OKLAHOMA CITY – There was no dogpile.
There was simply a large huddle of excited, jumping Cowboys.
Oklahoma State’s 5-2 victory over West Virginia in the Big 12 Tournament Championship game Sunday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark had a much milder celebration than the one it had two years ago when it won it as the No. 8 seed.
Yet, the championship didn’t mean any less to the Cowboys and their coach Josh Holliday.
“I’m incredibly proud of these kids,” Holliday said. “It was a long, grueling tournament, to be honest with you, not in a bad way, but in the way it requires us to be on point for a good number of hours each day. … This is a special group of kids. I’ve enjoyed them immensely. They enjoy each other.”
OSU senior Colin Simpson was named the Most Outstanding Player of this year’s Big 12 Tournament. After the win, he said he wasn’t the only Cowboy who deserved the honor.
“It means a lot,” Simpson said. “I don’t think I should be the only one to win it. … It feels great to receive the award, but there were more kids on our team definitely capable of receiving the award.”
Simpson did play catcher for both OSU games Sunday – catching 19 innings on the day. The Cowboys beat TCU, 7-6, in 10 innings to begin the day with a game that was postponed from Saturday night because of inclement weather.
Just 30 minutes after the emotional, come-from-behind win over TCU, the Cowboys (36-18) were back on the field to face a WVU squad that knocked off No. 1 seed Texas Tech on Saturday night with a combined one-hit performance from its pitching staff.
With available pitchers dwindling during the long weekend, the Cowboys turned to the redshirt freshman from Jenks – Brett Standlee. A weekend starter throughout the season, the situation didn’t bother the 6-foot-4 righthander.
“We used pretty much every arm in the bullpen before that game, so I knew I was going to have go to as long as I could,” Standlee said. “I wouldn’t say there was a ton of pressure, because I know we’ve got a great offense and the guys were swinging it well. So, I knew if I just go out there and compete as hard as I can and keep them off the scoreboard, we’d be all right.”
Standlee shined Sunday. He threw seven innings and allowed seven hits, only one run and two walks. He only struck out three batters, but he gave his offense a chance to win the game.
The run came in the third inning, which began with a single and two bunt singles. The Mountaineers (37-20) hit into a double play, but a run scored.
“It was a huge momentum changer for us,” Standlee said of the double play. “I was just trying to keep the damage as little as I could, so it was great to have a double play.”
WVU didn’t score again until the ninth inning. A double and two groundouts allowed that run to score on Peyton Battenfield, who earned his third save of the season.
The OSU bats took a while to get going, but they eventually came through. In the fifth inning, Jake Taylor earned a one-out walk. Two batters later, Hueston Morrill was hit on the hand by a pitch before Christian Funk was walked to load the bases for Simpson.
The power hitter with 15 home runs wasn’t given a chance to blow the game opener as he earned an RBI walk. However, Andrew Navigato followed with a shot to the left-field wall that was a foot or less from being a grand slam.
Instead it was a two-run double for Navigato. He had given the Cowboys a 3-1 lead.
“I knew that he was kind of wild, so I was looking for one pitch,” Navigato said. “He threw me a ball, so I knew he’d come after me now, so I put a good swing on it. I wish it went over. I got the job done.”
“Weight room,” Simpson replied to Navigato in the postgame press conference, joking with him.
OSU added a pair of runs in the eighth inning, and again did it with two outs. Navigato singled, and two batters later, Carson McCusker hit a two-out, RBI single that scored Navigato and allowed McCusker to take second base.
Alix Garcia followed with an RBI single – his second of the day – to score McCusker. Garcia hit the walk-off single to give the Cowboys their win over TCU in the first game of the day.
Garcia was also vital in the field. The OSU first baseman scooped a handful of throws out of the dirt for outs.
“He’s quietly sat down the order and collected countless big, two-out RBI base hits,” Holliday said. “He’s done it really throughout the past five or six weeks a lot. He’s picked the ball at first base well. He’s really improved. Coach (James) Vilade has worked hard with him. He was not a good first baseman when he got here, but he’s become one and the kid deserves a lot of credit for that.”
The Cowboys now await their NCAA Tournament fate. The 16 tournaments hosts were announced by the NCAA on Sunday night with Allie P. Reynolds Stadium selected as a regional site.