Nebraska coach Darin Erstad is plenty familiar with Stillwater, having played at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium when the Cornhuskers and Oklahoma State were Big Eight Conference rivals.
“I remember standing on the warning track getting ready for pitches and watching them fly over my head and giving up 37 runs a game,” Erstad said. “We had tapes back then. They couldn’t rewind the tape fast enough for the next guy to hit the homer.”
Erstad, who played 14 seasons in the majors and won the 2002 World Series with the Angels, is one of 14 Division I coaches to have played in the majors. He’s one of just three former all-stars coaching. Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn coaches San Diego State, his alma mater, while Ed Sprague coaches Pacific.
Nebraska has steadily improved in Erstad’s time with the Cornhuskers and is in a regional for the first time since 2008.
Probably the most successful college coach to have played in the big leagues is Rice coach Wayne Graham. Graham has more than 1,000 wins and was recently inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame. He played 30 games for the Mets and Phillies in 1963-64.
BUFFETT GOES ON K STREAK
Oklahoma State starting pitcher Tyler Buffett recorded six consecutive outs via strikeout early in OSU’s matchup against Binghamton on Friday in Stillwater.
After Bearcats designated hitter Brendan Skidmore struck out swinging to end the second, Buffett struck out three batters in the third and two more in the fourth before John Howell broke the streak with a fly out to right field. Buffett allowed two hits and a walk in between strikeouts.
He finished the night with six punch outs in 4 2/3 innings, tying his career high in K’s from when he went seven innings in a 2-1 win against Oklahoma on May 16.
WEB GEMS ALL AROUND
Don’t be surprised to see multiple plays from Oklahoma State’s game against Binghamton on highlight reels in the future.
The Bearcats escaped a first-inning jam when Oklahoma State left fielder Gage Green hit a dart that was headed for right field.
Binghamton second baseman Daniel Nevares leaped high and twisted to snatch the ball from the air and tossed it to second for a double play.
In the next inning, OSU’s Craig McConaughy hit a ball to deep left, and it might have been a home run had Bearcats left fielder Jake Thomas not scaled the wall to make a catch and draw a collective groan from the OSU crowd.
In the fifth, McConaughy got revenge in the form of a bare-hand snag-and-throw on a slow-roller to third. McConaughy made a strong throw to first to record a bang-bang out, end the inning and strand the bases loaded.
WILD PITCHES PLAGUE BINGHAMTON STARTER
Binghamton right-hander Jake Cryts didn’t just struggle finding the plate early in his start against OSU, there were a few instances where he couldn’t hit the catcher’s mitt.
Cryts threw three wild pitches in the game’s first three innings, and one of them cost his team a run.
It started in the second inning when OSU second baseman Tim Arakawa advanced from first to third after a wild pitch caromed around the backstop and catcher Eddie Posavec had a hard time gathering it. Arakawa ended up stranded at third to end the inning.
Later, with runners at first and third in the third inning, OSU’s Donnie Walton scored on a wild pitch thrown to Zach Fish.
Later in Fish’s at-bat, Cryts threw another wild pitch on an intentional walk attempt that moved Green to third. That marked the end of Cryts’ night, and Nicholas Liegi came on in relief.
Cryts finished with two earned runs and three walks in 2 2/3 innings.
VISIT PAYS OFF
After replacing starter Thomas Eshelman in the seventh inning, Cal State Fullerton reliever Koby Gauna got off to a rough start.
After coming on with a runner on first, Gauna allowed a hit-and-run single and then walked the leadoff hitter to load the bases with one out, prompting a visit from Titans coach Rick Vanderhook.
“We went out there and told a joke,” Vanderhook said. “This isn’t his first rodeo. He’s a junior who has pitched in regionals and super regionals. I think he was a little too pumped up to come into that situation and just tried to loosen him up a little bit.”
Whatever Vanderhook said worked.
Gauna got Austin Darby to foul out before getting Michael Pritchard to fly out to center to end the threat.
The next inning, Fullerton scored four to take control and wound up with a 5-1 win.
TOP SEEDS STRUGGLE
It was a rough day for No. 1 seeds across college baseball Friday in NCAA Tournament openers.
LSU lost 4-3 to Southeastern Louisiana. Florida State lost 7-0 to Georgia Southern and Louisiana-Lafayette fell 1-0 to Jackson State.
In many cases, teams opted to save their aces on the mound for more crucial weekend games.
Regional host Oklahoma State threw Tyler Buffett rather than No. 1 option Jon Perrin and came up with an 8-0 win against Binghamton. OSU coach Josh Holliday said he started Buffett because he felt he matched up better with Binghamton, and Holliday also said nerves might have played a role in one-seeds losing.
“I think just getting your feet on the ground and adjusted to that regional feeling that you can feel in the air is probably what you’re seeing across the country,” he said. “Everybody in the NCAA Tournament is playing with that same edge, that same hope. You see (upsets) in basketball all the time. It’s much more celebrated and publicized in basketball … but every ballclub is dangerous.”
Also worth mention, all five Big 12 teams in the postseason – OSU, Kansas, Texas, TCU and Texas Tech — won their Friday games.
CASE COMES ON STRONG
OSU catcher Bryan Case’s sixth-inning home run was his third in the past six games, and his recent surge has given the Cowboys a lift in the postseason. Case began the season as OSU’s starting catcher, but ended up on the bench during much of conference play. Holliday said Case made the right adjustments to get himself back in the lineup and playing better than ever.
“This kid never changed the look on his face,” Holliday said. “He never changed his attitude, his work ethic. He was 100 percent committed to the team. He really went to work on changing his swing and making himself a better player. That’s all him, and it’s a great lesson to see for the rest of our team.”