One More Step Toward Omaha

STILLWATER - Where every college baseball teams works for all season is to be in the "cat bird seat" whether it's at a regional, super regional, and certainly at the College World Series. In just the second season under former player Josh Holliday, the Oklahoma State Cowboys are on the brink of taking a significant step on the "Road to Omaha" after Saturday's win over Cal State Fullerton.

The first championship game was up with the unbeaten Pokes and survivor Cal State Fullerton. Unlike the Cowboys first two wins in the Stillwater Regional, where they were front running this time the Pokes had to chase from behind and wear down their opponent.

Fortunately, that is something they have done that well all season. These Cowboys know all too well how to come back. They did it Sunday night by batting around in the bottom of,the seventh to go on to a 6-4 Stillwater Regional wininng victory.

One huge step to Omaha taken.

"(OSU has) attitude. They have that old Oklahoma State-attitude back, there isn't any doubt."

In the deciding inning, Cowboys shortstop Donnie Walton led off with a single to left field, his second hit of the night. After Tanner Krietemeier struck out, Gage Green singled up the middle and then Zach Fish got the benefit of a bad hop on a ground ball to first that was ruled an error, loading the bases for the Cowboys.

Tim Arakawa, swinging at the first pitch from Fullerton reliever Kobe Guana, singled sharply to left field and Arakawa's second hit of the game plated two runs to put the Cowboys in front 5-4.

"The three guys in front of me did a good job of setting the table and giving me the opportunity to come up," Arakawa said. "Josh (Holliday) just told me to live in the moment and win a pitch. I got a good pitch to hit and didn't try to do too much."

After Conor Costello struck out, Craig McConaughy got a single that Fullerton couldn't handle to again load the bases. Catcher Bryan Case got a similar ground ball single that stretched the Titans infielders range and scored Fish to make it 6-4.

From that point, OSU closer Brendan McCurry did what he does best, closing the door with a solid yet interesting two innings of relief as he struck out a hitter with bases loaded in the ninth to end it.

"(OSU has) attitude. They have that old Oklahoma State-attitude back, there isn't any doubt," Fullerton head coach Jack Vanderhook said.

The Titans wasted no time attacking the Cowboys left hander Tyler Nurdin at the start of the game. Nurdin came in with a 6.10 ERA and Fullerton added to that number as Nurdin helped with three walks in the first inning.

Tyler Stieb led off with a walk, Keegan Dale laid down a bunt to move Stieb over, and J.D. Davis singled sharply up the middle to center to score Stieb. Matt Chapman followed with a single to right field, and then after a passed ball moved the runners to second and third, designated hitter Greg Velazquez doubled to the wall down the right field line to score both Davis and Chapman.

Nurdin was done with freshman Trey Cobb brought in to get the last out of the inning. But Fullerton had staked a 3-0 lead before the Cowboys even got to hit.

The Cowboys broke through in the bottom of the fourth. OSU first baseman Tanner Krietemeier broke up Phil Bickford's no-hitter with a single up the middle that was flagged down but the shortstop could not get a throw or even an attempted throw to first.

Gage Green got a bunt down but Bickford fumbled it around for an error and the Cowboys had two on with no outs to start the inning. After a strikeout and fly out to center, Conor Costello made it a two-out rally with a sharp single to left that the Titans Austin Diemer let it roll over his glove. Krietemeier scored and Green wound up at third with Costello at second. After Craig McConaughy was hit by a pitch to load the bases, catcher Bryan Case struck out to end the threat with bases loaded.

The Titans added a run in the top of the fifth when Walton couldn't handle an opening ground ball by Matt Chapman. Later in the inning, back-to-back singles by Clay Williamson (left center) and Austin Diemer (left) pushed the run across. The Cowboys held it to that and trailed at that point 4-1.

The Cowboys narrowed the margin to one and ran Titans starter Phil Bickford out of the game in the sixth. Arakawa led off with a single and then Costello drilled the ball over the 371 sign in left for his ninth home run of the season.

One hitter later Cal State Fullerton made the move and retired Bickford, who went 5 1/3 innings and gave up six hits and three runs, a solid outing for the freshman. The Pokes still trailed 4-3, but that just set things up for that eventful seventh inning.

"The players picked each other up and did what teams do — they found ways to win," Holliday said. "I'm really proud of them. This is a tribute to them and our fans for helping us feel like we've arrived a little bit again. Having this ballpark full of people and seeing the way our kids respond to the crowd is something that I've ached for ever since we came back to Stillwater.

"I knew in my heart it could happen. It's happening because of the players. They've given the fans something they can fall in love with again and make coming to a baseball game fun. You see people tailgating and showing up in the stands. That's what we want for this program so these kids can have a life experience they'll never forget," Holliday added

Oklahoma State (48-16) now moves on to the Super Regional next weekend to face the winner of the Corvallis Regional where top national seed Oregon Stare is battling to keep its season alive. Cal State Fullerton finishes up 34-24, learning that sometimes really good hitting beats really good pitching.

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