The Cowboys took the lead early after a 1-2-3 top half of the first. After a Gage Green ground out to start the bottom of the inning, shortstop Donnie Walton hit a ground ball to third and Taylor Sparks' throw was a little high to first causing Cal-Irvine first baseman Connor Spencer to jump for it right as Walton's foot hit the bag. The error was charged to Sparks.
Two pitches later Big 12 Player of the Year Zach Fish doubled to deep left center with third base coach Marty Lees putting up a stop sign for Walton. Tanner Krietemeier grounded to second on the next pitch from Irvine starter Elliott Surrey and Walton came in to score. The inning ended on the next batter as Conor Costello grounded out to second.
Sloppy play in the fourth caused the Cowboys to relinquish the early lead. Irvine catcher Jerry McClanahan singled through short and third and then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, a staple in the UCIrvine offense. With two outs Cowboys starter Jon Perrin hit Kris Paulino and then McClanahan moved to third on a wild pitch and then Paulino to second on passed ball.
It all set up the bleeding single up the middle that the Cowboys couldn't get to in time that scored two runs to put Irvine up 2-1.
The fifth inning was worse for OSU, and even more fruitful for the visitors from the West Coast. Taylor Sparks led off with a double in the left center gap. The next batter, Chris Rabago, laid down a sac bunt toward third and Perrin bounced off then mound and simply fumbled it to allow runners at first and second.
Connor Spencer singled to left field and that scored Sparks. Then it got ugly as after McClanahan did lay down a sac bunt the Cowboys fielded to move the runners to second and third, Perrin threw a wild pitch that Perrin tried to charge in and cover home but his legs seemed to get tangled up and Rabago scored.
Then trying to throw an intentional ball to intentionally walk Jonathan Munoz, Perrin threw it too far high and outside and over the head of catcher Bryan Case allowing Spencer to score easily without a play. Ugly baseball and Cal-Irvine loving it with a 5-1 lead after five innings.
The theme continued in the sixth inning as freshman Trey Cobb replaced Perrin. Paulino opened with a single to left, Adam Alcantara moved him over on the bunt, Castro drew the walk and then Sparks got another well placed seeing eye single, this one to right.
Bases loaded and Rabago tapped the sac bunt to score Paulino. By now Blake Battenfield was on to pitch, and he plunked Connor Spencer before walking McClanahan on four pitches to score Castro. Irvine led 7-1. The third Cowboys pitcher of the inning, Alex Hackerott got Munoz to fly out to third to end the inning.
Perrin took the loss for the Cowboys as he allowed five runs, only three were earned. Cobb was credited with allowing two runs and Robinette, who pitched well, allowed the final run.
Surrey pitched seven innings and only allowed five hits and two runs, both unearned. He walked two and struck out five and is now 8-4 on the season. Evan Manarino did get credit for a save.
Irvine added an eighth run in the eighth when with runners at the corners, Cowboys catcher Bryan Case threw the ball down to second on a steal and on the delay and some baseball fumbling at second base the runner from third scored. It looked like that might not be such a big deal but it became one in hurry in the bottom of the eighth.
Walton led off with a single causing Irvine to make a pitching change and pull Surrey, who had allowed just five hits. Fish greeted new pitcher Mitch Merten with a soft big hopper to third but on the throw to get Walton at second the second baseman lost it for an error.
Tanner Krietemeier made Irvine pay as he crushed the ball high into the screen in left field. His 10th home run of the season was a three run shot that gave the Pokes hope at 8-4. Krietemeier would finish 2-for-4 at the plate and with all four of Oklahoma State's RBI. Donnie Walton had two hits and scored two runs and Fish had the two doubles. That was six of the seven Cowboy hits there.
Unfortunately, even with a critical mistake by Merten throwing a potential double play ball to the second baseman instead of the shortstop who was covering second, a double play ball hit by McConaughy got the Anteaters out of the inning still leading 8-4.
Manarino came on to finish the eighth and closing out the Cowboys in the ninth striking out Green and Walton before Rabago made a nifty spinning catch on Fish to end the game.
"I don't think we played as good of a baseball game as we are certainly capable of," Oklahoma State head coach Josh Holliday said. "I think that's probably multiple phases. Certainly after a ballgame like that, you don't isolate one area.
"We didn't play well enough together. In all phases of the game, we could have done some things differently from time to-time. We had moments there to try to wiggle our way out of certain situations. Irvine had that moment with the big hit and put some pressure on us.
"I think it's just one of those things where you have to stay within yourself and just keep the game on your terms. In some of the situations that we encountered, we didn't handle them as well as we should have," Holliday continued. "Those are situations we've faced all year long, and we know better. (Irvine) played a good game. They won some pitches at some key times."
Despite some of the Cowboys problems in the field, there were a number of good defensive plays in the game as the nation got to see Cowboys third baseman Craig McConaughy's bare hand style. In the first he charged a slow high hopper and nailed the Anteaters Chris Rabago at first.
More spectacular in second inning, Irvine's Adam Alcantara hit a sinking one drive to right that was slicing toward the line and Pokes right fielder Aaron Cornell made a diving grab to end the top of the second.
Unfortunately, Cal-Irvine had one of those as well, a spectacular catch, as with Walton and Krietemeier on after singles in the sixth, with two outs Aaron Cornell hit a stiff line drive that looked like it might go over the head of Alcantara but he made an awkward jump and dive to come up holding the baseball.
Now the Anteaters hold the advantage on Oklahoma State (48-17), and UC-Irvine (39-23) needs just one more win to advance to Omaha.
"We've done this a lot this year — come back after a tough loss," Cowboys slugger Zach Fish expressed. "I'm not worried about where we are. I know we'll be prepared and ready to go tomorrow.
"It's a good team that we're facing, Irvine. They came off a big weekend down in Oregon State. I think if we stick together, keep doing what we're doing and continue to fight and continue to be who we are, I think we're going to have a good game tomorrow."
They have All-American and second-round MLB Draft choice Andrew Morales ready to pitch and they didn't use their standout closer in Sam Moore. Saturday's game two of the Super Regional starts at 9 p.m., so even the game times seem to favor the visitors from the West Coast.