Oklahoma State clinched a berth in the NCAA Super Regionals for the third time in program history as the top-seeded Cowboys captured the Stillwater Regional title Sunday night with a 6-4 win over third-seeded Cal State Fullerton at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.
The Cowboys used a three-run seventh inning to propel them to their 28th come-from-behind win of the season, and with its perfect three-game run through the Stillwater Regional, OSU improved to 48-16.
OSU advances to face the winner of the NCAA Corvallis Regional, which will be either Oregon State or UC Irvine, in next week's Super Regionals. The Cowboys last made the Super Regionals in 2007, and the 1999 Pokes were also a Super Regional team.
"The players picked each other up and did what teams do — they found ways to win," said OSU head coach Josh Holliday, who was a senior on OSU's 1999 Super Regional team. "I'm really proud of them. This is a tribute to them and our fans for helping us feel like we've arrived a little bit again. Having this ballpark full of people and seeing the way our kids respond to the crowd is something that I've ached for ever since we came back to Stillwater.
"I knew in my heart it could happen. It's happening because of the players. They've given the fans something they can fall in love with again and make coming to a baseball game fun. You see people tailgating and showing up in the stands. That's what we want for this program so these kids can have a life experience they'll never forget."
Said Cal State Fullerton head coach Rick Vanderhook, whose club finished the season 34-24 and lost twice to the Cowboys, "(OSU has) attitude. They have that old Oklahoma State-attitude back, there isn't any doubt."
Cal State Fullerton took control of the game early, tagging OSU starter Tyler Nurdin for three runs and driving him from the game after just 2/3 of an inning after the southpaw issued three walks and three hits.
The score remained 3-0 until the fourth when Conor Costello's two-out RBI single trimmed the OSU deficit to two, but the Titans quickly pushed their lead back to three in their next at bat when they plated an unearned run off Trey Cobb to go up 4-1.
Despite that run, Cobb was excellent in relief of Nurdin as the freshman righty scattered six hits over a career-high 5 1/3 innings of work.
With Cobb keeping the Titans off the scoreboard, Costello provided an offensive spark in the bottom of the sixth. Following a single by Tim Arakawa, the sophomore sent a laser over the wall in left-center field for a two-run home run that pulled the Cowboys to within 4-3.
The next inning proved to be the difference.
Donnie Walton, who was named the Stillwater Regional Most Outstanding Player, led off the seventh with a single, and a one-out single by Gage Green brought up Zach Fish. The Big 12 Player of the Year sent a grounder towards first base, but J.D. Davis bobbled the ball to load the bases.
With the bases juiced, Arakawa stepped to the plate and delivered, lacing an opposite-field, two-RBI single to left field to give OSU its first lead at 5-4. The hit marked the 15th time this season the junior has put the Cowboys ahead with RBIs and the eighth time he drove in what proved to be the winning run(s).
"The three guys in front of me did a good job of setting the table and giving me the opportunity to come up," Arakawa said. "Josh (Holliday) just told me to live in the moment and win a pitch. I got a good pitch to hit and didn't try to do too much."
OSU added another run when, three batters later, Bryan Case recorded an RBI infield single to put the Cowboys on top by a 5-4 margin.
With the two-run lead after seven innings, OSU handed the ball to closer Brendan McCurry, who retired the side in the eighth before making things interesting in the ninth.
With a runner on first and two outs in the ninth, CSF pinch hitter Tanner Pinkston reached on an infield single and an error on the play put Titans on the corners. McCurry then walked Jared Deacon to load the bases before McCurry struck out Taylor Bryant to seal the win and record his 19th save of the season.
"We put a lot of hard work in throughout the season," said Walton, who finished the Regional 7-for-12 at the plate. "We had some ups-and-downs. One thing about this team is that we're resilient. Even when we're down, we're calm, and we can come back and make a run at it. I'm just very proud of our team and our coaches. I'm looking forward to next week."
2014 NCAA Stillwater Regional All-Tournament Team
C – Bryan Case, Oklahoma State
1B – Tanner Krietemeier, Oklahoma State
2B – Tim Arakawa, Oklahoma State
SS – Donnie Walton, Oklahoma State
3B – Craig McConaughy, Oklahoma State
OF – Michael Pritchard, Nebraska
OF – Ryan Boldt, Nebraska
OF – Conor Costello, Oklahoma State
DH – J.D. Davis, Cal State Fullerton
Pitcher – Graham Wiest, Cal State Fullerton
Pitcher – Brendan McCurry, Oklahoma State
Most Outstanding Player – Donnie Walton, Oklahoma State