By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
OKLAHOMA CITY – Four teams remain in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship. Kansas State joined No. 8 seed Missouri to make up half the field with the other two teams the Conference co-champions.
The sixth-seeded Wildcats (36-22) stayed alive by eliminating third-seeded Oklahoma (41-17). Kansas State's 4-3 victory was the Sooners' seventh one-run loss this season. Four of their last five losses have come by a single run.
"It's been a week of almost for us," said Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway, who was ejected during Kansas State's pivotal two-run fifth inning. "We've probably been beyond tested as far as baseball goes with the Baylor series and here. It has to be preparing us for something."
That "something" is the NCAA tournament. The Sooners will soon find out where they're headed and how things will turn out in the postseason.
Kansas State will face second-seeded Texas A&M at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Texas and Missouri play at 9 a.m. The Wildcats and the Longhorns each must win two games to reach Sunday's championship game. The Tigers and the Aggies just one win to reach the title game.
The fifth inning featured one odd play and one controversial call. With one out and two runners on, Kansas State's Matt Giller was awarded first base on catcher's interference. After a walk forced in a run to give the Wildcats a 3-2 lead, Tanner Witt appeared to ground into a double play.
Oklahoma catcher Tyler Ogle fielded Witt's swinging bunt, appeared to swipe his foot across home plate for a force out and then threw to first in time to get Witt. However, home plate umpire Mike Morris ruled that Ogle's foot didn't touch the plate and that Jason King was safe. That made it 4-2.
The Sooners scored a single run in the seventh. Caleb Bushyhead led off the ninth with a single against Kansas State closer James Allen. Bushyhead moved to second on a sacrifice bunt.
Oklahoma's Erik Ross then battled through a 16-pitch at bat before finally striking out. Allen followed that up by striking out the Sooners' Casey Johnson for the final out and his Big 12-best 17th save of this season.
"I was just trying to keep it as simple as possible," said Allen, who has a school-record 31 saves in his career. "If you think about other things, your success rate decreases a lot. I was just trying to make a pitch."
The victory gave Kansas State a four-game sweep over Oklahoma. The last time that happened was 1993 when both teams were in the Big Eight Conference.
"It was just a great battle, great game," Wildcats coach Brad Hill said. "Coming down the last at-bat with Ross was just phenomenal - his competitiveness and the crowd all of a sudden got energized - and for James (Allen) to fight that off and keep making pitches, it was a great battle between both of them and James ended up winning it.