"We'll be back, I can tell you that," coach Donnie Marbut promised. "This is not a one-time deal."
Marbut's confidence is based largely on the promise of returning players like Conley. The Cougars, who split four games with the Sooners in Pullman in February, return seven of the 10 players who started Sunday.
Conley, the hard-throwing freshman from Olympia enjoyed considerable success this season, particularly when facing left-handed hitters like Baker.
Sunday was different. Real different, real fast.
Conley's one and only pitch of the day flew out of Dale Mitchell Park with only slightly less speed than the charter plane that transported the Cougars back home after the game. "We bring in the left-hander to face Baker," Marbut mused afterwards. "A freshman against that guy. I'm quite sure Oklahoma likes their chances.
"Adam Conley has done a real good job for us this year. We put him in a tough situation."
DITTO FOR David Stilley, the redshirt freshman whom Marbut sent to the mound despite disastrous results in Stilley's previous three starts. When the first five Oklahoma batters reached base -- including No. 3 hitter Bryant Hernandez, who launched a two-run homer with one out -- Stilley appeared destined for another quick exit.
"It's not comforting," Marbut acknowledged. "I mean, it's not a great feeling to have. But he's a tough kid."
A talented and gutsy one, too. Stilley wound up scattering six hits over six-plus innings against one of the most feared lineups in college baseball.
It wasn't nearly enough, partly because the Cougar bullpen -- so good most of the season -- collapsed in both losses at regionals. The two men Stilley put on in the seventh scored when Connor Lambert gave up a pair of infield singles -- the first on an excellent bunt that Lambert could not field, the second on a ball that glanced off the glove of diving third baseman Matt Argyropolous to snap a 2-2 tie -- and then Baker greeted Conley by crushing his fifth career homer in seven NCAA tournament games.
"We were trying to go away on him," Marbut said. "The ball showed up middle in, and he hit it a mile. You have to tip your hat to him."
Baker returned the favor, though he went a bit overboard when he said the Cougars "can really hit the ball."
IN THREE GAMES at regionals, the 24th-ranked Cougars were outscored 19-8 and outhit 26-17. For the season, the Cougars hit .273 with 56 home runs and averaged 6.1 runs per game. Ninth-ranked Oklahoma is hitting .320 with 91 home runs and an average of 8.2 runs.
"I still don't think there's a better offensive team, one through nine (in the batting order), than Oklahoma," Marbut said. "They can really swing the bats."
As for the Cougars, they take their bats and balls home for the summer after finishing the year 32-25.
"Our guys played hard the entire year," Marbut said. "We're proud of our group."