STILLWATER – No. 4 seeded St. John’s narrowly beat No. 1 seeded Oklahoma State 2-1 Sunday, knocking the host Cowboys out of the regional and ending their 2015 season.
OSU ends its year with a 38-20 record and fails to reach an NCAA Regional championship round for the first time in three seasons under head coach Josh Holliday.
St. John’s (41-15) scored two runs off OSU reliever Trey Cobb in the bottom of the eighth inning to extend its season. The Red Storm had trailed 1-0 since the top of the third, but the Cowboys were unable to hang on.
“That was a tough ballgame,” Holliday said. “I give St. John’s a lot of credit — they showed tremendous grit there in the eighth inning coming up with a really good rally that proved to be the difference. They’re a quality team….
“It was a pitchers’ day. Pitchers battled. Conor (Costello) pitched outstanding and gave us a fantastic effort. That’s the most he’s thrown in a game this year, and he was really, really special for us.
“We hit some balls hard, hit a lot of balls in the air, and today wasn’t the day to do that. As it turned out in the end, too many in the air and not enough on the ground that found holes.”
OSU outhit the Red Storm by a 7-6 count but left six runners stranded on the base paths.
SJU closer Thomas Hackimer, who suffered his first loss of the season on Friday against OSU, earned the win as he worked the final 1 1/3 innings in relief of starter Chris Kalica.
Despite being disappointed with the way the season ended, Holliday voiced his pride in his team and a senior class that included All-Big 12 Conference performers Gage Green, Tim Arakawa, Jon Perrin and Michael Freeman as well as Bryan Case, Kyle Bagnell, Hunter Hagler and Tyler Nurdin.
“You have to reflect on your team and the way it deserves to be reflected upon because that’s really what this is about,” Holliday said. “This team from start-to-finish was everything you’d ask for. I don’t think we had one discipline problem from day one. Never late to practice. Never got in trouble off the field. Set records in the classroom. Played really good baseball on the field. And the kids wore the uniform with pride.
“It’s hard to grasp the idea that you won’t get to write some of these kids’ names in the lineup again. Their legacy, for me, is hard to surmise, especially when I didn’t think I’d be sitting here today. I anticipated this team pushing this thing a little further. But a really, really special bunch of kids. The story for me is not that the season is over, but it’s what they’ve done and what they’ve meant to the coaching staff and the overall health of the program long-term because we wouldn’t be here without these kids.”
Arkansas 7, OSU 5
Oklahoma State dropped into the loser’s bracket Saturday with a 7-5 loss to Arkansas in front of 3,831 fans.
The eighth inning doomed the 11th-ranked Cowboys. Second-seeded Arkansas (37-22) had five runs in the pivotal eighth, recording three hits and taking advantage of a pair of costly OSU errors to remain undefeated in the Regional.
“That (eighth) inning proved to be a tough one,” said Holliday. “It’s too trivial to sit here and say, `That’s just baseball.’ Obviously, we all understand that. We’ve watched the game enough to know that that does happen. You have to get deeper than that as a coach. You can’t just let `that’s just baseball’ be your response. …
“Everyone might point to that inning and say that was a pivotal inning, but I can tell you there were several other moments throughout the ballgame where we could have done some things collectively as a team that may have not made that inning seem like such a focal point. From there, again, we made another mistake. We can give credit to (Arkansas) for making a couple big base hits that gave them that separation. Again, you can’t dwell on it. You have to learn from it. That’s my job as a coach is to do a better job before the game to make sure that when those things happen, that our players are in the moment and comfortable making those plays.”
OSU 5, St. John’s 4
Tim Arakawa’s RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning gave Oklahoma State a 5-4 walk-off win over St. John’s in the opening round of the NCAA Stillwater Regional Friday night.
“That was a great college baseball game, what you’d expect to see this time of year from two teams playing for the spirit of what we’re about, playing for a championship,” Holliday said.