By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Last season, Oklahoma State pitcher Jason Hursh sat idly in the Cowboys’ dugout as Andrew Heaney had one of the best years ever for a pitcher in an Oklahoma State uniform.
Now a year after having surgery, Hursh has taken over Heaney’s spot. And while his numbers aren’t quite up to Heaney caliber, they aren’t far off.
“There’s so much pressure following a guy like that,” Hursh said. “I’d love to fill his shoes, but it’s almost impossible. I just have to get better. It would be awesome to put up Heaney-like numbers, but right now I’m just focusing on getting better with each start.”
Coming into the four-game weekend series against Iona (2-13) — which begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium — Hursh (1-0) ranks eighth in the Big 12 Conference with a 2.00 ERA and is a big reason for Oklahoma State’s early-season success.
“It’s huge having a guy like Jason who can come back from an injury and pitch well every Friday night,” Oklahoma State coach Josh Holliday said. “I really like all the different guys that have been on the mound for us. We’re starting to develop a nice rotation with right- and left-handed options. … I like that we’re moving in that direction and it all starts with the clutch pitching that we’ve been getting from our starters.”
It hasn’t been an easy road back to the top for Hursh. Much like the Oklahoma State season so far, Hursh has been through some highs and lows following surgery.
But it’s through those rocky times that Hursh and the Cowboys (13-3) began to develop the never-say-die attitude that has led to three walk-off wins in the past week.
“After surgery it was tough,” Hursh said. “You feel good and you think as soon as you step on the mound that you’re going to be back to your old self again. I had to get a lot of the kinks out. I had rust in some spots.”
Make no mistake, even Hursh said he’s far from being a finished product. He continues to work on his change-up and slider every day in practice.
“I’ve been really trying to get my off-speed stuff back,” Hursh said. “I have some of it, but it isn’t quite to the level where I’d like it to be. I’ve been working on my slider and just trying to get a feel for it. I’m hoping that will help me get hitters off balance and it will lead to a little more success.”
No doubt Hursh may be willing to test that off-speed stuff a little more this weekend against an Iona team that’s hitting .229 as a team and comes in with a seven-game losing streak.
“Right now, we’re just working on some of the little things,” Holliday said. “When you get to this point in the season, it isn’t about beating the other team — it’s about getting yourself ready for the rest of the season. Obviously, you’d love to win every game you play, but right now we’re focused on fine-tuning some things and making sure that we’re moving in the right direction.”
As for Hursh, he’s hoping just to avoid another no decision and pick up his second win of the season this weekend.
“Yeah, I have had a little bit of hard luck, but I’m also partly to blame for that,” Hursh said. “If I keep teams scoreless, then we wouldn’t have to come back and I might have a couple more wins. But honestly, it doesn’t matter to me whether or not I get the win so long as we win as a team.”