This 2020 season will surely be a year of change for Oklahoma State. Not just the usual rollover of the players from year to year but also a new influx of high-celebrity assistant coaches — not to mention a brand new home for the Cowboys to play in.
In other words, it’s a whole new ballgame in Stillwater.
One thing that won’t change for the Orange & Black: They’ll still win. While there is some turnover in the roster, plenty of new blood will step into roles and keep the winning tradition chugging along.
Last year, the Pokes won their third Big 12 Tournament title in Josh Holliday’s seven years. And, as usual, the boys from Stillwater once again finished their season in the NCAA Tournament after pulling down the No. 9 national seed.
As for this year? Look for more of the same. Just to put you Cowboy fans at ease, here are five (of the many) reasons to look forward to this new campaign.
1. There’s a ‘wow’ factor with this coaching staff.
To say that Holliday added some star power to his coaching staff in the off-season would be a wicked-huge understatement.
First, he hired Washington State head coach Marty Lees back to campus (he was an assistant with the Cowboys from 2013-’15). Then, a couple of huge splashes were announced when former big leaguers Matt Holliday (newly retired seven-time MLB All-Star — and Matt’s brother) and former Cowboy Hall of Famer Robin Ventura joined the staff.
Meanwhile, the mound corps will still have the steady hand of Rob Walton to steer them once again.
Okay sure, these guys aren’t trotting out on the field themselves, but when you say that the players will be mentored by former players and coaches who have been at the highest level of the sport, it’s gold.
Can you imagine the impact these guys will have on future recruiting classes?
2. This group of seniors is legit.
The Pokes will have a lot of senior leadership to lean on this season, which any coach will tell you is a big deal in the college game.
The top returning hitters are Carson McCusker (.311-6-40), Max Hewitt (.303) and Alix Garcia (.294-8-25), who are all seniors.
On the mound, RHPs Ben Leeper (3-3, 3.77) and C.J. Varela (42 appearances, 15 starts in three years) have a ton of experience as well. And don’t sleep on outfielder Cade Cabbiness, who hit just .234 last year, but did blast eight home runs and has over 100 career starts to his credit.
3. Experienced reinforcements have joined the fold.
Oklahoma State gets a particular shot in the arm for this upcoming season thanks to an influx of transfers from some solid programs.
Third baseman Jake Thompson (Kentucky), catcher Brock Mathis (LSU) and C/DH Nick Denicola (West Virginia) have each made their way to Stillwater — and will each be positioned to make an impact in 2020.
Thompson and Mathis are expected to take over starting roles as both enter their junior year in new surroundings. While Thompson redshirted at UK, Mathis started 40 games behind the dish for the Tigers last year.
Denicola hit .430 with 13 home runs at Paris JC in Texas after playing in 12 games at WVU in 2018.
4. Holliday landed another top-flight recruiting class.
Staying on the subject of incoming players, the new class is another well-regarded collection of freshman and juco talent.
Five freshmen are projected to be starters for the Cowboys — two of them in the batting order in centerfielder Caeden Trenkle, who is a blur in the meadow and on the basepaths, and Blake Robertson, a 26th round draft pick of the Twins out of high school who could be the opening day DH.
Three fresh-outta-high-school pitchers are contending for weekend spots in RHPs Bryce Osmond (35th round pick, Nationals), Justin Campbell (18th round pick, Astros) and Kale Davis (The Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year).
The Cowboys also had the eighth-ranked junior college recruiting class in the country — the crown jewel of which was Kaden Polcovich, who is slated for starting duty at second base.
Polcovich comes in as one of the highest-regarded transfers in the country after hitting 12 home runs and stealing 17 bases at Northwest Florida State last season. The coaching staff feels like he could be a top five round draft pick this coming June and D1Baseball rated him the seventh-best pro prospect at second base.
5. O’Brate is going to be O’Great.
After 43 years of playing at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium, the program will take a significant step up midway through this season as they christen O’Brate Stadium on March 20 in their Big 12 opener vs. TCU.
This state-of-the-art facility was built at a cost of $60 million, $35 million of which was donated by alum Cecil O’Brate.
The new home of the Pokes will have all the whistles and bells, including 11 high-dollar suites, 400 premium seats, a 7,400-square-foot locker room and player lounge and expandable seating for up to 8,000 fans.
Though the college baseball community was abuzz over last year’s opening of Mississippi State’s updated Dudy Noble Field, this one will certainly rival any cathedral in our sport.