OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma State knocked off Texas twice Saturday to earn a berth in the Big 12 Conference championship game Sunday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
OSU, the tourney’s top seed, will face second-seeded TCU in Sunday’s championship game at 5:30 p.m. ET. It marks the Cowboys’ second appearance in the Big 12 title game; in 2004, OSU defeated Missouri in Arlington, Texas, to claim the trophy.
Both OSU wins Saturday were in come-from-behind fashion, giving the Cowboys 27 comeback wins on the year as they improved to 45-15. It marks the program’s highest win total since the 1999 team won 45 games.
“The story of the game is these kids' amazing ability to compete,” OSU head coach Josh Holliday said. “No matter the circumstances, no excuse in the world exists for these kids, and that’s really special to be a part of. We’re a team that plays for each other and to see kids like Mark [Robinette] step forward with a big outing is an awesome story and something he will remember.
“[Sunday] somebody else is going to have to do it because the way it lays out, it’s very taxing on your pitching staff and very taxing on your legs.”
Following OSU’s 3-1 win in Saturday’s first elimination game, the Cowboys took an early lead in the second contest, with the Big 12’s leader in home runs using the long ball to get on the scoreboard.
In the top of the second, Conor Costello delivered a two-out, two-run blast, his seventh homer of the season, to give OSU a 2-0 advantage, and in the third, Bryan Case’s solo shot to lead off the inning put the Cowboys on top, 3-1.
With OSU still up 3-1 and two outs in the top of the fourth inning, heavy rains forced a delay that spanned two hours, 29 minutes. When the game resumed, the Longhorns quickly tied the score with a pair of runs against Cowboy southpaw Garrett Williams, but the freshman escaped further damage when, with the score tied 3-3 and the bases loaded, he recorded back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.
Texas (38-18) took its first lead of the game in the sixth, gaining a 4-3 advantage on an RBI single by Mark Payton.
That lead held until the eighth when the Cowboys mounted yet another late rally as for the third consecutive game, OSU recorded a three-run eighth inning that proved to be the difference.
Saulyer Saxon got the pivotal inning started with a leadoff walk, and after Aaron Cornell was hit by a pitch, Donnie Waltonlaid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners. Up next, Gage Green was intentionally walked to load the bases and bring up Tanner Krietemeier.
And the senior delivered as Krietemeier ripped a Parker French offering up the middle for a two-RBI single to give the Cowboys a 5-4 lead.
Two batters later, with the bases still full, Costello brought home a run with a sacrifice fly to push the OSU lead to 6-4.
“I can’t tell you if any clubs have played Texas 18 innings in one day and found a way to win,” Holliday said. “It’s one of the top-five pitching staffs in the country, and that was our sixth time playing Texas this year. It’s really challenging competition when you see those type of caliber players across the field and how well they are coached. I applaud our kids for their competitive spirit, and I knew they were going to rally back one more time. They always do and we were able to get a clutch hit.”
The Cowboys would also get a clutch performance on the mound from senior Mark Robinette to seal the win.
Robinette worked the final three innings, allowing just two hits and shutting out the Longhorns, who made things interesting in their final at bat.
Tres Barrera led off the bottom of the ninth with an infield single and was replaced at first by pinch runner Weston Hall. Madison Carter then sent a fly ball to center field that Saxon dropped for an error, but an alert Green backed up the play and gunned Hall out trying to reach third.
With one on and one out, C.J. Hinojosa singled. A ground out then resulted in the second out of the inning but moved the Longhorn runners to second and third base.
However, Robinette would retire Kacy Clemens on another ground out to second to end the rally and send OSU into Sunday’s title game against TCU, who the Cowboys defeated twice in three games in Stillwater in late March.
Walton, Krietemeier and Case each had two hits to lead the OSU offense, while Robinette improved to 3-2 on the year with the three-inning effort.