Michael Freeman had a career day on the mound for Oklahoma State as the 10th-ranked Cowboys closed out their weekend trip to Alabama with a 5-0 win over Western Illinois Sunday at Plainsman Park.
Freeman hurled eight scoreless innings, 7 2/3 of those hitless, and racked up a career-high 10 strikeouts as OSU recorded its first shutout of 2015 and improved to 7-4 on the season.
“We've got to celebrate games like that when a guy goes out and pitches such a fine game,” said OSU head coach Josh Holliday. “(Freeman) pounded the strike zone, he forced them to put the ball in play and with all the sink on Mike's ball, usually when they do hit it, it's straight into the ground. We played really good ground ball defense for the most part behind him.
“I'm very proud of how far Mike has come as a performer. He's a great story, a great person and he provided leadership for a team today that we desperately needed. To walk out in 10 a.m. game where we were a little slow to get started on offense and fire up zeroes long enough for us to find our way was a step in the right direction for Mike and important to our team.”
Freeman was literally unhittable for much of the contest. After WIU's Brent Turner reached on an error to lead off the game, the Cowboys' senior southpaw retired 23 batters in a row, and he struck out two batters in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
WIU starter Preston Church was also tough early on, but the Cowboys finally got on the scoreboard in the fifth. Following consecutive walks to Bryan Case and Dustin Williams, OSU freshman Jacob Chappell stepped to the plate and delivered an RBI single to left field.
“I'm proud of Jacob for cracking the ice with a big base hit and getting the game going in the right direction,” Holliday said. “We're asking an awful lot out of a true freshman, thrusting him in there in the middle of this thing.”
The Cowboys doubled their lead in the next inning. With one out, Tim Arakawa tripled to right field, which extended his hitting streak to 12 games dating back to last season, and he later scored on a passed ball to make it 2-0.
WIU finally broke up Freeman's no-hit bid with two outs in the eighth when Erik Maki sent a slow dribbler down the third base line, where Freeman fielded the ball but was unable to get the out at first. Up next, Leathernecks' pinch hitter Aden Campbell recorded WIU's only other hit of the game with a single up the middle.
OSU would plate three insurance runs in the eighth, with Arakawa driving in another run on a fielder's choice and Case collecting a pair of RBIs on a two-out single.
After shutting out the Leathernecks for eight innings, an outing that bested his previous career long of five innings, Freeman gave way to closer Koda Glover, who worked a perfect ninth with two strikeouts to seal the win.
OSU returns to action Tuesday when the Cowboys open an 11-game homestand against UNLV at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.