STILLWATER — Frank Anderson had his ace on the mound, his closer ready in the bullpen and his Cowboys holding a 2-0 lead over No. 10 Texas A&M with one out in the ninth inning Thursday night.
Anderson, too, faced a decision.
A familiar decision. Except this time it backfired.
The Oklahoma State coach stuck with starter Andrew Heaney, who had cruised into the ninth and owned a résumé that featured a Big 12-best five complete games, three of those shutouts.
“You can second-guess it,” Anderson said. “I can second-guess it.”
That's standard procedure when things go awry, as they did for the Cowboys, with the Aggies rallying to tie, then winning it 5-2 in 13 innings on Matt Juengel's three-run home run.
For OSU, seemingly needing quality wins to strengthen itself for NCAA Tournament consideration, it was a major blow, not just the loss, but the way the Cowboys lost, with victory two outs away. The Cowboys also missed a chance to move into sole possession of second place in the Big 12, after Texas had lost to Baylor earlier. OSU entered the day tied with the Longhorns and Aggies for second.
Now the Cowboys are 13-9 in the conference, 32-21 overall, and still looking to make a mark.
“They're kind of playing with house money,” Heaney said of the Aggies, “seeing how they're locked into a regional, ranked in the top 10. We're playing for our lives right now. That's what makes this even tougher.
“We pretty much know we need to get two out of three here or win the Big 12 Tournament if we want to be for-sure in the (NCAA) Tournament.”
Thursday night's loss isn't on Heaney, far from it, with the Cowboys leaving the bases loaded in the ninth and the 11th and stranding 14 runners total on the night.
He'd pitched masterfully into the ninth, striking out 12, scattering three hits and not allowing an A&M runner past second base, set to claim an anticipated major mound matchup with the Aggies' Michael Wacha that had drawn some 50 scouts to the ballpark more than two hours before first pitch.
A Gage Green home run in the third and an unearned run in the seventh seemingly put the Cowboys and Heaney in good shape.