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Cowboys crush Baylor to start last regular-season series at home stadium

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Colin Simpson hits a grand slam in the bottom of the third inning against the Baylor Bears on May 16, 2019, in the final weekend of Big 12 Conference play.

As the deep blue night sky replaced the relentless late-spring sun, the Oklahoma State baseball team persistently bombarded Baylor with runs.

The Cowboys were unintimidated in the presence of the Big 12’s top team. OSU rumbled past the Bears 16-4 on Thursday to start the last regular-season series at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.

The No. 13 Cowboys had four doubles, a triple and four home runs, including Colin Simpson’s grand slam. Josh Holliday, OSU’s coach, complimented the team effort.

“We scored runs in a lot of different ways,” Holliday said. “And again, that’s just because a number of guys had good at-bats, and the good at-bats showed up.”

In the fourth inning, OSU led 13-0 after Cade Cabbiness’ neon orange bat lofted the ball to left-center field for a three-run home run. The Bears had pulled starter Paul Dickens, who surrendered nine earned runs, but the switch to Logan Freeman didn’t save them.

Although No. 12 Baylor stopped the shutout with a pair of RBI doubles in the fifth, the Cowboys gave themselves extra security as night fell over their historic stadium. Christian Funk, a senior third baseman, opened the bottom of the fifth with a solo shot out of the park. Carson McCusker, a junior left fielder, extended the lead to 15-2 with an RBI single to center field.

OSU starter Joe Lienhard threw seven strikeouts and 113 pitches, season highs. Lienhard (3-1), a senior, has often assumed a reliever role this year, but he pitched from the first inning through the sixth.

After Baylor added two runs, including one on a wild pitch, with two outs in the sixth, winning pitcher Lienhard regained control. Freshman Chase Wehsener grounded out to shortstop Andrew Navigato, keeping the Bears at a distance. When they posed a threat, OSU (31-17 overall, 13-9 Big 12) undauntedly responded.

“Really, my focus is, no matter what role I’m in, just (go) up there and fill up the zone and attack, and I was able to do that pretty well tonight,” Lienhard said.

The Cowboys’ offensive explosion quickly became too much for Baylor to bear. Hueston Morrill led off with a single, and he ran home to put OSU on the scoreboard when Navigato hit a first-inning double. The Cowboys had a four-run first inning and tacked on another run in the second, but in the third, they unbridled their home-run prowess against Baylor (33-14, 14-7).

Bryce Carter, a graduate transfer catcher, blasted a home run to left field, giving OSU a 6-0 advantage. After Cabbiness hit a triple and Morrill and Funk drew walks, the bases were loaded for Simpson, a senior designated hitter. Simpson had a small fracture in his left wrist during OSU’s victory against Oklahoma on Sunday, and Holliday described his status as “day-to-day” Tuesday, though Simpson stood on the diamond cheerfully playing a hacky sack game.

In the third inning, Simpson showed he had the strength for more than hacky sack. He whacked the ball out of left fielder Cole Haring’s reach and over the fence for his grand slam.

“I was running down the first baseline yelling at the wind to blow harder, so I think it blew a little harder when it got up in the air for me,” Simpson said.

OSU outhit Baylor 16-8. Mitchell Stone, a redshirt freshman left-handed pitcher, replaced Lienhard to start the seventh and limited the Bears to no runs and one hit through three innings. Stone earned his first save of the season.

The Cowboys face Baylor again Friday and Saturday, and Simpson said they need to maintain the momentum.

“We gotta keep it rolling,” Simpson said. “We can’t just walk out here and go, ‘Well, we just beat them 16-4, and so I think it’s just gonna happen.’ We gotta show up and do the same thing we did today, focus pitch to pitch and play our game through the entire nine innings.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com