Oklahoma State opened the NCAA Stillwater Regional with its seventh shutout of the season Friday night as the top-seeded Cowboys topped fourth-seeded Binghamton, 8-0, at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.
With the win, OSU improved to 46-16 and advanced to the winner's bracket of the Stillwater Regional, where the Cowboys will face third-seeded Cal State Fullerton Saturday at 7 p.m. The 46 wins is the most for the program since it had 46 in 1999.
Five pitchers combined for the shutout, with senior Vince Wheeland earning the win with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to improve to 10-0 on the year.
Offensively, Big 12 Conference Player of the Year Zach Fish led the Cowboys with a 2-for-3, three-RBI night, while Donnie Walton collected three hits, a walk and an RBI in four trips to the plate.
"It was a good win. It's always good to win the first game of a regional tournament and put yourself in that day two night game, where you get a chance to head-to-head with the other winning team," said OSU head coach Josh Holliday. "I thought a couple of key defensive plays, continued outstanding relief pitching and just kind of a grinding offensive effort probably defined that ballgame for us. We did a nice job of continuing to score and adjusting to the various looks that they provided on the mound…
"I'm glad to put that one in the books. We'll rest and get ready to come out tomorrow and face a Cal State Fullerton team that had an exciting game today."
OSU plated its first runs in the third. Bryan Case drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Saulyer Saxon. Up next, Walton delivered an opposite-field RBI single to get the Cowboys on the board, and later in the inning, the sophomore scampered home on a wild pitch to put the home team up, 2-0.
The fifth inning was a pivotal one.
In the top of the fifth, Binghamton (25-26) mounted a two-out rally against OSU starter Tyler Buffett, collecting back-to-back singles and a hit by pitch to load the bases.
That brought Wheeland out of the bullpen, and the first batter he faced sent a short chopper toward third base, where Craig McConaughy barehanded the ball and fired a bullet to first base to barely beat Shaun McGraw and end the inning.
"I thought really the story of the game was our ability to make pitches in the fifth inning," Holliday said. "We had tremendous infield defense by Donovan (Walton) and Craig McConaughy, who made an outstanding play, a bare-handed play, on the charge there when they had something going. That was something that in the balance of that time, it was a close ball game."
Added Walton, "Craig (McConaughy) is a great defender. He's made a lot of those plays, where guys are laying down bunts and he's bare handing everything. It was probably one of the better plays I've seen in my life. It's just Craig being Craig."
The Cowboys would capitalize on that momentum in the bottom of the fifth, with the second of its four two-run innings in the contest.
Following a one-out walk to Tanner Krietemeier, Gage Green singled to put runners on the corners. An intentional walk to Fish loaded the bases, and Tim Arakawa make it 3-0 with a sacrifice fly. Conor Costello followed with an RBI single to push the Cowboys' lead to four.
OSU tacked on two more runs in the sixth, getting a solo home run from Case and an RBI infield single from Fish, and then made it 8-0 in the eighth when Fish brought home two more runs with double to center field.
The Cowboy pitchers combined for 13 strikeouts in the win, six of those by Buffett, who tied a career high. Binghamton had eight hits in the contest but left 12 runners on base and managed just two hits over the final 4 1/3 innings, both of them coming in the ninth.