STILLWATER – The Cowboys fell behind Cal State Fullerton on Sunday.
And fell right into their comfort zone.
Extending the storyline of its season, Oklahoma State – of course – rallied, posting its 28th come-from-behind win to finish off a sweep through the Stillwater Regional.
Comeback Cowboys 6, Titans 4.
“We’re just a resilient team,” said OSU shortstop Donnie Walton, who went 7 for 12 at the plate in the tournament to claim Most Outstanding Player honors. “I love these guys. I’ve never been part of a team like this before. It’s a lot of fun.”
And the fun continues.
OSU’s third win in as many days at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium secured a berth in next week’s Super Regional round. The Cowboys will play the winner of the Corvallis Regional, which was unsettled late Sunday night, with host Oregon State and Cal-Irvine battling on the West Coast.
It will be OSU’s first Super Regional appearance since 2007, when that club swept its way through the Arkansas Regional, before losing in the Super Regional round to Louisville. The Pokes’ only other Super Regional appearance came in 1999, also their last trip to the College World Series.
But the true references connecting this team to the past should likely date even further back.
Time was, the Cowboys expected to host postseason tournaments. And dang sure expected to win them.
That culture seems to be taking hold again, evident in this club’s rally record and the toughness it takes to repeatedly pull off the comebacks, a mindset drilled into this roster by coach Josh Holliday and his staff.
“Attitude. They’ve got attitude,” said Fullerton coach Rick Vanderhook, who has been with the Titans as either an assistant or head coach 25 of the last 28 years. “They have the Oklahoma State attitude back. There ain’t no doubt.”
The Cowboys, improving to 48-16, fell behind 3-0 almost immediately Sunday, as starting pitcher Tyler Nurdin managed but two outs and failed to make it through one inning. But Trey Cobb came on to start a string of strong relief, with Blake Battenfield and Brendan McCurry following, allowing the OSU bats an opportunity to rally.
Down 4-0 in the fourth, the Cowboys struck for their first run, with Conor Costello slicing a run-scoring single. Costello delivered a bigger blow in the sixth, drilling a two-run homer to left and cutting the lead to 4-3.
“I really felt like we were going to win. I did. I just knew,” Holliday said. “I looked at them and I could tell, the way they were still going about it. I felt like Fullerton was maybe hanging on a little bit after that first inning. I thought there was time.
“And when Conor hit that home run, I was like, ‘OK, we’re going to go hard and aggressive now, because we win games when we’re down by a run.’”
One inning later, the Cowboys were back at it again, scoring three runs to surge ahead, with Tim Arakawa delivering the key hit, a two-run single to left.
McCurry secured the final six outs for his 20th save, but he had to work out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth, finally fanning Fullerton’s Taylor Bryant for the final out, sending the Reynolds Stadium crowd of 3,203 into a frenzy.
And it was fueled by the Comeback Cowboys.
“We put a lot of hard work in throughout the season,” Walton said. “There’s been a lot of ups and downs. I can tell you one thing about this team, we’re resilient. Even when we’re down, we’re calm and we can come back and make a run at it.
“I think that’s the best part of our team. I think everybody feels like when they get a couple runs on the board, there’s no nervousness or heads down. We know we can come back.”
And they do.
And they did.
“They’re amazing,” Holliday said. “Once again tonight, they picked each other up. And they did what teams do, they found ways to win. I’m really proud of them.”