Morales looked like a big leaguer in Stillwater on Saturday night as he held the Cowboys to five hits and shut them out. It was only the fourth time that had happened this season. This time the winning margin was the most slim of all, 1-0 and the Anteaters had all they needed.
The Cowboys had a very tough end to a truly memorable season.
"We just ran into a young man that pitched one heck of a baseball game. And sometimes you just have to tip your cap to that, as painful as that may be, and as much as we fight like crazy to not accept that in terms of our team's approach, that young man pitched a fantastic ballgame," said OSU coach Josh Holliday.
"I don't know what else to say, I'm not ready to discuss my team or talk about much else at this time. Congratulations to them, they did the things necessary and compliment them for that."
Holliday and pitching coach Rob Walton made a choice that showed how dire the situation was on Saturday. Instead of going with freshman Tyler Buffett on the mound, the Cowboys knew they would need their very best arm and decided to go with Vince Wheeleand with UC-Irvine deciding to pitch Morales.
Perfect on the season with a 10-0 mark and having been drafted in the 24th-round by the Houston Astros, Wheeland took the challenge.
In the bottom of the first inning, Chris Rabago singled to right field for UC-Irvine to give them a runner with one out. First baseman Connor Spencer followed with another single to right and then after a fly out to left for the second out, designated hitter Jonathan Munoz came up with a clutch opposite field line drive to left that fell about 10 yards from the line and allowed Rabago to score for what would be the only run of the game.
Wheeland was sick he gave up that run, but he would scatter just six hits through his next 5 2/3 innings on the mound. He would collect his first and only pitching loss on the season.
Behind him he had some solid defense with no errors and spectacular plays like the line drive flagged down on the first hitter of the game when third baseman Craig McConaughy stabbed the Taylor Sparks burner. McConaughy would make a diving grad later and throw out Rabago on a sensational play.
Second baseman Tim Arakawa surely saved a run in the fifth when he chased down a fly ball over his head in center field and then doubled up Spencer who had run all the way to second not thinking the catch could be made.
OSU had good pitching for the most part as closer Brendan McCurry came in and pitched 1 1/3 innings of perfect baseball. The Cowboys played good defense and even made some really outstanding plays, but on offense it was sparse for the normally competent, if not explosive, Cowboys.
Morales scattered five hits and only allowed two hits after the fourth inning in moving his record to 11-2. The Cowboys did not reach base in the final three innings as the 6-0 senior got stronger as the game went on. His curveball was tough and his mental ability to think through situations was what you expect from a senior.
OSU finishes a Big 12 regular season championship season and their longest run in postseason since 2008 with a 48-18 record. They have a good nucleus returning for next season and a strong recruiting class coming in.
"We've got a strength to our program right now that is very meaningful. There are high quality individuals that allowed us to get to this point leading us. They leave behind a program that is certainly much better than they found it," Holliday said.
"That should be the goal of every person that walks into a college program is to leave it better through their work, leadership and contribution to the school and the team. These kids have done that.
"The young guys will have to grow up now and inherit the responsibility to perform. So many of these guys were so fantastic at that.They need to inherit the need to lead and grow up to try to grow into their own skin. They have to replace the roles and efforts of kids like Vince Wheeland, Brendan McCurry, Tanner Krietemeier, Craig McConaughy and I could go on and on of every single kid that was in that uniform but is moving on because of graduation or moving onto professional baseball.
"This program is healthy and full of young people who now have a taste of what it's like to get this far but have a better understanding of what it takes to get that next step," he added.
UC-Irvine is 40-23 and heading to Omaha. Their veteran Hall of Fame and well quipped head coach Mike Gillespie has a chance to win a championship at a second school and match a trio of coaches that have done that before including the coach of the team that UC-Irvine will lead off with in Omaha, Texas and Augie Garrido.
The season is over and that is never easy but the future is very bright and that is fun to think about.