McCusker returns from injury to contribute to victory against St. Louis

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OSU left fielder Carson McCusker smiles after stealing home during the Oklahoma State vs. Saint Louis baseball game on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium in Stillwater.

As Alix Garcia created a distraction, Carson McCusker realized he had the opportunity to accomplish something he had never done.

Garcia, a senior infielder on the Oklahoma State baseball team, bolted from first base to second, keeping pitcher Grant Fremion from focusing on McCusker. The sneaky play allowed McCusker to take off from third base and steal home, bringing in the Cowboys’ last run against St. Louis. McCusker wore a big grin as he headed to the dugout.

“I was fired up,” McCusker said.

OSU rolled past the Billikens 7-1 on Wednesday at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium. The Cowboys swept St. Louis in the two-game series and improved their record to 13-5.

McCusker, a senior left fielder from Sparks, Nevada, had his first game back in the lineup after missing four because of an injured right hand.

“I got the stitches in still, but I get them out in the next couple days,” McCusker said. “It feels fine. I feel good to play.”

When OSU faced Missouri State on March 3, McCusker fell in the outfield and cut his hand on a spike on his shoe. McCusker said he was disappointed because he figured he would have to sit out a few games, though his return happened sooner than he had predicted.

“I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ this is the most unathletic thing I’ve ever done in my life,” McCusker said.

But McCusker was able to do something more athletic when he stole home in the seventh inning against the Billikens. As McCusker brought in the unearned run, Garcia safely made it to second base, denying Fremion and the St. Louis defense of a chance to catch him stealing.

The run gave the Cowboys a comfortable 7-1 lead, but they had an edge against the Billikens starting in the third inning, when freshman center fielder Caeden Trenkle hit a two-RBI single to left-center field. Freshman designated hitter Justin Campbell followed with a two-RBI double that allowed Trenkle and Kaden Polcovich to score.

Campbell had a game-high three RBI, and Trenkle followed with two.

Trenkle also hit his fourth triple of the season when he cranked one to right-center field in the seventh inning.

“He turns what would be maybe a double for a lot of players into a triple,” coach Josh Holliday said. “Good hitting, good running, good athlete, really good player.”

The Cowboys combined productive offense with authoritative defense. C.J. Varela, OSU’s senior starter, tossed a career-high nine strikeouts and earned the win. Varela (3-0) held St. Louis scoreless until the fourth inning, when left fielder Corrigan Bartlett reached home on an error. After second baseman Kyle Schild hit a single, the bases were loaded, but Varela and the Cowboys escaped the jam without allowing the Billikens to add another run.

“He was good; he was nasty,” McCusker said. “We needed a good start out of him today, and we got it.”

McCusker went 1-for-3 at the plate. Although McCusker said his timing wasn’t perfect, he said he felt better than he had expected to feel.

 “It’s good to get him back and get the rhythm and the timing of the game back for him,” Holliday said. “When you miss a week, you’ve got to kind of get your baseball movements back and synchronize them up with the pitch, so it was good to get him back in the lineup.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com