STILLWATER — Oklahoma State’s first run-in with a quality club didn’t go so well, as the Cowboys looked almost inept in a March 2 loss to Arizona State, striking out 15 times.
Two months later, to the day, they and their profile project much better.
Now at No. 9 in the national rankings, OSU opened its nonconference series against those same Sun Devils — and one of the same pitchers who handcuffed them before — with an 8-5 win Friday night at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.
It was the fourth straight win for the Cowboys and their 18th in 23 games, pushing their record to 33-13 overall.
And it was a major departure from that March 2 meeting in Surprise, Ariz.
“I’d like to think we’re a better team, sure,” said OSU coach Josh Holliday. “That particular day we went out there and they were awfully good and we weren’t at our best. A lot of games have come and gone since then.”
No. 26 Arizona State rolled into Stillwater with two of the pitchers who combined for those 15 strikeouts — left-handers Brett Lilek and Ryan Kellogg — scheduled to start the first two games of the series. Lilek, who entered with a 1.75 earned run average, managed but eight outs this time. He was roughed up for six runs in 2 2/3 innings, although with little help from his defense.
Still, after the Sun Devils spotted him a 3-2 lead in the second, Lilek walked two of the first three batters he faced in the third, then allowed a run-scoring double to Tanner Krietemeier to tie it. A two-run error ended his day.
“We struggled at the beginning of the season,” said Krietemeier, who went 3-for-3 with two doubles, “but lately our game has been coming together. That’s been a big confidence booster. It’s nice to go out and play our game.”
The Cowboys tacked on two more runs against reliever Eric Melbostad to lead 8-3, while the Sun Devils managed but a two-run rally in the seventh.