Destination Omaha: OSU Back In CWS

Oklahoma State is making its 20th trip to the College World Series but its first since 1999 after the Cowboys defeated South Carolina 3-1 on Sunday to win the best two-out-of-three Columbia Super Regional.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Oklahoma State is going to the College World Series for the first time since 1999 after the Cowboys knocked off host South Carolina, 3-1, in the NCAA Columbia Super Regional Sunday at Founders Park.

The College World Series berth marks the 20th in OSU baseball history, which ranks as the sixth most on the NCAA’s all-time list.

OSU is now 41-20 on the season, which includes a 5-0 mark in NCAA tournament play as the Cowboys swept three games at the NCAA Clemson Regional before winning two-straight contests in the Super Regional.

“We’re very humbled to have come here and played well enough to advance to the College World Series,” said OSU head coach Josh Holliday. “It’s an amazing journey. It pulls a lot of things out of you along the way… It’s very special to our school. Having been a program with amazing baseball history, to have not gone since 1999, to go back gives us a feeling of being whole again from the baseball standpoint.

“The credit goes to the players. They took the opportunity to go on the road together against a challenging bracket. Nobody thought anything about this team. We gave up two nine-spots in the eighth inning of the conference tournament. People were down on us, and these kids turned their focus to getting better and they went out for the past two weeks and have played beautiful baseball. They are writing a script that they’ll never forget, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

On Sunday against South Carolina (46-18), the Cowboys scored all three of their runs in the fifth inning and got another masterful performance on the mound from Tyler Buffett to carry them to victory.

The first 4 ½ innings were a pitcher’s duel between Buffett and USC starter Clarke Schmidt, but the Cowboys put the pressure on the Gamecocks in the bottom of the fifth and took advantage of their opportunities.

Jon Littell led off the pivotal fifth with a single, then stole second base. With one out, J.R. Davis grounded to shortstop, but USC’s Marcus Mooney made a throwing error trying to get Littell going back to second. The miscue put Cowboy runners on the corners.

OSU then took a 1-0 lead when Corey Hassel laid down a perfect squeeze bunt that Gamecock first baseman Madison Stokes could not handle, giving Hassel an RBI and keeping two Cowboys on the bases.

Up next, Donnie Walton delivered an RBI single through the right side to put OSU up 2-0 before another USC error helped bring home the third run. On that play, Walton stole second and a throw from catcher John Jones sailed into center field and allowed Hassel to come home from third.

Tasked with keeping the Gamecocks off the scoreboard, Buffett did just that. USC stranded nine runners in the game, including two in the fourth and fifth innings.

In the seventh, USC threatened again as back-to-back singles with one out brought the tying run to the plate. But Buffett induced an inning-ending double play to once again get out of a jam.

For the second-straight game, Buffett tied a career high with seven innings pitched, and he threw a career-high 116 pitches in 96 degree heat. The righty finished with four strikeouts and one walk and improved to 8-3 on the season.

“I never lost confidence in the guys behind me, my catcher and my pitching coach,” Buffett said. “I knew the right pitches were going to be going down, and the couple hits that they got, it seemed like I made a good pitch and they just found a hole. It was really just a matter of telling myself to keep making pitches and trust that the guys behind me are going to make plays.”

South Carolina plated its lone run in the eighth. After Buffett issued a leadoff walk followed by a single, the Cowboys called on Michael Mertz out of the bullpen. A fly ball brought the first out but moved Gene Cone to third base, and he would promptly score on a wild pitch to cut the OSU lead to 3-1.

Mertz worked out of the jam, however, getting a groundout and another flyout to end the inning.

The Gamecocks again made things interesting in the ninth, this time against OSU reliever Trey Cobb, who retired the first two batters before issuing a walk and a single to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. But Cobb picked up his fifth save and sent the Cowboys to Omaha when he got Cone, USC’s top hitter, to line out to second base.

OSU will open Bracket 2 play in the CWS against UC Santa Barbara next weekend at Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park, with a date and time to be announced. Also in Bracket 2 (double elimination) in Omaha are Arizona and Miami.

(Written by Wade McWhorter, OSU Media Relations.)

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