In an attempt to rebound after the disheartening series loss to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State led 3-2 against Western Carolina after six innings. But the Cowboys (28-16) fell apart in the seventh giving up nine runs to WCU (30-14) en route to a 12-5 loss.
"Sunday is still fresh in our minds, and we are emotionally beat up a little bit," OSU leftfielder Scott Kirby said. "A club like this comes in and they got a No. 1 (pitcher) going tonight and they took advantage of the position we are in."
The Catamounts sported their ace, Brad Josey, on the mound because of an earlier series cancellation that left the team idle last weekend.
OSU, however, pitched their normal midweek staff.
Starter Justin Ottman began on shaky ground as he gave up a two-run homer to Catamount leftfielder Alan Beck, but redeemed himself after striking out the next batter, WCU catcher Denver Edick, and keeping them scoreless for the remainder of his short three-inning stint.
"We really pitched well early, obviously the two-run homer in the first inning (was) to a guy we knew was a home-run hitter," OSU coach Tom Holliday said. "That was a mistake pitch, but that's gonna happen."
The game carried a quick and eventless pace until the bottom of the fourth when the Cowboys surprised the small crowd with back-to-back home runs by the eighth- and ninth-hole hitters to give OSU their first and only lead.
First Kirby blasted a Brad Josey toss over the wall in left-center field. Then, the unassuming second baseman Brian Kraft came to the plate and launched only his second homer in his OSU career nearly grazing the wall in left field to give the Pokes a 3-2 lead.
Coupled with a pinch-hit single Saturday against OU, Kraft has become more productive from the plate lately than his .190 batting average would indicate.
"Until about two weeks ago, it has been a real frustrating season," Kraft said. "I just put everything behind me and I got real comfortable at the plate. Today I got into one."
From that point forward, the loudest noise in Allie P. Reynolds Stadium was cheers and shouts from WCU righthander Ryan Foster in the dugout as the Cowboys would hold steady only to relinquish the lead in the seventh.
All hell broke loose in that inning. Determined to redeem his previous strikeout, Edick came to the plate and clocked a double down the left-field line to begin the inning and usher in OSU's personal Hades.
"There's no real excuses for a nine-run inning," Holliday said. "Inside the inning it goes right back to a ground ball where all you gotta do is pick it up and throw it over the plate, get a double play and the whole thing is over. When we don't make the play, the gates open up and before you know it it is out of control."
The Catamounts scored seven runs with two outs to put the game away, scoring four of those against one of OSU's best relievers, junior Daniel Rew.
After getting out of that inning, the Cowboys allowed only one more run — a monster blast to left field by Beck that sailed over the press box at Cowgirl Stadium.
"Beck's got a lot of pop," said WCU coach Todd Raleigh. "He's got about as much power as anybody in college right now. It (the home run) was probably top five; I have seen him hit some balls that were a lot harder than that, higher, no. Absolutely further though. He's hit some bombs before, so it isn't new."
And OSU gave up after that hit, bringing in junior pitcher Adam Dye who had not played all season, and then replacing him with sophomore Shawn Callahan, normally a shortstop, whose last pitching experience came in high school.
"We are down, and you could probably tell if you looked in the dugout," Kirby said. "There was not a lot of enthusiasm in the dugout after that inning. It is unfortunate because every game from now on is gonna be big for us."
However, there is a golden lining if history is any indication.
"I was sitting here thinking about the game, and two years ago it was kind of the same deal," Kraft said. "We lost a series and we came in and were playing Santa Clara, and they beat us pretty good on Tuesday. We came back Wednesday and 10-runned them in seven, and just something clicked."
After that loss in 2001, the Pokes exploded to win seven of their next eight games on the way to a 42-win season and a trip to the New Orleans regional.
"I think we are in the same situation," Kraft said. "We got a great group of guys and we can turn it around just like that. We have a great group of guys and we can do it if we decide to."