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Late Night Bedlam: Cowboys Rally In Bricktown

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

Friday night featured Round 2 of Big 12-Tournament-style Bedlam and meeting No. 7 overall this season between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State but this particular installment was not for the early-to-bed, early-to-rise demographic.

The game was delayed more than two hours by rain and didn't end until the early hours on Saturday morning, but the orange-heavy smattering of fans who stuck it out at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark were rewarded for it.

No. 7 Oklahoma State won a thrilling 11-8 elimination-game contest against the Sooners that featured 19 runs, eight pitchers, five lead changes, a key injury, a handful of game-changing plays and one unlikely hero for the Cowboys.

Facing two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, OSU's Aaron Cornell picked the ideal time to connect on his first home run of the season, ripping a three-run blast off OU pitcher Sheldon Neuse to break open the 8-8 tie, propelling the top-seeded Cowboys to their 25th come-from-behind victory of the season.

 "I put a good swing on it. When I hit it, I knew – I haven't hit one like that all year," Cornell said. "It felt really good off the bat. I didn't expect it out of my own self."

And Cornell wasn't the only one who didn't expect it from the part-time Cowboy starter.

"That's baseball - you can't explain it," OU coach Pete Hughes said. "We went into that inning saying, ‘Let (Conor) Costello and Cornell beat us (instead of Tanner Krietemeier).' They try to go small ball because we had misplayed two bunts earlier. We make the play and then (Cornell) hits his first home run. It's a crazy game and we saw it all tonight."

And it was a crazy, back-and-forth game throughout, but when push came to shove, it was Oklahoma State that made the big plays and avoided mistakes, while the eighth-seeded Sooners saw their season come to an unsatisfying close.

"A tremendous college baseball game," Hughes said. "Two tough programs, two programs that battled, and that was a great game going back and forth. That's what college baseball is all about. There were a lot of ups and downs, and in the end, I think the team that played better defense and got a bigger hit won. That is what usually happens in hard fought battles."

And a battle it most certainly was.

The Cowboys (43-15) opened up the scoring in the top of the first on a two-out, two-RBI double from Krietemeier but the lead didn't last long, as the first three Sooner batters got on base, eventually knotting the game up at two runs a piece heading into the second.

After back-to-back scoreless innings, OSU tacked on its third run of the evening in the top of the fourth when Bryan Case was able to score an unearned run from third with two outs. OU second baseman Kolbey Carpenter dropped a shallow pop up, marking the first of three costly errors for the Sooners.

Even though the Pokes added a run, they suffered a significant loss in the process. Big 12 player of the year Zach Fish rolled his ankle badly while stealing second base and was forced to leave the game on crutches. OSU coach Josh Holliday said after the game that they will know more about the injury Saturday morning and how it will impact Fish's ability to play in the remainder of the tournament.

OU would bounce right back in the bottom of the inning, striking for four runs on a pair of two-RBI singles from Craig Aikin and Neuse, respectively, to put the Sooners on top 6-3.

But rallying from a deficit is nothing new for OSU and the Cowboys got a few "ultimate team plays," as coach Holliday referred to them, to mount another rally.

The Pokes put four runs on the board in the sixth inning to take the lead back at 7-6. The first came off an OU throwing error, then scored run No. 2 on a wild pitch and then evened things up at 6-6 on a Donnie Walton RBI single. Costello then put OSU on the high side with a sac fly to left field, scoring Walton from third.

After OU went three-up, three-down on groundouts in the bottom of the sixth, OSU padded a run to its lead on Case's second home run of the year, as the junior catcher sent a solo blast sailing over the left-field wall.
And just went momentum appeared to be in OSU's favor, OU battled right back.

Oklahoma State subbed in Vince Wheeland in relief but the Sooners connected early and often in the inning off the Cowboys' unbeaten ace, knocking him out in 1/3 of an inning after Neuse singled and then scored on a triple to deep left-center by Mac James. OSU quickly swapped out pitchers but couldn't escape the inning before OU's Hunter Haley tied the game up again on a line drive sacrifice fly to score James.

Then came the decisive eighth inning. With men in the corners after OU intentionally walked Krietemeier, OSU attempted a safety squeeze bunt but OU came up with a big defensive play to throw the third-base runner, Walton, out at home plate. Whatever negative feelings OSU might have had after that were quickly erased by Cornell's three-run shot.

OSU's bullpen was then able to retire six of OU's seven batters in the next two innings to earn the hard-fought win to stave off elimination. As for the Sooners, their season concluded with a 29-29 record in Hughes' first year leading the program in Norman.

Hughes delivered a parting message that should give Sooner fans plenty of encouragement: "I love being part of the University of Oklahoma," he said. "Better times are ahead, I promise you that. We have a great product to recruit to and we will recruit tirelessly and it will start tomorrow. I'm proud to be a representative of a great university that has a strong, strong baseball tradition."

The Cowboys will continue to pursue their first conference tournament title since 2004 with a quick turnaround game against Texas at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Bricktown.

"Not much rest, but we should have plenty of mojo," Holliday said. "You definitely carry the good feeling of a win. This guy ( patting Aaron Cornell on the back) will feel like a million bucks."

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