Can The Cowboys Pitch Out Of This Mess?

STILLWATER – The question now becomes, does Oklahoma State have enough pitching to win three games in two days to advance out of the Stillwater Regional? Frank Anderson will have to do a masterful job with his depleted pitching staff following Saturday night's 5-3 loss to Wichita State and the announcement earlier in the day that Cowboy ace Andrew Oliver has been declared ineligible.

Oliver, the first team All-Big 12 pitcher who was 7-2 and hadn't lost since April 4 at Missouri, was the probable starter for Saturday night's winner's bracket game until it was announced earlier in the day that he was ineligible for an indefinite amount of time.

"It's an eligibility issue, and we're dealing with it and trying to get an appeal process going," was the only comment from Anderson, who said that he found out about Oliver's eligibility issue on Friday.

Tyler Blandford started for the Cowboys against the Tigers, and allowed four runs in 4 1/3 innings before giving way to Robbie Weinhardt who pitched the final 3 2/3 innings.

"I thought our kids battled very hard," Anderson said. "I thought Tyler went out there and competed and gave us some innings. We needed him to get into the middle of the game, and I thought he did that. I thought we competed and gave ourselves a chance. We had a situation where if it's a 4-3 game it could be pretty interesting… but I thought the effort was there."

The situation was a bang-bang call at first base in the Shockers' half of the fifth inning when they took a 4-2 lead. With runners on first and third, Wichita State's Josh Workman hit a chopper to Cowboy shortstop Jordy Mercer who had trouble getting the ball out of his glove but threw to first base for what Anderson thought was the third out of the inning. But first base umpire Steve Mattingly saw differently and called Workman safe, allowing Wichita State's Conor Gillaspie to score making it 4-2.

Anderson sprinted out of the dugout to argue the call and was ejected by Mattingly.

"I thought we had a couple opportunities to move guys in a couple of situations. That's why I thought every call was going to be huge in a game like this, and it ended up being (that way)," the Cowboy head coach said.

The Cowboys had trouble with Wichita State right-hander Aaron Shafer, who only allowed five hits in the complete game victory to improve to 11-3. The Shocker pitcher struck out 10 (six times the Cowboys took called third strikes) and walked just one.

Oklahoma State, now 43-17, must bounced back quickly – and must now win three games in a row, including two on Sunday – to stay alive. The Cowboys will face Texas Christian at 1 p.m. Sunday in an elimination game. The winner of that game will then play Wichita State at 7 p.m. Sunday. A win against Wichita State on Sunday evening would force a deciding game Monday night.

"We are just going to take it like a weekend three-game series," said OSU catcher Luis Flores, who had two of the Cowboys' five hits Saturday night. "We know it is going to be tough. We have to win the first one tomorrow and then win one after that, but we have to put this one behind us and go on. We are going to do that. We are going to pull together and go forward."

Anderson said putting Saturday night's loss behind them and turning around to play Sunday afternoon is probably best for the Cowboys. "It's probably easier that way to be honest with you. Instead of sitting around all day and having to feel sorry for yourself or pout … you go home get to bed and get up ready to play a game."

Flores, Blandford and Weinhardt each said that they do not feel like Oliver has let them down despite being ruled ineligible before the biggest game of the season.

"I think that he is a part of the puzzle but there are other pieces on this team and we can go on without him. Other people have to step up. That is something that we have had to do all year and people have stepped up. Our backs are against the wall and we need people to step up. That is part of life. Tomorrow we are going to get out there and give everything we have," said Weinhardt, who struck out six while allowing three hits in 3 2/3 innings against the Shockers.

Anderson did not say late Saturday night who he would start against Texas Christian on Sunday afternoon.

"Since Tyler went out there and Robbie went out there and got us some innings we've got some options," he said. "We're going to have to piecemeal some things, but we've done it before. It's almost like a mid-week situation now. We've done that and we're used to that, we've thrown some guys, and that's what we'll do from here on out."

The logical choice to start against the Horned Frogs would be senior right-hander Matt Gardner (5-3, 5.13 ERA). The only other Cowboy pitchers to start games this season are sophomore right-hander Matt Willis (1-0, 3.12 ERA, 3 starts), junior right-hander Jeff Breedlove (2-0, 6.06 ERA, 2 starts), and junior lefty Brett Davis (2-1, 5.17 ERA, 1 start).

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