Coming off the high of taking a series with Texas, the Oklahoma State baseball team mustered just enough resolve to beat the Texas at Arlington Mavericks 3-2 in their fourth game in four days Tuesday.
The Mavericks (16-13) senior starting pitcher Pierce Loveless sported a surprising performance on the mound, allowing only two earned runs in 7.1 innings for OSU (15-8). Coming into the game, Loveless' ERA stood at over six.
"I don't know how overpowering he was but he had great command of that breaking ball and great command of his changeup," said OSU coach Tom Holliday. "I mean he was tough, and we didn't make an adjustment to hit the ball the other way as much as we should have."
After a double by UTA shortstop Kasey Baker in the top of the first, second baseman Chris Taylor nailed a base hit to left center field, driving Baker in for the Mavericks' first score.
Down 1-0, the Cowboy couldn't drive in a run until the fourth inning when OSU rightfielder Scott Kirby fired a double to left, bringing in first baseman John Urick to knot the score at one.
Due to OSU's lack of offense, however, it was obvious early on that the game would be won on the mound. Fortunately for the Cowboys, who cycled through six pitchers on the day, UTA scored only two runs on 10 hits, stranding 12 base runners.
"We have made it a habit of getting into a quick losing game like that, and just expecting our pitching to win for us," Holliday said. "It's a little bit unfair, the fourth game in a row, to bank on our pitching to do that. Our offense is just a work in progress. We're not finished offensively."
After Maverick right fielder Paul Bruder scored the second run of the game, Holliday opted for junior reliever Daniel Rew to get them out of a jam.
"I had to give Danny, again, the impossible situation to get out of, and he did it again," Holliday said. Rew also pitched the Cowboys out of tough situations in two of the games against Texas.
After Rew completed 1.2 scoreless innings, Holliday made an unexpected move to most people in the stands. He brought in junior ace Scott Baker, who had pitched 7.1 innings Saturday against Texas. Even the stadium announcer showed amazement as he introduced, "Now pitching for the Cowboys, No. 22 Scott Baker?"
However, Holliday said he planned to go that deep in the bullpen.
"I knew when I checked with Scotty yesterday, and I knew his pitch count; he only threw 85," said Holliday. "He (Baker) in essence, he was going to be the closer in this game, and I had Danny Rew for an inning. I anticipated going that deep. I also anticipated him (Baker) getting three full days before his start game."
After Scott Baker got OSU out of the top of the eighth, the Cowboy offense awoke long enough to drive in two runs to take the lead 3-2.
"We had a tough time that last few innings and were a little frustrated," said Cowboy designated hitter Mario Matulich who drove in the winning run. "Our desicion making at the plate wasn't very good at all. We were swinging at some bad pitches, but we got those two hits put together there, eventually tied the ballgame up, and then got the go-ahead and ran with it."
The inning would end with UTA catcher Dustin Bozarth forcefully tagging Cowboy third baseman Josh Fields out at home. Fields tossed his helmet at Bozarth in anger over the hard tag.
"I think the catcher gave a pretty hard tag; it was a cheap shot I thought, but those things happen in baseball," Matulich said. "Josh wasn't gonna take it. He isn't the type of kid that will just let that roll off his back."
The altercation cleared both teams' dugouts and bullpens.
"It was one of those situations that you wanna get involved with because it is happening to your teammate and you want to support him," Matulich said.
Both coaches and the umpires quickly dispersed the mob of players after the instigators had already broken apart.
"I think Josh realized how important he was to the team and then we all settled down, cause if he gets thrown out there then we lose him and that is a huge blow, especially when we were trying to get a cushion in our lead," Matulich said.
The final half inning ended uneventfully, netting OSU an important win.
"It's very important. All the work you do in beating Texas goes right down the drain if you drop this game today," Holliday said. "This club's trying to create a little bit of an identity; they're trying to gain respect nationally. When you beat Texas you do that. You turn around today and you dump one and it goes right in the tank. The game was very important, as are all of our midweek games. We can't afford to lose any midweek baseball, and that's all there is to it."
The Cowboys return to Big 12 play this weekend, heading to Lawrence, Kan., for a series against the Kansas Jayhawks (21-9).
"I have the option of pitching Joe Weaver in the first game of the Kansas series and use Baker in game two," Holliday said.