The No. 8 Texas Tech baseball team suffered a 6-5 loss to No. 9 Oklahoma State on Saturday at Rip Griffin Park.
"It was a great college baseball game," head coach Tim Tadlock said. "If any of you guys ask us if we could start the year and play one game for an opportunity to go to Omaha, I think we would all sign up for it, so really looking forward to the opportunity tomorrow."
With the loss, the Red Raiders have gone 43-18 this year while earning a 29-7 record at home. Against the Cowboys, the Red Raiders have gone 4-1 this season as they post a 4-1 record in the NCAA Tournament.
"Experience would be defined, I think, as if you failed at something and you learned from it," Tadlock said regarding some of the players' previous experience in the NCAA Tournament "We've played a lot of three-game series. To me probably the experience they need to draw on is it's a baseball game. These kids, they want to go to Omaha, they want to go so bad they can't stand it. But it's a baseball game and, you know, baseball is meant to be played one pitch at a time. You gotta go out and win innings."
At Rip Griffin Park, 4,833 fans were in attendance which is the most fans Tech received since the renovations of the park in 2012. The sellout crowd marks the 10th largest crowd recorded at Rip Griffin Park.
Coming off of a loss in the first game of the Super Regionals, Oklahoma State retired the first three Red Raiders in order with a double play to end the top of the inning. Hueston Morrill then opened with a single up the middle and a steal to second. Colin Simpson then sent Morrill home with a hit to right field, giving the Cowboys their first lead of the series, 1-0.
Junior RHP Caleb Kilian pitched a three up, three down inning in the bottom of the second to keep the Cowboys’ lead, 1-0. Freshman Dru Baker was the first Red Raider to land on base as he drew a four-pitch walk. Sophomore Braxton Fulford then singled to center field to put runners on the corners. Baker then made an incredible swim slide at home to dodge the tag, tying the game, 1-1, as sophomore Gabe Holt landed on first with the fielder’s choice hit. Junior Brian Klein then loaded the bases with a walk but the Red Raiders could not capitalize, ending the top of the inning, 1-1.
"(Holt), his hand/eye coordination is about as good as I've ever seen," Oklahoma State's head coach Josh Holliday said. "I've never seen a hitter who can hit so many pitches in so many quadrants. He is just really, really good, to go along with some of the others that are outstanding."
In the fifth inning, Oklahoma State opened the bottom of the inning with a single through the left side by Carson McCusker. Baker then fielded a grounder and threw McCusker out at second, putting Alix Garcia on first off of a fielder’s choice. Kilian struck a batter out but Hueston Morrill hit a home run over the left-field wall, giving the Cowboys a 3-1 lead.
"(Morrill's) been a gamer all year long, he really has," Holliday said. "There is a lot packed in that little body and you saw that on his hanging curveball, like he said. That wasn't a hanger. (Kilian) has an outstanding curveball. He is a heck of a pitcher, and he just got a curve ball and he did the right thing with it. When players do big things in big games, it's fun to watch. That's what this is all about."
The Red Raiders added another run quickly as they cut Oklahoma State’s lead, 3-2, in the sixth inning. The run began with Klein hitting a ground-rule double and being sent to third off of a sac hit in the infield by junior Josh Jung. Senior Cameron Warren then sent Klein home with a grounder to third.
Kilian took control in the bottom of the sixth inning as he contributed to all three outs of the inning. He started with two strikeouts, making it his seventh and eighth of the day. Kilian then fielded a grounder and tossed the final batter of the inning out at first to keep the score, 3-2, in Oklahoma State’s favor.
Oklahoma State’s starting pitcher, Parker Scott, ended his time at the mound as Peyton Battenfield started the seventh inning as the Cowboys’ pitcher. Scott finished his 6.0 innings pitched with five strikeouts as he gave up four hits and two runs.
"Makes me want to compete even more and beat one of my friends," Kilian said regarding playing with Scott in high school. "But, yeah, we go back to high school. I played with him. He's a dirty lefty, pitched really well tonight, but I wanted to beat him. Unfortunately he did really well and got that win."
Battenfield started the seventh inning with a strikeout but Baker fired the crowd up as he hit a solo home run over the left-field wall to tie the game, 3-3. The home run was Baker’s first of the postseason as he made his first start of the NCAA Tournament. The momentum carried as Fulford singled to right field, leading to a pitching change by Oklahoma State.
Tech sent junior RHP Connor Queen to the mound to start the bottom of the seventh inning, relieving Kilian after he pitched in 6.0 innings. In his first inning at the mound, Queen struck three-straight batters out to keep the Cowboys off of the bases.
The Cowboys earned two early outs in the top of the eighth inning as they threw Jung out at second and caught a line drive hit by Warren but sophomore Cody Masters earned the first hit of the inning with a bounced hit in the infield. Sophomore Kurt Wilson followed with a walk and Baker singled through the left side, sending Masters home to give the Red Raiders a 4-3 lead.
"(Baker) put together some good at-bats," Tadlock said. "It's been pretty much a month, and he's been working really hard. His preparation has been really good. I mean, he's been a shortstop, and I think the month was probably good for him, and he had some big swings today."
Junior LHP Dane Haveman relieved Queen at the mound after he gave up a single to Morrill. Haveman made a stop at the mound and made a throw that was off to first. Warren made an incredible catch for the out but Simpson hit a two-run dinger to give Oklahoma State a 5-4 lead. Haveman then struck Trevor Boone out swinging but Boone made it to first off of a wild pitch. Haveman then committed a balk, ending his time at the mound as freshman RHP Clayton Beeter relieved him.
Holt opened the ninth inning as he reached first on a throwing error by the shortstop and advanced to second. An infield hit by sophomore Dylan Neuse moved Holt to third and Klein hit a sac fly to send him home, tying the game 5-5. Warren followed with a sac fly to right field, moving Neuse to third base with Masters up to bat but he grounded out, entering the bottom of the ninth inning a tie game.
Beeter walked his first batter of the game, resulting in junior RHP Taylor Floyd being sent to the mound in the bottom of the ninth inning. Floyd walked Noah Sifrit and he made his way to third after advancing two-straight bases, both on wild pitches. Floyd then walked another batter, loading the bases for the Cowboys.
"Once they tied it up in the last inning, I knew I was the first one to lead off the game so my mentality was just to get on base and get my team a chance to win, and there were pass balls, and I took every opportunity I got," Sifrit said.
Sifrit won the game for Oklahoma State as he advanced home off of Floyd's third wild pitch, defeating Tech, 6-5.
"Coach told us in the locker room, if you're scared, get a dog," Warren said. "Just come out and same game we played first day of the season, middle of season, just gotta be ready to go."
The Red Raiders will play the Cowboys in a winner-take-all game three at 5 p.m. on Sunday at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park. The winner of the game will earn a bid to the 2019 College World Series.