STILLWATER — Oklahoma State's baseball team was already facing an unaccustomed bit of adversity, carrying the season's first losing streak into a weekend series with Texas.
Then in the opener, Cowboys ace Jason Hursh absorbed shots from the Longhorns for his first defeat, stretching the team's skid to three games. And then, as OSU had built some momentum, grabbing an early lead in Game 2 of the series Friday night, a halting rain came, pushing play to a Saturday doubleheader.
The response: a pair of Cowboy wins, 8-3 and 5-4, restoring some strut, just in time for a nonconference Bedlam visit to Norman on Tuesday night.
“We felt like we had to come out and respond,” said OSU junior outfielder Saulyer Saxon. “It didn't go as we planned Thursday night, but we were able to come back and fight. And that shows a lot about our team and our character.”
And Saxon played a key role in both wins for the Cowboys, ranked as high as No. 18 in two of the four major polls.
With OSU clinging to a 4-3 lead in the day's first game, he came off the bench to deliver a pinch-hit single that sparked a four-run eighth inning. Saxon, in the lineup to start the second game, got the Cowboys going again in the first inning with a one-out single that ignited a four-run outburst to start Game 3 of the series.
OSU improved to 21-6 overall and 3-2 in the Big 12, while Texas fell to 16-11 and 2-4 in a critical series for both teams.
While Saxon was at the heart of the two big innings, there were plenty of other Cowboys contributing along the way. Center fielder Jarrett Higgins came up with big plays defensively and produced a two-run double late in Saturday's first game. Robbie Rea drove in two runs and scored twice. Randy McCurry added two RBIs. Donnie Walton banged three hits, including a run-scoring double.
And the OSU bullpen pieced things together from the mound, allowing just three runs over a combined 10 2/3 innings. Vince Wheeland improved to 6-0 in the first win. And Mark Robinette, Alex Hackerodt and Brendan McCurry each pitched in both games, with McCurry finishing each for his second and third saves.
A much-adjusted pitching plan eventually prevailed.
“The good thing is we responded well for the first time after actually seeing Jason get hit,” Cowboys coach Josh Holliday said of Hursh. “And Jason has been pretty spot-on and unhittable all year long.
“So to bounce back when someone rolls in here on the first night and hits your ace, that's a real positive response. Sometimes that can give guys a little bit of, ‘Whoa, if they can get to him…'”
Instead, the Cowboys got to the Longhorns, who helped with four errors leading to six unearned runs on the day. Texas also stranded a total of 22 runners in the losses.
And while this Longhorns team has scuffled a bit, they're still the Longhorns.
And this is a Cowboys club gaining confidence and wins in Holliday's first season. OSU didn't reach the 20-win mark until April 20 a year ago.
“It's always big to win,” Holliday said, “especially to see your kids respond after losing a few games. We had not been through that yet. It was our first experience with losing and being on the wrong side of the board a couple times in a row.
“For them to respond, I'm really proud of that.”
The wins restored momentum for Tuesday's visit to the Sooners, who are 25-5 and ranked as high as 11th nationally.
“We know OU's a good team,” Holliday said. “We'll rest up and get ready to head down to Norman for a good, old-fashioned, in-state ballgame against a very, very good team. We'll need to play well again.”