Oklahoma State fell into an early deficit it couldn’t climb out of Friday afternoon at Rip Griffin Park in Lubbock, Texas.
The Cowboys gave up a trio of runs in the first three innings of the Lubbock Super Regional. They made several rallies, but each one was answered by the home squad as the Cowboys were unable to ever take a lead.
In the end, Texas Tech held off OSU and won the first game in the best-of-three series, 8-6. TTU could win the series and earn a College World Series berth at 5 p.m. Saturday. OSU needs to win the next two games to continue its season.
“Other than a couple of small things here and there that probably we'd like to have back, we competed awfully hard,” OSU coach Josh Holliday said. “I don't know we played the cleanest game we could play, I know we could play better. We did compete pitch to pitch with a great amount of emotion and intensity. I appreciate that from my team a great deal. We'll come back tomorrow and be ready to play in Game 2.”
OSU starting pitcher Jensen Elliott, who’s been lights out on the mound during his past five outings, struggled in his second-straight game in Lubbock. He gave up seven hits, six runs and four walks in just four innings.
On April 26, he lasted only two innings in a 12-2 loss at Texas Tech. He allowed five hits, seven runs and two walks in that outing.
TTU scored two runs in the second inning, after two Elliott strikeouts. Two walks followed, before a Dylan Neuse hit a two-run single put the first runs on the scoreboard.
Cody Masters hit a solo home run in the third inning, pushing the Red Raiders’ lead to 3-0. They added three more runs in the fourth inning.
The first came after a single, a walk and an RBI single. The next two runs came on an error by OSU center fielder Trevor Boone. He dropped what could have been the third out on a fly ball to shallow right-center field, allowing both runs to cross the plate.
“That's a play normally we make,” Holliday said. “Today we didn't make it. No excuses, no transfer of blame. That one play didn't cost us the game. Sometimes when you're in a spacious park playing deep, the ball is quite high, comes down to a spot where people are running for a long time, your internal clock gets a slight bit off. Looked to me like that’s maybe what might have happened.”
Jake Lyons and Peyton Battenfield pitched the 3 2/3 innings after Elliott. They gave up a combined four hits and two runs, while allowing no walks.
The lone runs on Lyons came in the bottom of the seventh inning. Josh Jung, who was selected No. 8 in the MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers earlier this week, blasted a solo home run to put TTU ahead 7-5. It was Jung’s 13th home run of the season.
It came just after OSU scored two runs in the top half of the inning, but left the bases stranded. Bryce Carter and Carson McCusker hit one-out singles before Alix Garcia, who hit a solo home run two innings prior, came through with an RBI single, scoring Carter.
Two batters later, freshman Hueston Morrill, who entered the at-bat 0 for 3, hit a clutch two-out, RBI single to score McCusker. Christian Funk followed with a full-count walk, loading the bases for Colin Simpson, who hit a deep fly ball to center field for the final out.
The Cowboys threatened to take the lead in the eighth inning. Andrew Navigato led off by reaching first on one of two TTU errors in the game. Trevor Boone followed with a hard-hit grounder to TTU third baseman Parker Kelly, who committed the error, but the ball bounced up and knocked Kelly’s glove off his hand and rolled into shallow left field.
Boone reached second and Navigato advanced to third on the play that was ruled a double by Boone. OSU was only able to score one run after the hit. A two-out McCusker sacrifice fly scored Navigato, but Boone – the tying run – was left stranded at second base.
“It was frustrating, but we just try and stick together,” Boone said of not being able to tie the game or take the lead.”We've been in that spot before. We weren't exactly uncomfortable. We just trusted ourselves and trusted the guys on the mound. We just tried to stick together.”
TTU closer John McMillon struck out three Cowboys – aside from walking Morrill – in the top of the ninth inning. McMillon pitched the final two innings and earned his third save of the season.
“Tomorrow is a new game,” Holliday said. “I told the kids I was very proud of the way they competed down the stretch until the very, very last pitch, especially late in the game against some excellent relief pitchers. They were very competitive against them. Put runners in position, competed pitch to pitch much better as the game went on. They know what they're capable of doing. I believed in them till the very end.”