells you that they’re coming out of the gates very aggressive. They’re a very solid team that we’ll have to play well to beat.”

Led by a pair of .400 hitters in Evan Heptig and Nick Lynch, the Aggies are hitting .335 as a team. But it’s that aggressive nature that Hursh and the Oklahoma State pitchers hope to exploit during the series.

“You just have to go out, hit your spots and execute your pitches,” Hursh said. “I don’t know what kind of pitching competition they’ve seen, but that is a very high average. As a pitcher, you just have to handle the things that you control and that’s putting the pitches where they need to be, throwing the right pitches on the right counts and getting guys out. I think we’ll be able to handle it.”

Even if the Cowboys do fall behind — which seems likely, given UC-Davis’ offensive firepower — Hursh said he feels confident in the Cowboys’ offense, despite not having faced any live pitching in a week.

“It’s good knowing that your team can comeback no matter what,” Hursh said. “It helps knowing that your team has it in them to always comeback and always fight and never keel over  and let the other team win — it’s awesome. Hopefully, we can just keep bringing that into this weekend as well.”

Oklahoma State has become the comeback Cowboys during the early part of this season, but Holliday is hopeful that they won’t have to continue to rely on late rallies to keep the wins coming.

“The momentum of a comeback win is just something that you keep on the shelf and when you need that ingredient you look back and know it’s there,” Holliday said. “It doesn’t necessarily do anything for you going into the next game. ... But as far as carrying momentum into the next series, that momentum starts when the first pitch is thrown. It’s our job to prepare in the days leading up to that first pitch to make sure we’re ready.”

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