Cowboys Advance To Face Shockers

STILLWATER – There were plenty of stars in Oklahoma State's 5-3 victory over Western Kentucky in the first-round of the Stillwater Regional tournament Friday night. Tyler Lyons and his teammates did their jobs to ensure the Cowboys would advance to face Wichita State on Saturday night but one of the biggest roars from the crowd came when it was announced Bucknell had defeated Florida State.

The Oklahoma State fans were thrilled because the Stillwater and Tallahassee regional winners are paired to face off in a Super Regional, and the Cowboys' only chance of hosting the best-two-out-of three series would be if the Seminoles did not win this weekend.

The Cowboys, 43-16, will face the Wichita State Shockers, 46-15, in a rematch of the game between the two teams on April 23 at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium. Oklahoma State defeated Wichita State, 5-3, in that midweek contest.

"It's going to be a grind. We played them once but it was in the rain so it was a tough game to play in. We know most of their guys, and it's going to be a dogfight," said OSU rightfielder Matt Hague, whose solo home run in the bottom of the first inning Friday night against Western Kentucky gave the Cowboys a 1-0 lead that they would never relinquish.

Oklahoma State head coach Frank Anderson said, "It's a great regional rivalry and one that's been around for a long time. Like Matt said, there are a lot of crossover kids who know each other. In the past they've had a lot of really good Oklahoma kids, and we've tried to curtail some of that but they've still got some good Oklahoma kids. It'll be exciting from that standpoint.

"We've been playing them since I've been here and I think it's the best offensive and defensive team that they've had since I've been here from top to bottom," Anderson continued of the Wichita State head coach Gene Stephenson's squad. "They don't have maybe one guy sitting in there but they have nine guys that do a pretty good job and know how to play."

Hague's 11th homer of the season gave the Cowboys the early lead but left-handed pitcher Tyler Lyons pitching and the defense of leftfielder Neil Medchill who allowed Oklahoma State to win in its first regional game in Stillwater since 1997.

Lyons pitched into the ninth inning to pick up his 12th victory of the season (fifth most in Division I). The first four Western Kentucky batters he faced reached base but the Hilltoppers did not score in the first inning. WKU's Scott Kaskie and Matt Hightower reached on singles but Kaskie was thrown out at third base on a double steal attempt. Terrence Dayleg followed with a single to center but Hightower was held up at third base. Lyons then hit Chad Cregar with a pitch to load the bases.

But the sophomore lefthander got out of the inning when Western Kentucky's Wade Gaynor grounded sharply to third base when OSU's Tyrone Hambly stepped on third base for the second out and threw to first base for the inning-ending double play.

"I thought we had our chances to get ahead in the first inning," said Western Kentucky head coach Chris Finwood. "We hit a ball hard down the line and their third baseman made a very nice play and turned it into a double play. When you're playing on the road in front of a big crowd, obviously you're trying to get ahead and that was our shot to do it.

"Lyons kept us off balance and pitched pretty well," said Finwood of the Cowboy pitcher who retired 11 Hilltoppers in a row from the first through the fifth innings.

Lyons said, "Once I got out of trouble in the first inning I settled down a little bit. I started locating pitches and felt a little more comfortable. I just kept trying to throw strikes and my team made some great plays behind me."

"His secondary stuff he struggled with," Anderson said of the Cowboy pitcher who improved to 12-2. "I thought he was really better in the eighth and ninth then he was in the entire game because he's a great competitor, and he had to go to something else and we needed him to stay out there to burn some innings. I think he got a couple of different strikeouts in the eighth and ninth innings where we needed him to get them with a changeup. He changed patterns to get some outs when he had to right there.

"Was it his greatest game? No but it was one of the best games he's had for us because of the circumstances."

Lyons got some help from his defense, especially Medchill in left field. The junior transfer from Chandler-Gilbert (Ariz.) Community College robbed WKU's Cregar of a home run in the fourth inning by making a leap catch at the wall, and then he made another outstanding catch to rob Hightower of a hit in the leftfield corner in the sixth.

The Cowboys added a single run in the fifth on Jordy Mercer's single to go up 2-0. They scored three more times in the sixth on Thomas Belza's two-run double and Donnie Webb's run-scoring triple to make it 5-0.

The Hilltoppers finally got to Lyons in the top of the seventh on Gaynor's leadoff homer. That's the way it stayed until the ninth when three hits and a Cowboy error allowed two runs to score before OSU closer Jordy Mercer came in to strikeout Koskie to end the game for the Cowboys' 43rd victory of the season.

"When you look around at regionals a lot of crazy things happened today," Anderson said. "I'm proud of our guys. I'm proud of how we played, and I'm proud of the effort."

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