Inside the Numbers: OSU’s Big 12 Championship
It was the bottom of the ninth, a tied game with Bedlam-rival Oklahoma. It was a game that showcased what Cowboy baseball did best, sacrifice and battle.
Craig McConaughy got hit by a pitch, and a sacrifice bunt by Aaron Cornell sent him to second. Saulyer Saxon sent a chopper up the middle that was mishandled by Sooner second baseman Kolbey Carpenter and McConaughy came around to score. A 2-1 victory for the Cowboys. A one-run win. A walk-off. A Big 12 Championship.
“You are the undisputed champions of this conference,” OSU head coach Josh Holliday said.
The team finished the season 48-18 (18-6 Big 12). It won the regular season Big 12 Championship, its first since 1996 and first since the Big Eight expanded to the Big 12. Stillwater was home to one of the NCAA Regionals.
The numbers show just how good Oklahoma State was during its championship run.
Oklahoma State exceled with the long ball, hitting 53 home runs—almost one every game. Those numbers put them in the top 10 in the nation.
“Each year, it’s a reflection of what our players are good at,” Holliday said. “We try to let them do the things they’re good at to give us the best chance to win. … As coaches we try to figure out what they’re good at and try to put them in a position to be successful based on their strengths.”
If it couldn’t get a home run, the team usually tried for a walk or a sacrifice bunt, playing small ball to pile up runs.
OSU was second in the nation with 324 walks and third in the nation with 88 sacrifice bunts. The Cowboys led the Big 12 in walks. Holliday said some of that is the players and some is the strategy of the game.
“Certain guys in your lineup … can do your offense a lot of good by making other guys better,” Holliday said. “We had some players who did a really good job of putting guys in position and other guys knocking them in.”
All of those numbers add up to 400 runs for the season—13th best in the nation.
Oklahoma State battled through close games. The Cowboys were 11-1 in one-run games—its only loss came against University of California, Irvine in the NCAA Regional.
“The team pitched and played high-level defense in close games and found ways to get that timely hit and win those one-run games,” Holliday said. “Pitching, defense, offensive execution and clutch hitting. Those are usually the determining factors in those one-run games.”
With 10 teams in the Big 12, Oklahoma State has to prepare for a variety of styles. Some teams focus on home runs as the lifeline; others try to keep the opponents from crossing home plate.
“All of the different programs, their identities are a little varied based on what they’re really good at,” Holliday said. “Some teams have really notable pitching, some teams are real offensive, some teams like to run the bases and bunt and others don’t.”
TCU finished second in the Big 12 during the 2014 season. It relied on its pitching to win games. It ranked sixth in the nation with more than eight strikeouts per game. TCU had the best ERA in the nation at 2.20.
“You know going into those games you’ll need to match them on the mound in order to give yourself a chance so you know you’ve got to pitch well also,” Holliday said. “[You have to] stay tenacious in battling through the game and … try to eventually find that crack and get the necessary runs to come out on top. Those are tough games and they have great pitching, as did Texas.”
Texas perfected small ball, scoring runs with bunting and keeping its opponents off of the scoreboard.
Texas led the nation with 104 sacrifice bunts. On the mound, the Longhorns finished the season with a 2.30 ERA, good for third in the nation. Texas had 13 shutouts.
Texas’ defense was stout behind the mound as well. It averaged more than one double play per game.
Texas Tech took a different approach to win. Its pitching wasn’t as strong, so the Red Raiders had to use their offense to stay ahead of opponents.
Texas Tech hit nearly two doubles every game, ending the season with 125. When the Red Raiders weren’t hitting doubles, they were on their way to third base. Tech finished third in the nation with 25 triples.
With the baseball program becoming more prominent on campus, other programs have been affected as well. The Diamond Dolls work as the marketing and promotions arm of the program. Chelsie Holt, a sports management junior, said the number of applications to join the program exploded this year.
About 70 students applied to join the organization, and 20 were accepted to bring total membership to 40. Holt said the club works to help the baseball program with whatever it needs.
“[Our jobs] include just trying to get the student body to the games because the players really appreciate the support,” Holt said. “We do community service activities, which we’ve gotten a lot more involved with this year. Just supporting the team.”
This year the Diamond Dolls are doing a program called Up ‘til Dawn to support children at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
Kelsi Jones, director of operations for Cowboy baseball, acts as a liaison between the team and the Diamond Dolls. Jones said the program has changed significantly over the past couple of seasons as the team gained prominence.
“When it first started, there wasn’t a lot of organization and it was a completely student run group,” Jones said. “There wasn’t a lot of interaction between the baseball program and the group itself. Now, it’s more focused on the marketing and promotions to other students. Because that’s been a big issue—getting students to the games.”
Jones said the Diamond Dolls are some of the most recognizable people at the games.
“I don’t want to say they are the face of the program, but to some people they are,” Jones said. “They’re greeting people when they walk into the stadium at the game, they’re throwing T-shirts out. The players are in uniform so you don’t know who’s who, but the girls are someone you can put a face with.”
Holliday said the Diamond Dolls are a crucial part of the baseball program. The Diamond Dolls are at all of the home games and travel to some of the away games to support the team.
With a Big 12 Championship under its belt, the Cowboys will be looking to add more fireworks this year.
Two returning players look to add excitement on the diamond. Gage Green, an outfielder, and Donnie Walton, shortstop, tied for second on the team in runs scored with 45. Walton led the team with 78 hits and 22 sacrifice bunts.
Green stood in the box, getting hit by the pitch 15 times. He also led the team with 20 stolen bases.
These players represent the diversity the Cowboys have on the roster. The team is ready to try to defend its Big 12 Championship.
“I think we’ve done a good job of celebrating that moment but also recognizing that that’s in the past and we have a new season to attack and a new team to build,” Holliday said. “We’re proud of what’s happened here before.
“But we also realize it’s a new season, and there’s absolutely an open book as to how this season can play out so it’s our job now to make sure we do our part to write that story much like we did a year ago.
“We know how to get there, but that can only serve as a road map. It’s by no means a guarantee that you can just expect from one year to the next.”