You could have thought, and surely some did, that Oklahoma State may have needed one more win to solidify themselves as a regional host for next week in the NCAA Baseball Tournament. It all added up to a see-saw affair late Friday night/early Saturday morning that the Cowboys eventually win 11-8.
The win moves the Cowboys to 43-15 and on to the first championship game in their bracket on Saturday against unbeaten Texas scheduled for 12:30 p.m.
OSU would have to beat the Longhorns twice on Saturday to get to the Sunday title game. Oklahoma is eliminated and finishes 29-29 with the season over.
The winning margin came in the top of the eighth inning and in a strange storyline that fit in with the night on the whole. Donnie Walton got on when he slapped the ball to short and Hector Lorenzana of Oklahoma struggled to control it and then threw late to first base.
After Saulyer Saxon moved Walton to second with a sacrifice bunt. Tanner Krietemeier drew the base on balls after Walton had moved to third on a passed ball. The Cowboys tried the safety squeeze with Conor Costello and it was more like suicide as third baseman Sheldon Neuse had come on to pitch and made for an excellent defender on the bunt throwing out Walton at the plate.
What Neuse could not do was get out of the inning unscathed as the unlikely hero was Aaron Cornell. Hitting .237 coming into the game, Cornell did not have a home run this season, but seconds after coming to the plate he did. The platoon outfielder blasted the ball, a no-doubter off the bat, into the bleachers in left field for a three-run homer that in Bedlam and after midnight can qualify you for hero status.
"After Conor [Costello] didn't get down the bunt, it wasn't ideal but I just wanted to go up and find a good pitch," Cornell explained. "I was trying to find a barrel and put something in the gap. Even a single in that situation would have worked to score a run. I got a hanging curveball the first pitch and fouled it off. The next one was a little bit lower and I put a good swing on it."
"It was a game of tremendous back and forth, and up and down swings. Two quality teams playing each other," Cowboys head coach Josh Holliday added. "We jumped out early, but OU came right back. Then the game held its course a little bit until the fourth when we stole a run and they answered right back with a four-spot.
"At that point, you're hoping your team has one more of those answers, which our kids have had all year. Sure enough we answered, and did some little things well to gain some momentum and score our own four-spot. They eventually came back and tied it up.
"The story of the night was probably Aaron Cornell's three-run homer. Brendan [McCurry] did a great job. I have tremendous respect for OU and their players, and the tremendous effort they have put in this year in all of our competitions."
Oklahoma State led the game off with two runs as first baseman Tanner Krietemeier's double rolled to the wall scoring Gage Green and Zach Fish. The 2-0 lead was short lived as Oklahoma answered with two runs of its own. Haley Hunter's double down the left-field line scored Lorenzana and Neuse to tie the game at 2-2.
OSU took the lead in the top of the fourth before Oklahoma took it back. With the bases loaded, Fish hit what appeared to be an easy infield fly between second base and first but it wasn't so easy as Sooners second baseman Kolbey Carpenter flat out dropped it. In his glove and then out on the grass with a run and everybody safe.
That inning may have been very costly as a double steal left Fish on the ground writhing in pain after sliding in on the steal. Fish was helped off the field and in the dugout team doctor Donald Crawley and trainer Eli Williams wrapped his right ankle in ice.
"We will know more tomorrow. We are just treating him to see if the swelling will go down," Holliday said of the fish injury. "He sprained his ankle for sure and rolled it sliding into second base. We will know a lot more tomorrow."
The big inning for the Sooners started with a single to left by first baseman Anthony Hermelyn, right fielder Colt Bickerstaff singled to left center dropping in a line drive. then Kolbey Carpenter tried to move the runners over with a bunt. But cowboys pitcher Tyler Buffett played it well and got the force at third.
OSU had staved off several threats that way, but this time couldn't pull it off. DH Niko Buentello drew a walk and then hot hitting lead-off hitter Craig Aikin drove a single into left field to score two runs. Buffett was pulled in favor of freshman Trey Cobb, who promptly hit Lorenzana. Big 12 Freshman of the Year Sheldon Neuse singled to left center and that pushed in two more runs. The four-run inning left Oklahoma leading 6-3.
After Oklahoma put up a four spot in the bottom of the fourth the Cowboys put up their own foursome in the top of the sixth. They started with a Craig MccConaughy single and then catcher Bryan Case walked on four pitches.
Gage Green bunted to move the runners over, but Choplick came off the mound and threw the ball into the stands down the right-field line scoring a run. Case scored moments later on a wild pitch to the backstop.
Donnie Walton singled to center to score Green and then after a bunt single by Saulyer Saxon and a sacrifice bunt by Krietemeier, Walton scored on a medium fly ball to left field that served as a sacrifice to get the run in. Four runs and the Cowboys back on top 7-6.
In the top of the seventh, the Cowboys upped their lead to 8-6 when Case hit just his second home run of the season, a rope shot that landed just over the wall in the left field bleachers.
The Pokes brought in Vince Wheeland to pitch and for one of the few times this season, the rubber-armed Wheeland could not put the opponent away. He did it on wednesday against the Sooners finishing the last 4 1/3 innings, but could not get very far on Friday as Neuse singled and then catcher Mac James blasted a triple to the wall at the 415 sign, the deepest area of the ballpark. james would score when Hunter hit a sac fly to right field. The game was tied 8-8 heading into the final two innings as the clock struck midnight.
OSU used five pitchers with Alex Hackerott coming in at the right time to get the win as he goes to 4-1 on the season. Brendan McCurry came on to pitch the last two innings and pick up the save, his 17th of the season.
The Cowboys finished with the 11 runs on 10 hits and played clean defensively. Oklahoma had the eight runs on 13 hits and made three errors, the reason that four of the Cowboys runs were unearned.
They say nothing good happens after midnight. Well on this Friday, umm Saturday, it did for the Cowboys.