OKLAHOMA CITY – After missing the event the last two seasons, it took Oklahoma State some time to get in gear in Game One of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship.
But when the light switch went on, the Cowboys went full tilt.
After failing to get a hit through five innings, fourth-seeded Oklahoma State put four runs on the board in the bottom of the sixth inning en route to a 6-2 victory over fifth-seeded Baylor Wednesday at RedHawks Field.
Oklahoma State (35-21) advances in the winners bracket of Pool One and will face Missouri at 4 p.m. Thursday. Baylor (29-25) plays Texas in a losers bracket elimination game at 9 a.m. Thursday. The eighth-seeded Tigers defeated the top-seeded Longhorns, 6-4, in Wednesday's second game.
Big 12 newcomer of the year Zach Johnson singled with out in the sixth – the Cowboys’ first hit against Bears starter Logan Verrett – to start the difference-making rally. Oklahoma State got run-scoring singles from Luis Uribe and Gabe Weidenaar then got two more runs on a fielding error by Baylor second baseman Steve DalPorto.
"It was huge," Oklahoma State Frank Anderson said of the momentum-changing inning. "We had a flare over second and a bleeder down the right side. It was huge to break through when we haven’t scored against (Verrett) in two starts this year."
Baylor took a two-run lead in the third as Chris Slater tripled, Max Muncy doubled and Joey Hainsfurther singled. The Bears knocked out Oklahoma State starter Mike Strong, who lasted just 2.2 innings. Baylor, however, made too many mistakes – three errors and two runners lost when doubled off via infield line drives.
"I didn't think we played well either defensively or on the bases," Baylor coach Steve Smith said.
The Cowboys’ Mark Ginther made it a four-run lead with a one-out, two-run homer to left in the bottom of the eighth.
While Strong had a shaky start, Oklahoma State’s bullpen came through. Hunter Herrerra worked 5.2 innings, allowing five hits. He left in the ninth inning with the bases loaded but Weidenaar moved from center field to the mound to record the last two outs.
"He got us some zeroes when we really needed it because Verret had a no hitter going through six," Oklahoma State’s Davis Duren said. "It’s always big for an offense if your pitcher goes out there and puts up zeroes because it gives us chance to get something going."
Anderson also was pleased that he didn’t have to bring in closer Chris Marlowe. In the double-elimination format, saving pitchers can be crucial.
"I thought about bringing him in, but I wanted to hold off a little bit if we could with that lead and fortunately it worked out," Anderson said.