OK State beats South Carolina to advance to Omaha

Posted at 10:34 PM, Jun 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-12 23:48:39-04

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Oklahoma State coach Josh Holliday was the starting third baseman when the Cowboys last played in the College World Series. Now, he's got an even bigger thrill ahead after leading the program back to Omaha.

Oklahoma State reached the CWS for the first time since 1999, its starting pitching and defense again stifling South Carolina in a 3-1 victory on Sunday that clinched the super regional.

When Holliday played, Omaha was a routine stop for the Cowboys — he got there twice in the 1990s — who made it to the College World Series 17 times between 1959 and 1999. Holliday continued to see Omaha as an assistant coach at Georgia Tech, Arizona State and Vanderbilt.


Now, four seasons after signing on to rebuild the proud Cowboys, he's going back the best way possible.

"I'm just happy," Holliday said. "For these kids to be celebrated today, all's right with the world for me."

Especially when the Cowboys (41-20) play like this. Tyler Buffett pitched seven innings of eight-hit shutout ball, a game after Big 12 Conference pitcher of the year Thomas Hatch threw seven innings of four-hit shutout ball. Trey Cobb, despite a few anxious moments, closed out both wins.

"The only thing I could think about is we're back," Cobb said after watching Gene Cone lined out to second to end the game.

Corey Hassel and Donnie Walton had RBI singles in Oklahoma State's three-run fifth, aided by two errors by South Carolina.

After Jon Littell had singled and stole second, J.R. Davis hit a grounder to shortstop Marcus Mooney that seemed as though it would be an easy out at first that Littell couldn't advance on. Instead, Mooney tried to catch Littell scrambling back to the bag, and the ball sailed past second baseman DC Arendas, leaving runners on the corners.

Hassel bunted down the first-base line, and Madison Stokes could not shovel the ball home to prevent Littell from scoring. Walton followed with an RBI single, and Hassel scored when catcher John Jones' throw to second on Walton's stolen base went into center field.

Oklahoma State has turned things up at the right time, winning five straight NCAA Tournament games. It held Atlantic Coast Conference tournament champion Clemson to four runs in two games, then shut down Southeastern Conference East Division winner South Carolina on two runs — a weekend after it scored 51 runs to win a regional.

"For the past two weeks, they've played beautiful baseball," Holliday said.

He believes more of that is ahead. The bond built on this trip — the Cowboys remained in the Palmetto State after eliminating Clemson — has galvanized and energized his group.

"I think the way we're playing, we're dangerous," Holliday said. "I wouldn't want to play us."


The excited Cowboys rushed toward the mound after the final out, all at Founders Park anticipating the traditional winner's dogpile to celebrate. Instead, the players jumped around, slapped hands and bounced off each other — never going to the ground. Shortstop Donnie Walton said the team spoke about saving the ultimate celebration for Omaha. "Just one dogpile this season is going to end it," Walton said with a smile.


South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said the Gamecocks' mistake-filled fifth was uncharacteristic of the team. He said Mooney, the shortstop, is a solid defender who was simply trying to make a big play. Still, Holbrook couldn't help but wonder what if Mooney went to first for the sure out. "If we throw to first, it's probably hard for them to score," he said.


Oklahoma State's Conor Costello added another hit on Sunday and is 11 for 20 in the NCAA Tournament. Costello had seven RBIs in the Clemson Regional and had a double in Saturday's 5-1 win, one of only three extra-base hits the Cowboys had in the super regional.


The Gamecocks had won five straight super regional series at home, including both previously played at Founders Park in 2011 and 2012. They had last lost at home in 2000 to Louisiana-Lafayette and their overall record in super regionals fell to 6-6.