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OSU baseball: Cowboys bring 1980s style into Big 12 Tournament

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Oklahoma State's Trevor Boone (33) and Bryce Carter (8) celebrate Boone's 18th home run of the season last weekend against Baylor. The Cowboys' powerful lineup is similar to those OSU fielded in the 1980s. [NATE BILLINGS/THE OKLAHOMAN]
Oklahoma State's Trevor Boone (33) and Bryce Carter (8) celebrate Boone's 18th home run of the season last weekend against Baylor. The Cowboys' powerful lineup is similar to those OSU fielded in the 1980s. [NATE BILLINGS/THE OKLAHOMAN]

The simple mention of the idea made Bryce Carter smile.

Of course, it’ll never be more than an idea, a “wouldn’t it be cool if…” thought.

Carter, the Oklahoma State utility player, was asked if he’d like to hit with the more potent aluminum bats college players like OSU legends Pete Incaviglia and Robin Ventura swung when they were terrorizing pitchers in the 1980s.

“Oh, yeah. Everybody would love to go to the plate with those,” Carter said.

Those bats from 1980s and 1990s finally had to be restricted for safety reasons, and college baseball’s power numbers and batting averages dipped.

But this year’s Oklahoma State lineup has resurrected a similar ‘80s flair at the plate as it heads into the Big 12 Conference Tournament at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. OSU is the No. 3 seed, opening against sixth-seeded TCU at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

OSU hit 78 home runs in 49 regular-season games, 25 more than anyone else in the Big 12 Conference, and 23 more than Oklahoma and Texas’ home run totals combined.

All-Big 12 first-team selection Trevor Boone led the league with 18 homers, while the Cowboy trio of Christian Funk, Colin Simpson and Andrew Navigato were tied for third with 12 apiece.

Boone has hit three home runs in a game twice this year, and Funk did it once. The Cowboys hit 12 during a 27-run game at Kansas last month, tied for the fourth-most ever hit by an NCAA team in a single game. Seven different Cowboys homered in that game.

Carter, who had been a staple in the middle of the lineup before missing four weeks with various injuries, hit four homers in 124 at-bats.

“This is a pretty special lineup that we have,” he said. “One through nine can hit the ball out of the yard. We’re never out of a game, because our lineup can keep us in a game, and our pitching staff is really good, too.”

But these Cowboys’ similarities to a 1980s-style squad goes deeper than a lineup full of big hitters.

“The biggest similarity is our mentality,” said senior pitcher Joe Lienhard, whose father, Steve, pitched for the Cowboys when they made three College World Series trips between 1984-87.

“Just going out there and leaving everything on the field. Nowadays, I think teams worry about the wrong things, but we’re really focused on going out there and focusing on our brand of baseball and what we need to do to win games.”

Coach Josh Holliday, who grew up watching those 1980s Cowboys, and played there in the late 1990s, feels the similarities with his current club.

“In a modern sense, sure,” he said. “They’re a bigger group, big burly guys. In the ‘80s, people probably said if you’re gonna play Oklahoma State, you better be ready to deal with some bigger guys with some strength.

“These kids are close. These kids like each other and they like the time together. They’re my kind of kids. They’re a little bit rowdy in a fun way. They like to work and they like to be out here.”

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OSU VS. TCU

When: 7:30 p.m., Wednesday

Where: Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark

TV: FSOK (Cox 37)/FCS (Cox 271)

Radio: KSPI-FM 93.7

Scott Wright

A lifelong resident of the Oklahoma City metro area, Scott Wright has been on The Oklahoman staff since 2005, covering a little bit of everything on the state's sports scene. He has been a beat writer for football and basketball at Oklahoma and... Read more ›

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