Josh Holliday couldn't rest easy until that final out was made Saturday. His star pitcher, the Pitcher of the Year in the Big 12, third-round draft choice of the Chicago Cubs, 1st-Team All-American Thomas Hatch was rolling from the fourth inning on. However, Holliday said baseball tradition had taken over. There would be no celebrating the Cowboys College World Series opening win over UC-Santa Barbara until the proverbial "Mighty Casey," or in this case the Gauchos Austin Brewer, got his cuts.
"You know the rules of baseball," Holliday told the media in Omaha at the postgame press conference following the Cowboys 1-0 victory over the Gauchos in the College World Series opener for both teams. "You're never getting out of that thing without the big guy getting to home plate. That is just how baseball is, the home-run hitter gets to home plate."
With two outs and Hatch still seemingly fresh, although he gave up a single to the previous hitter Devon Gradford, Hatch was staring at 6-6, 265-pound UCSB first baseman Austin Brewer. Just think TCU freshman Luken Baker, only older and more experienced and with 14 home runs on the season. Bush had a single earlier in the game but had not been able to get a real good swing on any of Hatch's pitches to him.
"The decision was to continue to sink the ball and keep him from elevating the ball in the air, which we've all seen the highlights of how they got here and we've seen him elevate the ball or to go to the bullpen to a breaking ball left-handed pitcher and try to keep the ball off the barrel by moving it the other direction," explained Holliday. "We were going to stick with the guy that had made a quality 112 pitches at that point and let him finish what he started. Rob (Walton) has an exceptional feel for the kids and he made a very good decision."
Yes he did! Hatch struck out Bush on a two-ball, two-strike count and then proceeded to hug his catcher Collin Theroux as the Cowboys celebrated the victory in the first CWS appearance since 1999.
Hatch threw his first complete game of the postseason, but his numbers throughout NCAA play defy belief, even for a Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and All-American.
On the day, Hatch threw nine innings and shut out the Gauchos on five hits. He walked one and struck out seven. He retired 17 of the last 19 hitters he faced. His shutout was the first for an Oklahoma State pitcher since the 1986 College World Series and a 4-0 win over Indiana State by guess who? Yes, it was current Oklahoma State pitching coach Rob Walton, who called the game today for Hatch and has had so much influence in developing the third-year sophomore from Jenks.
Now in NCAA postseason play, Hatch has pitched 23 innings and allowed just 15 hits and only one extra base hit (a second-inning double by UC Santa Barbara second baseman J.J. Muno in today's game). Hatch has not allowed a run and has walked just five hitters and struck out 19, including seven Gauchos at TD Ameritrade Park.
Hatch was struggling some in the first several innings as it was obvious his control was off. Theroux would have the glove outside and low and the pitch would be inside and up. Hatch had way too many of his deliveries up in the strike zone and above.
"Our defense has been incredible all year and I didn't have my stuff and they were putting the ball in play pretty hard especially in the first four innings," Hatch said. "Donnie [Walton] made a helluva play and (Garrett) Benge made several good plays, and Collin behind the plate and Rob (Walton) calling the game. I'm not going to take any credit for this game. It was all of them."
"You can take some credit Thomas," Holliday said a from a few seats over in the press conference.
Almost his equal on the other side was UC-Santa Barbara pitcher Shane Bieber, who threw eight innings and allowed just the one run on six hits. Bieber did not walk any Cowboys and struck out six. He was good as his Cape Cod summer teammate and Cowboy shortstop Donnie Walton had promised.
OSU second baseman and lead-off hitter J.R. Davis went 2-4 against him, but it was a string of singles in the fourth inning that led to the only run of the game. Corey Hassel led off the frame with a single punched through the left side of the infield into left field. On a three-ball, one-strike count, Walton got to his former teammate with a solid single into right field. Third baseman Garrett Benge made it three safeties in a row with a single past the left side of the second baseman Muno, and Hassel came around to score and make it 1-0 Oklahoma State.
After a Bieber pitch got by catcher Dempsey Grover to move Walton to third and Benge to second, Conor Costello hit a line drive that looked like it would score two more but Gauchos shortstop Clay Fisher went up and snagged it and then threw to second to double up Benge for the first two outs. The threat ended when Dustin Williams drove one of two balls he hit deep to center field and it fell into a UCSB glove in the cavernous TD Ameritrade Park.
It is Oklahoma State's first win in the College World Series since their 1993 trip. In 1996 and the last trip in 1999 the Cowboys had gone 0-2 and were eliminated.
Oklahoma State is now 39-36 all-time in CWS action and this win puts them in the Bracket 1 winner's game on Monday night against the winner of the Miami (Fla.)-Arizona contest later Saturday.
History and a red hot Oklahoma State team complete with very stingy pitching and defense has now won six games in a row in NCAA play. They are unbeaten and remain the first team since Georgia Tech in 1994 to go this far in the NCAA postseason without trailing.