Oklahoma State moved into the championship round of the NCAA Stillwater Regional with a 13-7 win over Cal State Fullerton in a winner's bracket game Saturday night at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.
With the win, the top-seeded Cowboys improved to 47-16 and to within one victory of advancing to the Super Regionals for the third time in program history (1999, 2007). OSU will face the winner of Sunday's Cal State Fullerton-Nebraska contest Sunday at 6 p.m. CSF or Nebraska will have to beat coach Josh Holliday's ballclub twice to continue its season.
OSU's 47 wins are the most for the program since 1994 when the Cowboys racked up 49 victories.
The Cowboys never trailed against Cal State Fullerton and led by as many as eight runs on two occasions. The Titans (33-23) made things interesting in the late innings, but OSU was able to close out the win to remain unbeaten in the Regional.
Jon Perrin picked up the win with a six-inning effort to improve to 8-4, while Tanner Krietemeier led the offensive attack with a 3-for-6 night that saw the first baseman tie a career high with five RBIs.
OSU racked up 16 hits in the contest, and the 11 runs was the most allowed this season by the Titans, who entered the game as the NCAA leader in team ERA.
"That was a tremendous game, in the sense that it took a lot of concentration," Holliday said. "The game lasted four hours and 20 minutes, which is a real compliment to the fight of both teams. Obviously it wasn't the game we expected, knowing the quality of the starting pitchers. I anticipated a lower-scoring game, but we did a great job offensively against a tremendous pitcher. I thought we did a great job of continuing to be competitive throughout the game, scoring in five consecutive innings to finish.
"Jon (Perrin) really gutted it out for us. It wasn't his best game, but he took us to the seventh inning… He gave us the quality start we needed, the bullpen tied it down and we get scoring to push them off. I'm proud of our team being amazingly competitive up and down the lineup, and I compliment Fullerton for fighting us all the way to the last pitch."
OSU jumped out to a three-run lead with a two-out rally in the top of the third (the Cowboys were the visiting team in the game) against CSF starter Justin Garza, who was coming off throwing a no-hitter in his last outing.
Bryan Case continued his hot hitting to jump start the rally with a double, and an infield single by Saulyer Saxon put Cowboys on the corners. Up next, Donnie Walton delivered an RBI double to bring home the game's first run, and Krietemeier followed with a two-RBI double to make it 3-0.
In the bottom of the third, OSU turned in a defensive gem to keep its three-run advantage intact. After the first two Titans reached on an error and hit-by-pitch, the Cowboys recorded their first triple play since 2012. With the runners in motion, Keegan Dale sent a soft liner to Perrin, who snagged the ball, threw to Walton at second who threw to first to complete the play and get out of the inning.
"I had never been a part of a triple play so that was pretty cool to be a part of," Perrin said. "(Fullerton) had two guys on with no one out, which is a tough spot to be in. I thought they were going to bunt, but they tried to hit and run. I made a good pitch, he hit the ball off the end of the bat and the stars kind of aligned. I had a nice, easy throw to Donnie (Walton) for the second out and then the triple play.
"Getting three outs in one pitch doesn't happen a lot. Being able to throw up a zero after we scored was huge."
CSF tallied its first run in the fourth on an RBI single by Tanner Pinkston, but the Cowboys mounted another big rally in their next at bat.
In the fifth, Holliday's club batted around and erupted for five runs on four hits. Krietemeier brought home the first run with a single, and Gage Green followed with an RBI triple to make it 5-1. A sacrifice fly by Zach Fish plated OSU's sixth run, and a two-out, two-RBI double by Craig McConaughy gave the Pokes an 8-1 lead.
Beginning with the five-run fifth, the Cowboys scored in each of their final five at bats, including a seventh inning highlighted by a two-run home run from Conor Costello.
The Titans scored six runs over the sixth, seventh and eighth innings but never got closer than five runs of OSU before closer Brendan McCurry came on in the ninth and struck out all three batters he faced to seal the victory.
OSU's offensive balance, which saw eight different players collect hits and six of those turn in multi-hit efforts, was key to the victory, said Holliday.
"It was about as good as I've seen in a long time, considering the opponent and the quality of the pitcher we faced," said Holliday of his team's offensive attack. "(Garza is) well-known for his body of work in two years of college. He's a tremendous pitcher. We were awfully tough, and that's all you ever want to see out of your players. (Fullerton) scored six runs from the sixth inning on, but it didn't hurt as much as it could have because we kept scoring right alongside them. That's huge."