STILLWATER — Entering Friday’s regional opener, Oklahoma State coach Josh Holliday expressed his confidence in freshman pitcher Tyler Buffett in taking the ball against Binghamton.
The freshman delivered with six strikeouts and the Cowboys grabbed the lead in the third in a 8-0 victory over the Bearcats at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.
“I thought a couple of key defensive plays, continued outstanding relief pitching and a grinding offensive effort defined the ball game for us,” coach Josh Holliday said. “We did a good job of continuing to score and adjust to the various looks, they were giving us on the mound.”
Buffett was sharp most of the night. He tied a career high with six strikeouts and only allowed six hits and one walk. The freshman starter finished with 4 2/3 innings pitched and was lifted after allowing two singles and a hit batter. Buffett walked back to the dugout to a standing ovation from the crowd.
“Tyler competed hard,” Holliday said. “Pitching in the first game of a regional tournament is not easy. I was proud of the effort he showed — especially with the game getting bumped back with two 30-minute rain delays.”
In the third inning, Buffett had to work out of trouble. With one out, Binghamton had runners on first and second. Buffett got a strikeout, then walked the next batter to load the bases. The freshman got out of the inning with a strikeout.
“It would have been nice to get into more of a rhythm,” Buffett said. “I struggled a little bit — falling behind in the count. I guess going out there and doing the best I could this specific day and executing pitches helped me (settle in).”
The Cowboys (46-16) took advantage of their scoreless frame. Bryan Case led off with a walk and advanced on a sacrifice bunt. With a 1-2 count, Donnie Walton lined a single to left to give Oklahoma State a 1-0 lead. Oklahoma State got a second run when Walton scored on a wild pitch. The inning ended with Arakawa striking out.
Binghamton (25-26) started Jake Cryts and he struggled with control and didn’t make it out of the third inning. He walked three batters and hit one — along with two wild pitches.
Zach Fish, who missed the last three games with a sprained ankle, returned to the starting lineup at designated hitter. He went 2 for 3 with three RBIs on an infield single and double and intentionally walked twice.
After getting out of a second bases loaded situation with a barehanded play by Craig McConaughy, Oklahoma State expanded its lead in the fifth. Tim Arakawa hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded. Conor Costello followed with a RBI single to put the Cowboys up 4-0. Case added to the lead in the sixth with his fourth home run of the season.
“I’ve worked really hard on my swing,” Case said. “I’ve come a long way and it’s starting to pay off.”
Vince Wheeland, Alex Hackerott, Blake Battenfield and Thomas combined to pitch the last 4 1/3 innings and didn’t give up a hit until Hatch gave up two hits with one out in the ninth.
“We used our bullpen, I thought extremely wise, to get some guys on the mound but not throw them to the extent to where they aren’t able to come back tomorrow or the rest of the tournament,” Holliday said.
The Cowboys will face Cal State Fullerton, who beat Nebraska 5-1, at 7 p.m. Saturday. Jon Perrin will take the mound for OSU.
At Allie P. Reynolds Stadium
Friday, May 30
Cal State Fullerton 5, Nebraska 1
Oklahoma State 8, Binghamton 0
Saturday, May 31
Game 3 — Nebraska (40-20) vs. Binghamton (25-26), 1 p.m.
Game 4 — Cal State Fullerton (33-22) vs. Oklahoma State (46-16), 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 1
Game 5 — Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser, 1 p.m.
Game 6 — Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 7 p.m.
Monday, June 2
x-Game 7 — Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, TBA