Fans filled the stands at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium Friday night, much to the delight of Tom Holliday and the Oklahoma State baseball team. Cow bells were in full force, and the crowd seemed lively as they cheered for the Cowboys more than any crowd all season.
However, OSU junior pitching ace Scott Baker’s performance on the mound against the Baylor Bears was uncharacteristically poor. He gave up 11 total runs -- after 11 strikeouts in his last outing -- and, along with the play of the other team, frustrated fans to the point that most had fled by the end of the sixth inning.
“Nicest crowd of the year and we literally ran them out of the ballpark,” said OSU coach Tom Holliday.
The eventual 18-6 defeat at the hands of the Bears (24-13, 7-6 Big 12) represents the Cowboys (22-10, 7-3) worst loss of the season, and the most runs allowed in a game all season.
It seemed that Baker never had his game together, giving up a home run to Baylor centerfielder Chris Durbin on the second pitch of the game. Two batters later, catcher Josh Ford punched the long ball to right field putting the Bears up 2-0 before OSU’s batters had a chance to take one swing.
“It’s just one of those nights,” Baker said. “Those guys hit earlier in the count and I didn’t make good pitches early in the count.”
The deficit, however, going into the bottom of the fourth was not insurmountable, and the Pokes eventually tied the game in the bottom of the fifth.
With two outs, third baseman Josh Fields knocked a base hit to left field, first baseman John Urick punched his card for a trip to first on a walk and Baylor pitcher Steven White handed OSU catcher Jason Jaramillo a walk.
This set the stage for designated hitter Mario Matulich’s two-RBI single shot to left field that brought Fields and Urick home and sent the crowd into a fit of cheers and clinking cow bells.
And as the sun set on Reynolds Stadium, the Cowboys fell behind in the top of the sixth never to see the sunshine again. Baker allowed five runs in that inning with the help of an error.
“I thought he was up,” Holliday said. “He was throwing more of the riser than the sinker. When he dominates he’s at the knees with life. He threw a lot of balls tonight that sailed and he lost the count.”
Baker never found his niche, giving up three more in the top of the seventh before catching relief from reliever Thomas Cowley.
“They did a great job of keeping me off balance, and I wasn’t able to get comfortable up there,” Baker said. “It’s one of those things that just happens. You’ve got to have a short-term memory and forget about it, and come out and win the next two.”
Leaving the game down 11-3, Baker put the defense in the hands of a bullpen that struggled just as much as he did.
The Baylor hitters made solid contact the entire night, led by Durbin who crowned his night going 4-for-6 with three runs scored and two RBI. Ford went 3-for-4 for Baylor, and third baseman Michael Griffin and first baseman Mark Saccomanno both went 3-for-5.
“Baylor’s every bit as good as I thought,” Holliday said. “Cowley gave them an opportunity and they banged it, they took advantage of it.”
The Cowboys had one final burst of energy in the bottom of the eighth when center fielder Jose Virgil belted a solo shot over the wall in left center field. Urick gave the scant crowd an encore with his massive lob over the right field wall to score two runs and cut the lead to 16-6.
But the Bears scored their final two runs in the ninth, and OSU’s offense went down one-two-three to complete the waxing.
“Now your mental makeup gets checked,” Holliday said. “You got your feelings hurt; you got your pride hurt. There will be a lot of soul searchin' tonight. I’ll find out tomorrow about some of my new people. Some of my old guys have been through this before. We haven’t lost the first game of a series so this is a good test.”
Baylor and OSU head back to the diamond Saturday at 2 p.m. for a game that Holliday hopes will be drastically different.
“I hope they got all their base hits out tonight and took BP and feel real good, (and)come out tomorrow thinking it’s all over and all they gotta do is throw their gloves out there -- because it’s to our benefit.”