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Cowboys Lose Late Lead, Fall To Arkansas In NCAA Tourney

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Oklahoma State dropped into the loser's bracket at the NCAA Stillwater Regional with a 7-5 setback to Arkansas Saturday night in front of 3,831 fans at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.

The eighth inning doomed the top-seeded and 11th-ranked Cowboys as they fell to 38-19 on the season. OSU faces St. John's in an elimination game Sunday at noon, with the winner of that contest taking on Arkansas at 6 p.m.

Second-seeded Arkansas (37-22) plated five runs in the pivotal eighth, recording three hits and taking advantage of a pair of costly OSU errors to remain undefeated in the Regional.

“That (eighth) inning proved to be a tough one,” said OSU head coach Josh Holliday. “It's too trivial to sit here and say, ‘That's just baseball.' Obviously, we all understand that. We've watched the game enough to know that that does happen. You have to get deeper than that as a coach. You can't just let ‘that's just baseball' be your response. …

“Everyone might point to that inning and say that was a pivotal inning, but I can tell you there were several other moments throughout the ballgame where we could have done some things collectively as a team that may have not made that inning seem like such a focal point. From there, again, we made another mistake. We can give credit to (Arkansas) for making a couple big base hits that gave them that separation. Again, you can't dwell on it. You have to learn from it. That's my job as a coach is to do a better job before the game to make sure that when those things happen, that our players are in the moment and comfortable making those plays.

“We'll grow from it. And I can honestly tell you that even after giving up that five spot, I felt a really determined vibe from the kids to respond and right there until the very last pitch, we were one swing away. You have to stay tough. Now our character, once again, is challenged, and I know the strength of our kids in the locker room. I'm excited to wake up tomorrow with a game ahead of us where we can do this thing again.”

The Cowboys jumped out to an early two-run lead in the second. Tim Arakawa led off the inning with a home run to right field, his second round tripper of the season, and two batters later, Garrett McCain ripped an RBI double down the left-field line to score Conor Costello and put OSU up 2-0.

But the lead would not last long, as in the third, the Razorbacks tied the score against OSU ace Michael Freeman on a two-out, two-RBI single by Tyler Spoon.

The score remained 2-2 until the sixth when OSU went back on top. Singles by Dustin Williams and Ryan Sluder and a walk to Costello loaded the bases with one out, and the Cowboys continued to take advantage of the wildness of UA reliever James Teague as McCain and Jacob Chappell drew back-to-back RBI walks to give the Pokes a 4-2 edge.

Things would unravel in the eighth, however.

After retiring 13 in a row, Freeman walked pinch hitter Carson Shaddy to open the inning, and up next, Joe Serrano sent a single through the left side. That brought up Bobby Wernes, who laid down a sacrifice bunt that Freeman fielded before throwing wildly to first base. The error allowed Shaddy to race home to make the score 4-3.

Things would go from bad to worse for the home team. Freeman uncorked a wild pitch while trying to intentionally walk Andrew Benintendi, bringing home the tying run, and eventually a walk loaded the bases and ended the southpaw's night on the mound.

Remey Reed came out of the OSU bullpen to relieve Freeman and immediately allowed the tying run to score when he threw the ball away on a pick-off attempt at third base.

Leading 5-4, the Razorbacks tacked on two more runs on RBI singles by Rick Nomura and Michael Bernal to push their lead to three before Reed finally got out of the inning with a strikeout.

OSU mounted rallies in each of the final two innings but came up short both times. In the eighth, the Cowboys pulled to within 7-5 when Arakawa scored from second on a wild pitch and throwing error. After consecutive two-out walks to McCain and pinch-hitter Kevin Bradley brought the go-ahead run to the plate, but Gage Green struck out to end the threat.

In the ninth, Corey Hassel led off the inning by reaching first on a wild pitch on a strikeout, but he was stranded on second base, one of nine Cowboys left on base in the game.

OSU finished with just six hits in the contest while the Cowboys drew nine walks.

Freeman suffered just his third loss, falling to 10-3 after giving up six runs – four of them earned – on five hits in seven innings of work. The senior struck out five and walked four.

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