- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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With the tiebreaking run on third and the series on the line in the eighth inning, Oklahoma State’s Randy McCurry punched a shallow fly ball down the right-field line. Oklahoma's Cody Reine came barreling in to make a basket catch for the second out, then fired the ball toward home. The throw reached the plate before tagging runner Robbie Rea did. But a collision with OU catcher Dylan Neal popped the ball loose.
Oklahoma State 3, Oklahoma 2.
The Cowboys emerged out of Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City with a critical series-clinching victory Sunday to buoy their postseason hopes while severely damaging the Sooners’.
"Our whole season just got summarized right there in that ballgame," OU coach Sunny Golloway said. "That’s been our whole season. A break here, a break there. A play here, a play there."
When it counted, the Cowboys made the plays. The Sooners did not.
Thanks to a pair of brilliant relief outings by OSU’s Blake Barnes and OU’s Steven Okert, the game remained knotted 2-2 into the eighth inning.
But in the bottom half, the Cowboys finally got to Okert. Rea led off with a single through the left side. Then Mark Ginther, trying to sacrifice Rea over, actually ended up with a bunt single after OU first baseman Hunter Lockwood misread the ball. The next batter walked to load the bases with nobody out.
"The key that inning was the breakdown on the bunt," Golloway said. "Our first baseman, he’s a rookie. He’s got to come in with the pitcher to get the ball and our second baseman goes to the bag. Instead our second baseman has to field the ball (because) ‘Lock’ went to the bag. That’s just him being young and playing in Bedlam."
Okert came back to strike out the following batter, Jared Womack, setting up the play of the game. As McCurry’s fly trailed down the foul line, Reine caught the ball awkwardly against his body on the run. But he pulled the ball out smoothly and fired a rope to home. Neal had the plate blocked, but couldn’t hold on to the ball as he applied the tag on a sliding Rea.
"It’s amazing, you play an entire weekend with the emotions you do and it comes down to a play at the plate, bang-bang," Golloway said. "I asked the umpire if it would have been an out if we’d hung on to the ball, and he said, yeah. It was just a hard, tough play, and the ball kicked out – that’s baseball."
OU still had a chance to tie the game in the ninth. With one out, Reine smashed a pitch to left-centerfield – unfortunately for the Sooners that also happens to be the deepest part of the ballpark.
Defensive substitution Gage Green, who last month fractured two bones in his cheek, crashed against the wall in front of the Cowboys’ bullpen as he made the catch. Barnes forced pinch-hitter Chase Simpson to flyout to Green to secure the win.
"When (Reine) hits the ball, I knew he hit it good," Golloway said. "There’s one place in the ballpark and it’s toward that bullpen, it’s 415 (feet). If he hits it anywhere else, the ball leaves with that distance. It traveled what, 414? Again, that’s baseball."
With the victory, OSU (30-19) moved into a three-way tie for second place in the Big 12 standings at 13-8 along with Texas and Texas A&M.
OU (28-18), meanwhile, remains stuck in fifth after falling to 10-10 with only one conference series remaining – against first-place Baylor, which is 18-0 in the league. With most college baseball pundits predicting the Big 12 to get only four teams – at most – into a regional, the Sooners leave Bedlam in danger of missing the postseason for the first time in five seasons.
"If that’s the way it falls, that’s the way it falls," Golloway said. "We’ll battle the rest of the way and see what happens."