STILLWATER — Cal State Fullerton arrived at the Stillwater Regional with stout pitching stats, including the nation’s best earned-run average.
During the course of the season and into Saturday night, numbering 55 games, the Titans hadn’t allowed more than six runs in a nine-inning game and had surrendered more on but three occasions — each time in 11 innings.
And going against Oklahoma State in the regional winner’s bracket final, Fullerton had Justin Garza ready to go and riding a streak of 101/3 no-hit innings.
The Cowboys took notice. And then they took the offensive.
OSU battered Garza and the Titans’ bullpen, too, romping to a 13-7 win before a packed house of 3,248 at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium, moving one win away from a Super Regional berth.
“Our kids were fantastic at home plate,” said Cowboys coach Josh Holliday. “We kept scoring every single inning and never let that ball club get totally back in the game, even though they kept pushing us and pushing us. Tremendous effort by our kids.
“I thought our kids were as good offensively as we’ve been all year. It’s one of the better offensive games I’ve been around, just knowing the type of quality kids on the other side of the field.”
The Cowboys return to the park Sunday for a 6 p.m. matchup against the noon Fullerton-Nebraska elimination-game winner, which would have to beat the Pokes twice to end their season. This is OSU’s best NCAA Tournament start since 2007, when it went unbeaten to claim the Arkansas Regional and advance to a Super Regional at Louisville.
“What we’ve done is play good baseball back-to-back nights,” Holliday said. “We’ll need to be ready to play another good baseball game. It’s nice to be in that position, but the tournament still has legs left to it.”
Garza, a sophomore right-hander, tossed the fourth no-hitter in Fullerton history against Cal State Northridge last week in the Big West Conference Tournament. And he was sharp early against the Cowboys, retiring the first eight batters he faced.
But OSU catcher Bryan Case broke through with a two-out double into the right-center-field gap. And before the third inning was over, the Cowboys led 3-0.
Saulyer Saxon extended the inning, following Case’s double with a slow roller past the pitcher that he beat out for an infield single. Then Donnie Walton doubled home a run and Tanner Krietemeier doubled in two more.
Pretty soon, the Cowboys had chased Garza from the game, had blown up that six-run stat by the fifth inning and eventually scored more runs on the Titans than any club all season. More runs than any team since TCU in February of 2012.
So much, too, for that NCAA-best 2.03 ERA.
Every player in the OSU batting order had a base hit, except Zach Fish, who drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
The Cowboys finished with 16 hits, led by Krietemeier’s 3-for-6 effort that included two doubles and five RBIs. Saxon scored three runs and Conor Costello punctuated the breakout with a home run in the seventh, a two-run blast out to left-center field. OSU scored in six of the final seven innings.
“First pitch of the at-bat, I was just trying to get on-time with something,” Costello said. “I happened to run into it pretty good and it got out of the ballpark.
“But pretty much all around, everybody was swinging the bat today. It was just an unbelievable offensive game, from the top of the order down. We just played our game and did the same thing we’ve done all year, which is try to win each and every pitch. It worked out for us today. We won a lot of pitches.”
OSU starter Jon Perrin gave the Cowboys six solid innings before turning it over to the bullpen. Vince Wheeland and Brendan McCurry finished the win, which pushed the Cowboys’ record to 47-16.