In Stillwater, a statement desperately needed to be made.
Oklahoma State, who entered this past weekend’s series against Baylor below .500 in Big 12 play, having lost eight of their last 12 league games, took it to Baylor, winning the series 2-1. The Cowboys won the series’ first two games, before the visiting Bears took the series finale in a game that was delayed over five hours due to rain.
With the victories, Oklahoma State slid up three spots to #24 in College Baseball Nation’s latest poll, with a 30-16-1 mark on the year and a 12-12 Big 12 record. Baylor is in the conversation as a “bubble” team, sitting at 10-11 in the league and 30-16 on the year. The Bears are unranked in CBN’s latest Top 50 rankings.
The series opener was perhaps the most intriguing game between the two rivals, as the contest was pushed into 11 innings, with the Cowboys eventually pulling out an 8-7 win.
Baylor got on the board first, scoring a run in the second inning off an RBI groundout from right fielder Davion Downey. But Oklahoma State, driven by a large home crowd that was recorded at 3,304, countered on a Cade Cabbiness solo home run to left field in the bottom of the frame. By the fifth inning, Oklahoma State had taken a commanding 6-1 advantage, behind a second homer from Cabbiness and two errors on the Baylor infield.
Baylor, which entered with the top batting average in the Big 12, made a late push, putting together a three-run sixth inning. The frame was highlighted by a one-out single from second baseman Tre Richardson through the right side of the infield that scored shortstop Jack Pineda from third and cut the deficit to 6-5. Oklahoma State turned to two different pitchers in the inning, Colton Bowman and Kale Davis, neither of whom had much luck silencing the Bears’ bats.
Pitching as a whole was the Achilles’ heel for Oklahoma State Friday night, as starter Mitchell Stone allowed four earned runs through 5.1 innings of work. Stone was forced to shift from a bullpen role to the Friday night role due to several injuries on the Cowboy pitching staff, and showed signs of insecurity, especially as the sixth inning turned into a nightmare with Baylor’s momentum feeding a rally.
The game Oklahoma State thought it had closed ended up being wide open, even as the ninth inning began, with the score knotted at seven.
Neither team pushed a runner past first in the ninth, but in the 10th, Oklahoma State had life. A Max Hewitt base hit, and an error on Baylor second baseman Ricky Martinez, put two runners on base with just one out. Cabinness stepped to the plate, and the Oklahoma State crowd clearly expected him to flash his power for the third time on the night; however, he struck out looking on a 1-2 pitch. This paved the way for catcher Brock Mathis to load the bases with two outs as he got hit by a pitch in the following at-bat. Shortstop Hueston Morrill was fanned, however, on a 1-2 count as the contest headed for another frame.
The Cowboys did not let their next opportunity get away, however, especially after Baylor threatened with two runners and two outs in the top of the inning.
To open the bottom of the 11th, center fielder Caeden Trenkle reached on an error, moved to second on a failed pickoff, and found himself trotting to third on a walk to left fielder Carson McCusker on a 3-2 pitch. Third baseman Christian Encarnacion-Strand, possessing the most power in the lineup, was intentionally walked two batters before. With one out, Marcus Brown, a pinch hitter, rose to the occasion, lofting a long fly ball to center field that allowed Trenkle to score easily and won Oklahoma State the game.
The Cowboys carried that surge of momentum into Saturday’s contest, taking the series in a 3-1 pitcher’s duel.
In a stark contrast from the previous night’s contest, the pitching was on-point for Oklahoma State, though Baylor kept the Cowboy bats under control.
Justin Campbell was the key cog in Oklahoma State’s win, as the right-hander went eight innings, surrendering just one run, which was scored on an RBI double to left-center field off the bat of Pineda. He gave up six hits, struck out 10 and walked just one in what might be his best start of the season. The win moved Campbell to 6-1 on the year.
Baylor’s Hayden Kettler was step-for-step with Campbell, though he was tagged with the loss and fell to 4-3. He fired 5.1 innings, and all three of Baylor’s runs were scored with the right-hander on the hill, though that was due to a poor showing from the Bears’ infield, rather than mistakes made by Kettler. All three runs went unearned, and though he allowed eight hits and walked three, he also notched six strikeouts.
Brown and Trenkle were the only Cowboys to record multi-hit days, as each had two hits, but the Oklahoma State offense made the most of their challenging day at the plate, using a three-run third to win the contest.
All three runs originated from an error charged to Baylor third baseman Antonio Valdez, as his throwing error with the bases loaded and two outs marked the beginning of Oklahoma State’s scoring. First baseman Jake Thompson crossed the plate on the play, and a single from Brown in the following at-bat brought two additional unearned runs across.
With the series won, Oklahoma State aimed for the sweep on Sunday, but Baylor made sure to notch at least one win in Stillwater, taking the series finale by a score of 9-3.
Heavy rain pushed the start time back five hours, from 1:00 p.m. to 6:02 p.m. and Baylor came out swinging once the first pitch was finally thrown on the rain-soaked field. A series of singles from Richardson and Valdez in the first put Baylor in front early, 3-0. Catcher Andy Thomas took a 3-2 pitch straight up the middle in the second, driving in yet another insurance run as Oklahoma State starter Bryce Osmond lost control.
The Bears did a phenomenal job of working deep into the count, exhausting Osmond after just two innings of work. Osmond fired 71 pitches during his outing, facing 14 batters and allowing eight base runners with an equal number of hits and walks.
The early deficit proved to be too much for Oklahoma State to overcome as head coach Josh Holliday said postgame, “We just weren’t good enough today.”
The Cowboys did cut the lead to one run in the second, scoring all three of their runs in the frame, but that was as close as the hosts would get. Baylor put the game away in the fifth when left fielder Jacob Schoenvogel doubled into the left field gap, scoring two, widening the lead to 7-3.
The series win was crucial to Oklahoma State’s postseason hopes, as it likely locked the Cowboys in for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. The weekend put a bow on the conference slate for the Cowboys, who will face New Orleans next weekend in a three-game set to conclude the regular season.
Baylor will host the Cowboys’ in-state counterparts next weekend in Waco, facing the Sooners of Oklahoma. Currently, Oklahoma State leads Baylor by two games in the conference standings, but the result of next weekend has the potential to change that.
The Big 12 tournament is set to run May 25-30 in Oklahoma City. If the season ended today, Oklahoma State would be the #4 seed with Baylor at #5.