LUBBOCK, Texas -- With two runners on and no outs, the stage was set for another comeback from the Oklahoma State baseball team.
Twenty-one of OSU's 40 wins this season came in the comeback variety.
Whether it was center fielder Trevor Boone’s three-run home run during the Oklahoma City regional or Noah Sifrit scoring on a walk off wild pitch to defeat Texas Tech in the second game of the Lubbock Super Regional, the Cowboys are no strangers to a late comeback.
When second baseman Hueston Morrill walked up to the plate in the top of the ninth inning with pinch runner Dylan Gardner on second and right fielder Cade Cabbiness on first it looked as though OSU might add another comeback to its total.
This time, however, the Cowboys fell on the wrong side of the comeback, losing 8-6, ending their season one win shy of the college world series.
The bottom of the eighth inning caused the Cowboys to be in yet another hole.
Throughout the Super Regional, OSU's bullpen had a roller coaster of performance and emotion. Sunday’s series finale was no different.
OSU used four relief pitchers in an attempt to progress to the College World Series. One Cowboy pitcher, Joe Lienhard in the seventh inning, was able to hold TTU scoreless.
Pitchers Logan Gragg, Peyton Battenfield and Ben Leeper had three very distinct appearances from one another.
Gragg was reliever called from the Cowboy bullpen and was tasked with consuming innings following starter Brett Standlee's three inning outing. Gragg, the first Cowboy taken in the MLB draft in the eighth round, did what was asked of him. He pitched three innings, giving up one run and keeping the Red Raiders' offense relatively silent.
Battenfield, pitching his third day of the series, lasted all of one batter in the top of the eight. He surrendered a solo home run to shortstop Josh jung and was promptly pulled from the game.
Leeper, OSU’s usual closer, also pitched in his third game of the series. He proceeded to walk his first two batters before surrendering a three-run home run to left fielder Kurt Wilson, giving Tech the 8-6 lead.
During Morrill’s at-bat, the Cowboys were in need of a another late rally to keep their season alive.
Morrill saw six pitches, the first of which being a fouled-off bunt attempt. After not getting the bunt down, Morrill swung away and struck out.
OSU third baseman Christian Funk was the next batter and similar to Morrill, had a lengthy at-bat. Funk saw seven pitches before popping up to third baseman Parker Kelly.
Senior Colin Simpson, the player most OSU fans would hand pick to be at the plate as the winning run with the season on the line, was up with two outs.
Simpson was second to Boone for the team lead in home runs with 17, including the one he hit in the fifth inning.
Unfortunately for Simpson, this game and his career as a Cowboy would end with him striking out swinging.
Despite the result of the inning, Holliday said that having his team get in position to make yet another comeback was something he expected all along.
“They jumped right back on it,” Holliday said. “That’s a rare instinct a team develops and I just really believed in them. Yeah it was a punch in the gut to have that ball go over the fence, but what are you gonna do. Turn back around and jump back in on it. (Get) the first two guys on base, three good swings to try to put a bat on ball against a good reliever, the kid made the pitches when he needed to.”
Aside from the loss and the end of the Cowboy careers for multiple players, Holliday said that there are many things he will take away from this year’s team that have nothing to do with the end result.
“(I) could not be more proud of my team and the amazing courage and fight that was on display the past six to eight weeks with these kids has been fantastic,” Holliday said. “They’ve been everything I could ask for out of a group of kids. They’ve competed at a high level. They’ve played great baseball. They’ve found the true meaning of team.”