OKLAHOMA CITY – Making a run at a Big 12 championship can sometimes mean five days of hard work on the baseball diamond.
Oklahoma State created a shortcut toward their title goal with a 5-0 victory over Baylor at Bricktown Ballpark.
The victory earned the team a day off while others in the double-elimination tournament need to catch up to the unbeaten Cowboys.
“That middle day off is huge,” OSU designated hitter Colin Simpson said. “My sophomore year, when we won this tournament, we got to 1-0. We came into the second game and there was a joke going around that we were playing for the off day because the off day is huge.
“Going into this game, I told everybody that we needed to play for the off day. The off day is a big thing. Getting that one day of recovery come after two games is a huge deal.”
The Cowboys (34-17) will face either TCU or Baylor at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. OSU has to lose twice to be denied a Big 12 championship game appearance on Sunday.
Oklahoma State also continues to strengthen its resume to become one of eight national seeds for the 64-team NCAA Tournament. That designation brings the right to host all games leading to the College World Series.
After the final out was registered at 12:27 a.m. on Friday, selecting an OSU hero was easy.
Jensen Elliott baffled Baylor’s batting order all evening. The right-hander had strong command and only allowed two hits through six innings of work.
OSU ended the regular season with two victories over Baylor and added a third win in eight days with the tournament victory. Elliott captured his second straight triumph against the Bears during that span.
“I kind of had a good approach going into the game. I got to see them last weekend. I knew if I executed my game plan, I would be successful,” said Elliott, who improved to 9-3. “Tonight, I happened to do that and my defense worked well behind me.”
The junior also showed off his glove against the Bears, registering four assists including a nice throw to third on a sacrifice bunt attempt.
“I consider myself an athlete but some of the guys probably think pitchers aren’t athletic,” Elliott said with a smile. “I feel good about my defensive ability. I got to show it tonight.”
Reliever Peyton Battenfield threw the final three innings to punctuate a season-high five-game winning streak for OSU.
“Obviously we had a big-league pitched game tonight,” OSU coach Josh Holliday said. “Jensen did a great job of commanding the ball. He was very, very sharp. Peyton came in right behind him and was excellent as well. We did that with a few mistakes behind him. We weren’t as sharp on defense today as we have been and yet we pitched around some of those mistakes.”
Oklahoma State got on the board in the fourth inning.
After Simpson drew a leadoff walk, Andrew Navigato followed with a single up the middle. Simpson rounded to third base and Navigato – with some smart baserunning – took second on the center fielder’s throw to third.
Trevor Boone’s RBI single up the middle off Baylor starter Jimmy Winston made it 2-0.
The sixth inning has been special for the Cowboys in Oklahoma City this week.
After scoring four runs in the sixth during a 5-2 victory over TCU on Wednesday night, the Cowboys managed three runs against the Bears.
Simpson hit his second home run in as many Big 12 Tournament games in the sixth inning. After Christian Funk drew a lead-off walk, Simpson slammed the first pitch over the center-field fence to extend the OSU lead to 4-0.
“Colin hit a ball as pure as you can hit it to straight-away center field,” Holliday said. “And as offensive as the ballpark was this afternoon, once that muggy air set in and the air calmed down, it was not a great park to hit it tonight. He hit one right through the muggy air.”
Simpson has hit a home run in his last four games and now has 14 this season.
“I started off the year pretty rough. I couldn’t feel my swing. I couldn’t find it. It took a lot of adjustments and a lot of improvements,” Simpson said. “It took a lot of work on my swing and finally about a week into Big 12 play, I started to feel my swing. I started to find the right adjustments that I needed to make for my swing.
“Once I finally found those, I started getting into a groove and my swing started to feel better. I would say it’s more of a confidence builder that all the adjustments that I made and all the things that I’m working on are finally starting to show up in games.”
Carson McCusker’s RBI single made it 5-0 in the sixth.
The scoring explosion ended Elliott’s night and Battenfield finished things up to pick up his second save. It was the junior’s first work since throwing three innings against Oklahoma on May 12.
OSU pitchers have only allowed two earned runs through 18 innings of work, and Baylor only managed three hits on Thursday night.
“It’s exciting to see them execute pitches that they’ve worked so hard to believe in and master in the bullpen, but now take it to the game and do it against high-level teams,” Holliday said. “I’m very encouraged by the progress those kids have made. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been fun to watch them go out there and have fun. They’re pitching with confidence.”
OKLAHOMA STATE 5, BAYLOR 0
Oklahoma State 000 203 000 — 5 7 3
Baylor 000 000 000 — 0 3 3
Elliott, Battenfield (7) and Carter. Winston, Caruso (6), Thomas (8) and Langeliers. HR: Simpson (14). W: Elliott (9-3). L: Winston (5-2). Save: Battenfield (2).