Stillwater, Okla. — A ninth-inning rally by the Western Kentucky University baseball team fell just short as fifth-ranked Oklahoma State held on for a 5-3 win over the Hilltoppers Friday night at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.
The Hilltoppers (33-26) will now have to fight through the losers bracket as they face TCU at 1 p.m. (CDT) on Saturday in an elimination game. The Cowboys (43-16) will meet Wichita State tomorrow at 7 p.m.
Trailing 5-1 entering the bottom of the ninth, the Toppers put runners on the corners with out against OSU starter Tyler Lyons. Jake Wells then drove in Chad Cregar with a fielder’s choice grounder to make it a 5-2 game. Matt Payton followed with a single to again put runners at the corner with two away. Matt Peck relieved Lyons and gave up a double to pinch hitter C.J. Wamsley to make it a 5-3 game and move the potential tying run into scoring position. However, Jordy Mercer came in and struck out Scott Kaskie to end the game and pick up his ninth save of the season.
The Hilltoppers threatened right away in the top of the first, getting three hits and loading the bases with one out. However, Lyons was able to get a double-play groundball to get out of the jam. With two outs in the bottom of the first, Matt Hague hit an opposite-field solo home run to give OSU an early 1-0 lead.
The double-play grounder in the first started a string of 11 consecutive Hilltoppers retired by Lyons before Wells delivered an infield single with one out in the fifth. WKU starter Matt Ridings was able to settle in as well after giving up the first-inning homer, blanking the Cowboys on just two hits over the next three innings. However, Oklahoma State got three straight one-out singles in the fifth as Mercer’s base hit drove in Tyrone Hambly to give the home team a two-run advantage.
Oklahoma State blew things open on the sixth with a three-run inning that proved to be the difference in the game. After putting runners at second and third with one out before Thomas Belza doubled in both runs with a chopper past a drawn-in infield. Then, with two outs in the inning Donnie Webb doubled home a run with a triple to make it a 5-0 game and end the day for Ridings.
Wade Gaynor finally got the Toppers on the board in the seventh when he led off the inning with his 13th home run of the season.
Ridings (10-3) suffered his first loss since April 12 — a span of seven starts. He allowed five runs on 10 hits in 5.2 innings of work, finishing with five strikeouts. Lyons (12-2) threw 8.2 innings, finishing with six strikeouts as he gave up three runs on 10 hits.
Offensively, Terrence Dayleg and Payton led the Hilltoppers with two hits apiece to lead the 11-hit attack. Luis Flores was one of four Cowboys with two hits, and he also drove in a pair of runs.