Colin Simpson entered this season in a power outage.
And if you know “Tank,” well, that’s highly uncharacteristic. Power, after all, is his calling card, seen in his ranking among Oklahoma State’s top-10 career home run hitters.
Yet Simpson didn’t have a long ball through OSU’s first 10 games and managed but three extra-base hits through the first month of the schedule, hovering around the .200 batting average mark much of that time.
Simpson’s swagger is back. So is his power.
As the Cowboys (36-18) prepare to host an NCAA Regional at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, Simpson is now sitting on 15 home runs – second on the club – and is tied for the team-lead with 51 RBIs.
The senior’s presence is key, too, for a Cowboys team focused on a postseason run that begins with a regional opener against Harvard at 6 p.m. Friday. Nebraska and UConn meet in the other first-round game.
“I think at the beginning of the year I was putting too much pressure on myself,” Simpson said Thursday as his squad practiced in Bricktown. “I came into the year thinking, ‘Oh, I’m a senior, I had a good year last year,’ and I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to do too much and try to carry the team.
“But, I finally got to a point where I was like, ‘You know what, this team can play.’ They all can swing it, so I don’t need to try and do too much. I relaxed at the plate and I found my swing. It’s all just started clicking lately.”
Simpson has seven home runs in OSU’s last 10 games, a stretch that has seen the Cowboys surge up the rankings – as high as No. 9 – and claim the Big 12 Tournament championship.
That stretch also secured a regional host role for OSU, although rain and the threat of more rain pushed the Cowboys out of Stillwater and down the road to Oklahoma City.
But there’s comfort there, too, considering they play Bedlam games in Bricktown on an annual basis and posted a 4-1 run to the Big 12 tournament title there last week.
“I think we play really well in this ballpark,” Simpson said. “We know this field better than anyone else in this tournament and we just came off of a weekend playing (five) games here in five days, so it helps a lot to be at this ballpark.
“I mean, we all wish we were playing at Allie P. and having one last ride at Allie P., but I think we left her on a good note with that Baylor series. I think we’re all really excited to play in this ballpark again.”
Like Simpson, the Cowboys are hot at the right time, having won seven of their last eight and 11 of 12. And that’s been the program’s reputation under coach Josh Holliday – peak late, when it matters most.
“It’s the players,” Holliday said. “It’s their willingness to stick with this thing from start to finish and not get distracted, not to let a little bit of tug or adversity pull you away from what you set out to do. And it’s the responsibility of playing at Oklahoma State to honor ourprogram and our history, because this is what the program was built on.
“The players understand that this is the time that real programs pride themselves on being at their best.”