OKLAHOMA CITY — As the Cowboy baseball team encountered turbulence on Sunday, Oklahoma State’s magic carpet ride of a spring-sports campaign is perilously close to ending.
With a victory over UConn, OSU would have advanced to the super regional level of the 2019 NCAA Baseball Championship.
There was the presumption that the Cowboys would be energized by what happened late Saturday night, when former Memorial Charger Trevor Boone rocked a two-out, ninth-inning homer to lift the Cowboys past Nebraska.
OSU was an offensive no-show in a 5-2 loss to UConn. The Sunday night Bricktown Ballpark crowd of 4,296 saw Cowboy batters strike out 17 times.
In a do-or-die rematch in this double-elimination regional, Oklahoma State and the Huskies clash again at 6 p.m. Monday.
Now, if anything is to be presumed, it’s that Cowboy coach Josh Holliday would preside over an extended batting-practice session on Monday morning.
“I don’t think our backs are against the wall,” Holliday said. “I think this is an opportunity to play in a championship baseball game.”
A week ago — when OSU was represented on national platforms in golf, softball and baseball — Oklahoma State people were at a maxed-out level of excitement.
For the Cowboy golf team, there wasn’t the hope for a national title. There was the universal expectation that it would happen.
By sundown on Monday, at the end of the stroke-play segment of the NCAA championship in Fayetteville, Arkansas, OSU was 31 shots better than any other team in the field.
By sundown on Tuesday, in a match decided ultimately by a lipped-out putt on a playoff hole, OSU had been Cole Hammered out of the tournament by the Texas Longhorns.
For Cowgirl softball, there had been a surprise super regional triumph at defending national champion Florida State. OSU was a Women’s College World Series participant for the first time in eight years.
OSU’s Samantha Show had become a YouTube-sensation, bat-flipping rock star who fortified that status with two home runs and a complete-game pitching performance in a 2-1 WCWS victory over Florida.
But then the Cowgirls were matched with their nemesis — the OU Sooners — and the result was a 6-1 setback. A day later, Washington eliminated OSU.
Since April 5, OSU’s softball team is 0-4 against OU and 19-4 against everybody else.
As the OSU golfers and softball athletes were shoved out of contention for titles, the OSU baseball team is still standing.
Wobbly, but standing.
While most people are aware that UConn in recent years has been a basketball underachiever and consistently bad in football, UConn baseball was a fun-to-watch revelation here during the weekend.
In three NCAA regional baseball games before Sunday — a loss to Nebraska, a victory over Harvard and a victory over Nebraska — the Huskies rolled for an astonishing total of 58 base hits.
Before this regional, UConn’s team batting average was .267. Before clashing with OSU, the Huskies in Oklahoma City had an inexplicably sensational three-game average of .464.
On Sunday, UConn was matched with a former Jenks star — Brett Standlee — who got the start for Oklahoma State. The Huskies were limited to a far more conventional total of eight hits. They didn’t hit the ball consistently hard, but they put it in play far more frequently than did the 17-strikeout Cowboys.
During the Monday elimination assignment, Oklahoma State better score runs early. The Cowboys will want no part of UConn’s Jacob Wallace in a closing situation. His right arm is loaded with heat.
While facing one batter in the seventh and working all of the eighth and ninth innings on Sunday, Wallace struck out each of the seven Cowboys he faced.
“I don’t think there’s a better reliever in the country,” UConn coach Jim Penders said.
During a May 25 loss to TCU in the Big 12 Championship, the Cowboys struck out 17 times. The next day, in a do-or-die rematch, OSU was far more selective at the plate, striking out only eight times and beating the Horned Frogs to stay alive in that tournament. Ultimately, OSU was the Big 12 tournament champion.
The 2019 Oklahoma State golfers and softball players are finished. Now, the baseball Cowboys are pushed to the brink.
“You turn the page,” Holliday said. “You take a deep breath and start over tomorrow.”
By Monday night, OSU will have qualified for a super regional trip to Texas Tech or will have been knocked out by a UConn program that hasn’t been to the College World Series in 40 years.
UCONN 5, OKLAHOMA STATE 2
OSU 002 000 000 — 2 6 1
UConn 120 000 20x — 5 8 1
Standlee, Gragg (7) and Simpson Kersten, Wurster (3), Dandeneau (6), Wallace (7) and Phillips. W: Wurster (5-1). L: Standlee (3-2). S: Wallace (16). HR: UConn, Prato (3).
UCONN 16, HARVARD 1
UConn 110 111 047 — 16 22 0
Nebraska 000 100 000 — 1 5 1
Dunlop, Haus (9) and P. Winkel Eddins, Schanaman (5), Schreiber (8), Waldron (8), Frazier (8), Luensmann (9), Klenke (9), Perry (9) and Roskam, Hellstrom. HR: UConn, Fedko (5).