By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Not even the chill of a cold wind could numb the pain the Oklahoma State baseball team felt after dropping a 12-inning heartbreaker to Baylor Saturday at a soggy Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.
The Cowboys had their chances — oh, did they have their chances — but in the end too many physical and mental errors cost the Pokes as they saw their eight-game winning streak come to an end with a 5-3 loss to the Bears.
“Any time you’re in a one-run game that goes back and fourth, a lot of times it is decided by a single mistake,” Oklahoma State coach Josh Holliday said. “We opened the door a little bit with a few mistakes for them that led to some runs, but (Baylor) created their own luck. They competed well. They had a lot to play for, as did we, and in the end they did the things it took to win”
Oklahoma State (19-4, 1-1 in Big 12) squandered numerous opportunities to put Baylor away late — including failing to drive in the winning run with runners in scoring position with less than two outs in both the ninth and 10th innings.
But while the Cowboys struggled to execute, Baylor (11-12, 1-1 in Big 12) excelled as Logan Brown’s RBI double off Brendan McCurry in the 12th proved to be all Baylor needed to even the series heading into the finale at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“Our guys will tell you that one is gonna sting for a while,” Holliday said. “We haven’t lost a whole lot of games. We’ll have to deal with the emotion of a loss and bounce back quickly. It’s a gut check for us, and that’s Big 12 baseball.
“It’s a tough loss. ... Today is one of those days where you’ve got to give (Baylor) credit. With the game on the line and their backs against the wall, they found the courage to make pitches, pitch out of a tough situation and extend the game into extra innings where anything can happen.”
A night after Jason Hursh and Dillon Newman battled in a classic pitcher’s duel, the damp conditions made it seem like one run would be enough to win as Oklahoma State starter Mark Robinette and Baylor starter Max Garner combined to allow just five hits through the first four innings.
Oklahoma State finally broke through in the fifth as Tanner Krietemeier ripped a two-out single back through the box — almost taking Garner with it — to score Saulyer Saxon for the game’s first run.
“I was just trying to sit back and drive the ball up the middle,” Krietemeier said. “They had been working me with changeups a lot of the time, so I was just trying to sit back on that and take it up the middle instead of rolling over like I had before.”
That lead didn’t last for long as a single by Brown coupled with Oklahoma State’s second error of the game set the table for Cal Towey. The Baylor senior third baseman delivered, roping a 1-2 pitch up the middle to score Brown and Langford, giving Baylor its first runs of the series and chasing Robinette after 5.1 innings.
With Vince Wheeland in for Robinette, the Bears tacked on another run when Adam Toth’s bouncer up the middle scored Towey. Wheeland was able to avoid more damage as he picked off Toth, but Baylor had a 3-1 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth.
It didn’t take long for the Cowboys to answer as a two-out single by Donnie Walton in the bottom of the sixth scored Robbie Rea to cut Baylor’s lead to 3-2.
“We just kept battling every single time,” Krietemeier said. “They would put up runs and we’d come back and try to put up runs as well. It’s just what we’ve been trying to do all year.”
Oklahoma State then seized momentum when Aaron Cornell led off the seventh inning with a walk before advancing to third on a two-base wild pitch. Zach Fish then tied the game with a sacrifice fly to right, allowing Cornell to slide in easily.
The Cowboys threatened to score more as Victor Romero walked and McCurry singled to right, but Rea couldn’t bring the runners home — lining out softly to second.
It looked like the Cowboys might win it in the bottom of the ninth as Cornell was hit by a pitch and Krietemeier reached on an error. But on a day in which defense was at a premium, it was Towey’s defense that forced extra innings.
With runners on second and third and only one out pinch hitter Trey Whaley hit a shot right at the bag at third. Towey made a backhand stop, tagging out Cornell at third before firing to first for the double play.
“It’s just hard to stay in the moment sometimes,” Krietemeier said. “We just let that slip as a team. We all thought it was over. We shouldn’t have got away from that. The team just didn’t stay in the moment like we should have.”
After Wheeland made quick work of Baylor in the top of the 10th, the Cowboys again had a chance to put the Bears away in the bottom of the 10th when Randy McCurry singled and Saxon was hit by a pitch. But Saxon’s baserunning mistake forced McCurry to run into a waiting tag at third before Gage Green struck out looking to end the inning.
“You just have to hang with it,” Holliday said. “It’s one game. It’s disappointing, but you have to evaluate effort and you have to evaluate play. You have to look at where mistakes were made and, more importantly, focus on corrections.”
Baylor’s Nate Goodwin led off the 12th inning with a walk before being lifted for pinch runner West Tunnell. Following a sacrifice bunt, Brown roped a double down the left field line, scoring Tunnell. The Bears then added an insurance run when Randy McCurry botched Duncan Wendel’s grounder for Oklahoma State’s third error of the game.
The Cowboys, who had nine comeback wins this season, threatened to record a 10th come-from-behind win when Rick Stover singled and Stillwater-native Corey Hassel walked. But with the winning run at the plate Walton grounded out to short to end the game.
“That just shows you how important it is to finish the game,” Holliday said. “You get right on the brink of feeling like you’re going to taste victory only to have it taken away by not completing or staying in the moment with the game on the line. ... We appeared to be in position to score there at the end, but we broke down a little bit. We failed to execute offensively to get that final run across.”
Randy McCurry led the Oklahoma State offense, going 3-for-6, while Krietemeier was 2-for-5 with an RBI. Saxon also went 2-for-4 with a run.
Brendan McCurry (3-1) took the loss, allowing two runs on one hit and three walks in one inning. Robinette allowed three runs on four hits and a walk in 5.1 innings, while Wheeland surrendered just two hits and three walks in 5.2 innings.
The loss will undoubtedly haunt the Cowboys, but with the rubber game of the series Sunday, Krietemeier said he’s already put this one in the rearview mirror.
“We just have to come back and not let them get any piece of us again,” Krietemeier said. “We just have to come back and let all our frustration out in the game, play like we can and try to bury them like we know we can.”