By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
There is no way to replace a first-round draft pick in any sport, let alone in college baseball.
But the Oklahoma State University pitching staff will attempt to at least try to find a way to fill the hole left by Andrew Heaney, a left-handed ace who won Big 12 Conference Pitcher of the Year honors last season before being selected by the Miami Marlins with the ninth overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft.
“I’ve seen a lot of really good progress. I don’t think you replace Andrew Heaney, you just hope pitchers throughout your staff elevate their own games, individually,” first-year coach Josh Holliday said.
Heaney isn’t the only pitcher having to be replaced during Holliday’s first head coaching gig at his alma mater. The Cowboys must find a way to make up for the loss of a combined 24 victories registered by pitchers no longer on the roster.
The top returning starter on the mound for OSU is Randy McCurry, who also doubles as a utility player. McCurry had a 3.34 ERA last season with a 4-3 record in 12 starts — the second-most of any Cowboy pitcher behind Heaney.
The biggest obstacle, however, may not necessarily be getting the same production as Heaney, but at least the similar amount of work. Heaney threw more than double the innings of any returning pitcher for OSU with 118.1 innings pitched — including six complete games. McCurry registered just 67.1 innings and junior Vince Wheeland, who started in nine games and had an ERA of 4.04 with just a 2-1 record, is the only other Cowboy besides Heaney to pitch a complete game last year.
“You hope that over the staff there’s quality innings that are absorbed by other guys,” Holliday said. “Could one person do that? Never. Andrew was maybe the best pitcher in college baseball last year, was just dominant when you look at his numbers.
“So you try to develop your staff where six or seven guys absorb 10 or 12 of his innings and give you quality outings. I think that process is well underway.”
One player that will be called upon to help fill the hole left by the Friday starter will be sophomore Jason Hursch, who was a sixth-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010. 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.
“(Pitching coach) Rob Walton has helped a ton and has helped all our pitchers,” Hursch said. “Heaney will be hard to replace, but we definitely have the pitching staff to do it, I believe.”
The Cowboys will begin the process with their pitchers Friday when they open the season on the road at No. 21 New Mexico. The squads will face off in a three-game series, with Friday's game time scheduled for 6 p.m., followed by a 3 p.m. start Saturday and a 2 p.m. first pitch Sunday.