Cowboys Take Solid Hold On First In Big 12

There are many observers that believe in the Big 12 Conference that on weekend baseball series the first two games are tough and competitive and then on Sunday's all of that goes out the window and the games are slugfests with anybody and everybody designated to pitch. Heck, on Sunday the Longhorn Network announcers used the term, "Johnny All Staff."

That may be the case most places but not at Disch-Falk Field in Austin, Texas, where the ballpark itself helps play defense and helps to keep pitcher's earned run averages low.

In the previous 11 Big 12 games in the ball park this season, Texas had averaged scoring 2.3 runs a game and the opponents, including Oklahoma State in the first two games of this series, had averaged 2.45 runs a contest.

Okay, the breeze was a little different in direction and a little stronger than normal on Sunday afternoon and there was a slugfest by Austin standards as Oklahoma State took the series and a solid hold on first place in the Big 12 with an 8-3 win.

The Cowboys opened the scoring in the top of the second, and also gave the first indication that the ball park was playing more loose with keeping balls in the expansive playing surface. After Zach Fish singled up the middle for his first hit of the series, the hitting star of the weekend in Craig McConaughy hit his first home run of the season into the Cowboys bullpen in left field.

Longhorns ace and senior Nathan Thornhill, likely pitching in his last game at Disch-Falk, had a 0.97 ERA and a 6-1 record erntering Sunday. He got a breaking ball up on McConaughy and paid for it. Going out in the fourth inning and after the loss, his record dropped to 6-2 and that ERA climbed to 1.85.

In the bottom of the second, Texas cut the Cowboys lead in half when freshman Tres Barrera hit a home run into the Oklahoma State bullpen. McConaughy's shot was a line drive that landed around the pitching rubbers in the pen. Barrera's landed around the two home plates in the same bull pen.

In 29 previous games this season there had been a grand total of four home runs hit in Disch-Falk, and now in one inning there were two. This was as close as Texas would be the rest of the way.

The top of the fourth was the winning frame for Josh Holliday and the Cowboys. With Gage Green on first, Fish let go with a monster swing on a Thornhill fastball right down the middle and waist high and put it over the wall in dead left field for a 4-1 Pokes lead.

McConaughy kept it going with a single up the middle that scored Tim Arakawa to make it 5-1. Bryan Case had a good day and the catcher hit a bloop singled in front of Texas center fielder Mark Payton to score McConaughy and make it 6-1.

Then after a Donnie Walton single and a free pass with a walk for Saulyer Saxon, Tanner Krietemeier hit a sharp ground ball to Texas third baseman Zane Gurwitz. Gurwitz stepped on third for a force and then threw across to first trying for a double play but the throw was wide inside of first base and bounced down the right field line scoring Case for a 7-1 OSU lead. The Cowboys batted around in the fourth and scored five runs on Texas pitching.

Texas would add two runs, one in the sixth on a fielder's choice and then the other in the bottom of the ninth when Payton hit a double off the wall in the gap in left-center to score Ben Johnson. The Cowboys had already added one more insurance run with an Arakawa single up the middle in the eighth to score Saxon for the eighth Oklahoma State run.

"The kids had some big swings and put together six to seven good at bats in the fourth inning," Cowboys head coach Josh Holliday said. "We sustained our offense up and down the line up and you have to give the kids all the credit for that."

As it did throughout the series, the Cowboys pitching did some bending, gave up some hits, even a few walks, but the combination of Vince Wheeland, Blake Battenfield, Alex Hackerott, and closer Brendan McCurry did the job holding Texas to three runs on nine hits.

"We tried to come up with a plan that would work," Holliday said of the pitching plan for the final game. "Give Coach (Rob) Walton and those guys pitching credit because they had to match up with a very good Texas line up."

The defense continued to be sterling as the Cowboys had just one error in the entire series. That came Sunday when McConaughy fumbled a ground ball at third and had to hold onto it and allow the runner to be safe. He can be excused as McConaughy finished the day 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored.

He was involved in a bit role in the best defensive play of the day as Mark Payton hit a foul ball in the area behind third base in short left field. Walton from shortstop and McConaughy from third went back for it, but it was Gage Green diving underneath a falling Walton that made the "web gem" grab.

The series win puts Oklahoma State solidly in first in the Big 12 with a 13-5 record and 31-13 overall. TCU, who was out of Big 12 play this weekend, is 10-5 with a 30-13 overall mark. Texas Tech, with a weekend sweep of Oklahoma, moved ahead of Texas into third at 10-7 and 34-13 overall. Texas is now 10-8 with a 32-13 overall record.

The Cowboys will return home after a Wednesday non-conference game at Wichita State to face Arizona State of the Pac-12 in a non-conference weekend series before finishing off Big 12 regular season play at Kansas State and with Bedlam against OU.

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