Throughout this season, Oklahoma State thrived in the late innings, with 17 comeback wins.
Through two games of the Big 12 Tournament, the Cowboys have caved late.
That leaves OSU simply playing out their part of the pool-play format, with Friday night’s 5-3 loss to Kansas at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark leaving the Cowboys at 0-2 in the tournament.
OSU faces West Virginia Saturday at 4 p.m. in nothing more than a spoiler role. The Jayhawks, meanwhile, improved to 2-0 in Pool 2 and play TCU at 7:30 p.m., controlling their hopes for a championship game berth.
On Thursday, the Cowboys surrendered a 4-2, ninth-inning lead in the ninth to TCU, eventually falling 8-4.
This time, OSU led 3-2 into the bottom of the seventh, when Tucker Tharp – KU’s nine-hole hitter – drilled his first home run of the season to tie it, then Michael Suiter’s RBI single scored the winning run. KU added a run in the eighth, padding its lead.
“We’ve been that team all year that’s been able to come back, no matter what the deficit is,” said Cowboys right fielder Zach Fish. “Our pitching has been outstanding in the later innings. Maybe they didn’t have their best stuff, that happens; it’s part of baseball, just like I haven’t been swinging the bat all that well the last week and a half.
“A lot of guys have picked each other up. That’s going to have to happen tomorrow.”
The Cowboys were left regretting missed opportunities.
They stranded runners in scoring position in seven of the innings and left 12 men on base overall. They also struck out to end five of eight innings.
“It’s good to get runners on base. It’s better to score them,” said Cowboys coach Josh Holliday. “Just not enough consistency up and down the lineup when we had opportunities to make things happen.”
Kansas scored an unearned run in the first to go on top 1-0, as Michael Suiter reached on a one-out error and scored on Alex DeLeon’s single. It could have been worse, as the Jayhawks loaded the bases, but OSU starter Tyler Nurdin fanned Connor McKay to escape the jam.
The Cowboys, held hitless through three innings, finally broke through against KU starter Wes Benjamin in the fifth, scoring twice on a run-scoring single by Randy McCurry and an RBI double by Zach Fish.
The teams traded runs, putting OSU’s lead at 3-2, when Tharp’s big swing in the seventh flipped momentum.
“I worked (the count) to 3-2 and I knew (Nurdin) had to come after me with something,” Tharp said. “I just sat back on it and tried to put a good swing on it. Fortunately, it left the yard.”
Said KU coach Ritch Price: “Tuck opened the season in the three-hole for us and you can look at his numbers and see he’s had a really tough year. At the same time, he brings energy to the table everyday. He plays outstanding in centerfield. And he’s been clutch late for us.
“Couldn’t happen to a better kid, man.”
And for a change, the comeback happened to, not for, the Cowboys.
For OSU now, the focus is on winning a game and building something for postseason play.
“Every time you play it’s important,” Holliday said. “Every time you get to compete and wear this uniform is meaningful. And I believe that with every fiber in me.
“These guys know that. They know what a privilege it is to play. And they know how important it is to play well and conduct yourself in the right way.
“We need to get up and get out here in good rhythm and play better baseball. That’s all there is to it. And that’s our focus. That’s right there.”