- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 20, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma State has been raking in the honors.

The Cowboys clinched their first Big 12 regular-season baseball title last week. On Tuesday, right fielder Zach Fish was named conference Player of the Year and Josh Holliday was named Coach of the Year.

Oklahoma State might have more big things ahead. The Cowboys open Big 12 tournament play against Oklahoma on Wednesday with a shot at a sweeping the titles.

The Cowboys (41-14, 18-6 Big 12) expects a difficult road because the league is so balanced. Coaches think Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, West Virginia Kansas and Texas should get into the NCAA tournament. They say No. 7 seed Baylor and No. 8 seed Oklahoma are dangerous, too, and that’s why Holliday says the Cowboys can’t get ahead of themselves.

“We’ve got to play well in Game 1,” he said. “That’s where it starts. We’ve been the team all year that’s just tried to go one at a time and play pitch by pitch. I think if we do the little things that we’ve prided ourselves in doing all year, we have a chance to play well, and that’s what we’ll focus on.”

Fish, a junior, ranks in the league’s top 10 in hits, total bases, slugging percentage and home runs.

Holliday said pitching is his team’s strength. Oklahoma State led the Big 12 with a 2.43 earned run average. Jon Perrin and Tyler Buffett have been strong starters during league play.

Reliever Vince Wheeland and closer Brendan McCurry have carried much of the load for Oklahoma State. Wheeland had a 7-0 record in conference play and McCurry tied for the Big 12 lead with eight saves in league play.

“We’ve had a tremendous number of quality innings pitched by our bullpen,” Holliday said. “They’ve done an amazing job from the fifth inning on of bridging the gap to the end and finishing games. You cannot possibly look at our season without acknowledging their work. It’s really the key to our success.”

Oklahoma (28-27, 8-16) won’t go away quietly. The Sooners feature Sheldon Neuse, an All-Conference infielder who was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Oklahoma won the tournament last year and needs to win it all to extend its season.

“The great thing about conference tournament play is you throw away all the arbitrary criteria like RPI and strength of schedule and how many times you play on the road and it’s the team that wins four games that’s going to play in the national tournament,” Oklahoma coach Pete Hughes said. “That’s what we came here for.”

No. 2 seed TCU (38-15, 17-7) finished a game behind the Cowboys in the regular-season. Preston Morrison, who led the Big 12 with a 1.18 ERA in 14 starts, was named the conference Pitcher of the Year. The Horned Frogs finished second with a 2.54 ERA in conference play.

“We can really pitch,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Any time you can pitch and you have some depth of pitching, it’s going to give you a chance to win.”

Though the Horned Frogs led the conference in hitting with a .291 average, they were last in home runs.

“I think you’re going to see a group of guys who play really hard, with a lot of energy,” Schlossnagle said. “We don’t hit the ball out of the ballpark. We’re not an incredibly offensive team. For us to win games, we have to play really sound baseball. We have to throw strikes. We have to make the routine play.”


Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .



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