Cowboy Pitching Struggles Against KU

OKLAHOMA CITY – For the second game in a row in the Big 12 Conference Baseball Championship Tournament the Oklahoma State Cowboys were lined up against a team desperate to win in hopes of attracting an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament. The Kansas Jayhawks, like the Cowboys, knew a win would put them in position to play for a spot in Sunday's Big 12 title game.

The pitching match-up appeared to favor the Cowboys as right hander Matt Gardner (6-3) won the series opener earlier this season over KU starter Sean Land (3-6). The Cowboys won that game 9-5 in Stillwater back on April 14. This game, in front of 5,594 at the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, did not resemble the earlier meeting between the two hurlers. Cowboy pitching struggled throughout, defense was up and down, and offense had one really good frame.

After a scoreless first, Kansas got on the board first when Kansas third baseman Erik Morrison took a Gardner delivery and drove it deep to left field. Cowboy left fielder Ty Wright kept going back, but all he could do was stop at the wall and look up at Morrison's team-leading 12th homer of the season. Kansas had a 1-0 lead. The bottom of the second was nearly worse for the Cowboys as Jayhawks designated hitter Brock Simpson drilled one off Gardner's glove for a ricochet base hit. Then after a walk and Gardner hitting Matt Baty to load the bases with two outs Kansas shortstop Ritchie Price, son of the Jayhawks head coach, hit a sinking liner to center field that Keanon Simon made a spectacular diving catch to save the inning and hold the KU lead to 1-0.

The reprieve was good for just an inning as Gardner walked Jared Schweitzer and Gus Milner of Kansas to start the bottom of the third. KU left fielder John Allman delivered with a single in the gap to right field and scored Schweitzer. Morrison picked up his second RBI of the evening with a solid sacrifice fly to center field. After three innings Kansas was up 3-0.

The steady stream of Kansas offense continued in the bottom of the fourth as leadoff hitter Matt Baty hit his second homer of the season, both in the Big 12 Tournament. Baty's shot went halfway up in the bleachers down the left field line. In between a strike out Price singled and Milner doubled him in to chase Gardner. The Cowboy starter, who had been so solid over the last month, finished giving up six hits, five runs all earned, four walks, two strike outs, and one hit batter. Worse, Kansas led 5-0.

Land would join Gardner in the "house" in the sixth inning as the Cowboys came back with vengeance in the bats. Catcher Matt Clarkson started it with a single in the hole between first and second. Land walked Corey Brown and then Shelby Ford unloaded with a home run to the deepest part of the Bricktown Ballpark over the 415 sign just left of center. The three-run shot was Ford's 12th round tripper of the season. After a Tyler Mach strike out, Rebel Ridling doubled, Ty Wright grounded out, Deik Scram, who replaced Justin Colbert as the DH, singled in Ridling to make 5-4. Keanon Simon finished the scoring in the sixth with a single that scored Scram to tie the game.

Kansas wasted no time in retaking the lead, matching the Cowboys five runs in the top of the sixth with their own five in the bottom half. Three of the first four Kansas hitters singled, two of those base hits were of the infield variety. John Allman doubled home two runs with a blast that bounced off the wall in right field. Leading 7-5 Kansas added another run and Erik Morrison his third RBI of the game with a long sacrifice fly to center field and it was 8-5 Jayhawks. That chased reliever Jeff Breedlove from the game. Lefthander Jason Schroder came on and gave up a 2-run single to Kansas catcher Buck Afenir and it was 10-5.

The Cowboys added a run in the top of the eighth on a Ty Wright RBI single before the Jayhawks brought in ace closer Don Czyz to finish it out. Czyz struggled but got the job done without giving up a run. Erik Morrison gave Czyz a little support in the bottom of the eighth as he chased another Cowboys reliever Trent Lare with a solo home run, his second of the game and 13th of the season. Morrison had four RBIs in the game.

The 11-6 win for Kansas pits them against Missouri Saturday to decide who will move out of pool two into Sunday's championship game. Texas and Nebraska, also both 2-0, will play Saturday morning to decide the pool one winner. OSU drops to 0-2 in the tournament and 39-17 overall. Kansas with the win is 2-0 in Oklahoma City and 40-23 overall.

The big question for Oklahoma State fans is how the Big 12 Tournament losses have effected the Cowboys chance to host a regional in the NCAA Tournament. OSU bid for one and the selection committee is meeting this weekend in Indianapolis with an announcement on Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. of which teams will host regionals and the unveiling of the entire NCAA field on Memorial Day Monday.

The Cowboys entered the game with Kansas at 14 in the latest simulated RPI. It helps that Virginia (11), Arkansas (15) and Pepperdine (17) are struggling or eliminated in conference tournament play. However, Miami, Fla. (12), Florida State (13), North Carolina State (16), Winthrop (18) , and Ole Miss (19) are still alive in their tournaments.

The Cowboys will close pool play and their participation in the Big 12 Tournament at 5 p.m. on Saturday with a bonus edition of Bedlam. Oklahoma, like the Cowboys, are 0-2 in pool play and 39-19 overall. The Sooners have lost to Kansas 7-2 and on Friday were run-ruled by Missouri 11-0 as big league draft pitching prospect Max Scherzer pitched seven innings complete and held OU to just four hits. Tigers catcher J.C. Field was the hitting hero as he went 2-for-4 with five RBIs and it was a three-run homer into the left field bleachers by Field that ended the game in the bottom of the seventh.

One team will reach 40 wins on Saturday in Bedlam. Stay tuned to see if the Cowboys - with pitching staff ace Brae Wright on the mound - can deefeat OU for the fourth time this season and collect win 40 at the same time.

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