(photo by Craig Jackson)
OMAHA, Neb. – For the second straight game at the College World Series, Oklahoma State got a magnificent pitching performance from its starter.
For the second straight game, the Cowboys’ offense did just enough.
Tyler Buffett followed up Thomas Hatch’s shutout by tossing a career-best eight innings with three hits and six strikeouts as Oklahoma State edged Arizona 1-0 Monday night in a winners’ bracket game at TD Ameritrade Park. The Cowboys, who beat UC Santa Barbara 1-0 on Saturday afternoon, became the first team in College World Series to win back-to-back games by a 1-0 score.
“Tyler Buffett was the story of the night,” Wildcats coach Jay Johnson said. “We did not get very many good swings off him.”
Monday night’s game continued the trend of nail-biters at this year’s CWS: five of the first six games entered the sixth inning tied or with a one-run difference. Those five games also were low-scoring, with two of them (both of OSU’s) being 1-0 games entering the sixth, and three being tied – UCSB and Miami (1-1), Texas Tech and TCU (2-2) and Coastal Carolina and Florida (1-1).
Buffett and Bobby Dalbec, who struck out a career-best 12 and allowed five hits, one walk and one run, were responsible for that and went toe to toe.
“I thought he was one of the better competitors we’ve seen this year,” Cowboys coach Josh Holliday said of Dalbec.
“He pitched spectacular,” Johnson said of Dalbec, who frequently mixed in a devastating change up. “He’s as good as anyone in the country.”
The Cowboys (43-20) scored the game’s only run in the fourth inning.
Donnie Walton led off the inning with a double, and Garrett Benge, who made several big-time plays at third base, punched a change up into shallow right-center to plate Walton. Dalbec hit Conor Costello but worked out of the inning by sandwiching two strikeouts with a jam-job back to the mound.
The one run ended up being enough, thanks in large part to an incredible night of defense by the Cowboys.
It started with the first batter of the game, when Cody Ramer launched a ball to deep center. But OSU’s Ryan Sluder made an outstanding diving catch near the warning track.
“I was already rounding second when I heard the crowd go wild,” Ramer said.
Buffett added, “The first play of the game was one of the best plays I’ve ever seen.”
The defensive plays Benge made at third base increased in degree of difficulty as the game wore on. He made a nice play on a short hop to open the third against Jared Oliva. He ended the third with an even tougher pick on a short hop on a Zach Gibbons grounder and fired a laser to first for an out.
In the ninth, Benge leapt and dove to his left, landing fully outstretched on the ground, and got up and threw a strike to rob Gibbons again. Umpires initially ruled that first baseman Dustin Williams came off the bag, but after a group discussion, reversed the call for the second out of the inning.
Replays appeared to show Williams sliding his foot back a little to touch the bag.
“I want to stay away from that,” Johnson said. “If I start talking about the umpiring, that takes the credit away from Buffett.”
Trey Cobb walked Ryan Aguilar before getting JJ Matijevic to ground out to end the game.
“It was an unbelievable college baseball game,” Holliday said. “Pitching and defense were at a premium.”
The Cowboys will be off until Friday, when they will play the winner of Wednesday’s elimination game between Arizona and UC Santa Barbara.