Win Sets Up Showdown With Arkansas

STILLWATER - All season the Oklahoma State Cowboys have won baseball games, taken Big 12 Conference series, and down the stretch beat Dallas Baptist a second time by accepting charity. On the opening day of the Stillwater Regional that the Cowboys were hosting they almost blew a chance at a huge marquee match-up with second seed and SEC member Arkansas by giving St. John's some charity.

In the end, a clutch bottom of the ninth inning won the game 5-4 and set up Saturday 6 p.m. game with the Razorbacks, a game that will feature SEC and National Player of the Year in Andrew Benintendi and the Cowboys Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and second-team All-American Michael Freeman.

A see-saw affair that saw Oklahoma State lead three times and Big East champ St. John's pull even three times ended in the last frame.

In the top of the ninth the Cowboys strong reliever Trey Cobb gave up a lead-off single to nine hole hitter Troy Dixon. After a sacrifice bunt by lead-off hitter Alex Caruso moved pinch runner Ty Blankmeyer over, then Cobb hit Robert Wayman. A passed ball allowed Blankmeyer to take third and he scored on a ground out to the shortstop. The Cowboys tried to turn the double play but missed by a step and the game was 4-4.

The bottom of the ninth was emotional as lead-off hitter Gage Green, on his own, chose to bunt down the third-base line and after a bad throw to first went into right field, Green, who was 4-of-5 on the night with four runs scored, took second and might have been able to get to third.

“I go up there every time just looking for a way to get on – hit by pitch, walk, bunt, hit, whatever," Green said of his ninth inning at-bat. "I saw the grass was pretty damp on the infield and I saw the third baseman take a step back. Worst case, it’s 0-2 and nothing happens. I get it down, there’s a good chance I can get on. We practice bunting every day and I felt comfortable bunting there. I laid it down.”

“That was all Gage. Gage is one of those players who has been here long enough, he’s fearless," OSU head coach Josh Holliday said. "He’s worked so hard to become the player he is that he plays with an absolute, no-doubt mentality. If he sees it, he does it. Whether it’s a steal of home, bunting, doesn’t matter.

"He’s just a fearless player, and those are so hard to get nowadays. But an experienced ball player who puts it all on the line, is in the moment right there in dropping that bunt, which got it all going.”

Just like the top of the ninth, a batter was hit. Corey Hassel squared to bunt but took a pitch to the throat. St. John's head coach Ed Blankmeyer argued that Hassel never pulled his bat back and it should have been a strike, but that wasn't going to be changed after Hassel went down and then toughed it out after getting his breath back and went to first.

Donnie Walton earned a walk to load the bases. Then Dustin Williams was struck out by the Red Storm's perfect reliever so far this season in 5-0 Thomas Hackimer, who also had 15 saves without blowing an opportunity. On Williams' at-bat the Red Storm used five infielders and only two outfielders.

After the out they went back to a normal alignment, and with two strikes on him, second baseman Tim Arakawa drilled a single to right field and Green scored for the fourth time on the night, this time the Cowboys winning fifth run in the 5-4 win.

The team ran out of the dugout and celebrated the walk-off RBI single with a nearly full house of 3,573 fans inside Allie Reynolds Stadium.

“It’s up there, definitely," Arakawa said when asked where the walk-off game winner ranked in his career memories. "This atmosphere that we just played in front of, with Allie P. sold out, basically, just roaring, that’s what you live for as a kid. That’s the kind of baseball games you want to be a part of.

"To be able to walk off in the ninth inning, before a crowd like that, in front of fans like that, that’s everything you want. I was just trying to fight. The ball ended up over the plate and I was able to get a good barrel on it.”

Now the Cowboys get ready for the showdown everybody has been waiting for with Arkansas. Fans will be hanging from the light poles in Allie Reynolds for this one at 6 p.m. Saturday. The winner goes into the championship game on Sunday for the regional title.

“It’s the NCAA Tournament. It’s what it is about," Holliday added. "Arkansas is an excellent team. They have a great coach who has been there and done that many times. As you mentioned, some fine players. We’re used to that in Big 12 Conference baseball and our regular season exposed us to a lot of those awesome challenges. We’ll show up tomorrow, go through a good routine and keep our mindset the same and play ball at 6 p.m."

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