STILLWATER — On a wild night around the Big 12, Oklahoma State pitcher Tyler Nurdin kept his cool and kept another Cowboys win under control.
Facing just four batters over the minimum, Nurdin worked out of the little difficulty in his night — a bases-loaded jam in the fifth — and finished off a 5-0 complete game gem Friday night against West Virginia at Reynolds Stadium.
Combined with Kansas State's 6-5 win over Oklahoma on a walk-off passed ball, and Baylor's second loss in as many nights at eighth-place Texas Tech, the Cowboys clinched at least third place in the Big 12 standings.
OSU claimed its fourth straight conference series and its 15th victory in 18 starts, improving to 39-13 overall and 13-9 in league play. The Cowboys can finish second in the Big 12 by completing the sweep of the Mountaineers on Saturday, or if OU drops one of the final two games of its series in Manhattan.
For a team picked fifth in the preseason coaches poll and seemingly in transition under rookie head coach Josh Holliday, the Cowboys continue to make a statement.
“What it means is these guys understand how important it is to show up every day and play hard,” Holliday said. “How important it is to do everything right, because the game will reward you if you do. They're seeing that. They're having fun. They're confident. They're creating moments that I think they're always going to remember.
“And I hope the best ones are still ahead of them.”
Once considered a bubble team for postseason play, the Cowboys now appear all but a lock for the NCAA Tournament. Their late-season surge has transformed an ugly RPI that stood at 101 three weeks ago.
After Friday night's win, OSU sat at No. 27.
Nurdin, again healthy after missing all of last season with a shoulder injury, kept the Cowboys on the upswing, allowing just four hits with one walk, while striking out seven.
“I had really good fastball command. I was able to command the changeup and the slider in the repertoire as well,” Nurdin said. “It just felt good tonight.”
Looked good, too.
There was a brief stretch of struggle in the fifth, when West Virginia strung together three straight singles to load the bases with one out. But Nurdin got Bobby Boyd to line out to second, then ended the threat on a ground out.
That came after OSU had left the bases loaded in the fourth.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Cowboys scored all their runs, with Aaron Cornell driving in one on a single, Tanner Krietemeier producing another on a squeeze bunt, Randy McCurry adding an RBI double and two more crossing the plate on a two-run error.
“I think the whole momentum of the whole game came down to how he escaped that fifth inning,” Holliday said. “We had a chance in the bottom of the fourth to do something, they escaped it. Tyler, bases loaded and one out, he escapes it.
“We answer with five runs. He was pretty darn good.”
After the fifth, Nurdin went back to breezing through innings, not allowing a hit the rest of the way.
“He came out there ready to go,” said Cowboys catcher Gage Green. “He knew how big this game was and he pitched his butt off, like he always does.
“I feel like he had everything going good. There were a couple pitches that got away from him, but when we came back to them, he was nails. The whole game, he was just getting better and better as he went.”