The No. 10 Oklahoma State Cowboys faced its first big challenge at home, hosting the No. 27 Illinois Fighting Illini for a three-game series. OSU had a chance to prove that it could play well against a nationally-ranked opponent and impress its home fans this weekend, but they ultimately failed to do that, only winning one of three games.
Friday: Illinois 6, Oklahoma State 2
WP: Duchene (2-0) LP: Battenfield (0-1) S: Tyler (4)
Illinois LHP Kevin Duchene absolutely dominated the Cowboys in this game, throwing seven innings of one-run ball and not allowing his first hit until the sixth inning. Tim Arakawa was the one who broke up the no-hitter, extending his hitting streak to 13 games.
OSU only managed five hits total in the game, two of which came from Conor Costello. Gage Green and Jon Littell each drove in a run for the Cowboys in the game, but other than that the offense was not there.
To my surprise RHP Blake Battenfield was coach Holliday's Friday starter on the mound. Battenfield, who was used primarily in relief as a freshman last season, made his second start of the 2015 season and struggled against the talented Illini lineup.
Battenfield's line: 5 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 4 K, 3 BB on 92 pitches
The bullpen pitched very well in relief of Battenfield, only giving up one earned run to the Illini, the other run scored because of an error by Andrew Rosa.
OSU MVP: Costello went 2-3 at the plate.
I warned that Duchene would be very difficult to hit in my series preview article and sadly that was true. OSU continues to struggle to hit left-handed pitching and its inconsistency on offense is still an issue.
Check out Gerald Tracy's full recap of this game here.
Saturday: Oklahoma State 8, Illinois 1
WP: Perrin (2-2) LP: Johnson (1-1)
RHP Jon Perrin showed us why he is the ace of the staff in his start Saturday. Perrin was in complete control of this game and his only blemish was a solo home run in the eighth inning. The senior right-hander was not overpowering, but he was able to consistently get weak contact off the bats of the Illini.
Perrin's line: 8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 5 K on 102 pitches
This is exactly the type of performance the team needs from Perrin if they want to considered a top team in both the Big 12 and nationally.
The Cowboys got its first run of the game thanks to a groundout by Costello, giving them a lead that would not be surrendered. After two Illinois errors, the Cowboys added two more runs by way of RBI singles from Gage Green and Garrett McCain.
OSU struggled in the middle innings of this game at the plate before breaking out for five runs in the seventh inning. Tim Arakawa plated two runs on a double to the right-center field gap, followed by RBI singles from McCain and David Petrino. Freshman Jon Littell added an RBI on a sacrifice fly to finish the scoring for the Cowboys.
Koda Glover impressed the handful of scouts that watched as he struck out two while pitching a scoreless ninth inning to close out the win for OSU.
OSU MVP: Perrin is a no-brainer here
Winning a game with Perrin on the mound at Allie P. is almost a guarantee. Perrin pitched exactly how a No. 1 pitcher in the Big 12 should throw in a big game against a nationally-ranked opponent.
Check out Gerald Tracy's full recap here.
Sunday: Illinois 4, Oklahoma State 2
WP: Jay (3-0) LP: Glover (0-2)
Reigning Big 12 Pitcher of the Week Michael Freeman got the start on Sunday and put together a solid outing. Freeman did a great job on keeping the ball on the ground, inducing eight groundball outs. The left-hander also added seven strikeouts, while only allowing one run in five innings of work.
Freeman's line: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 7 K, 1 BB on 83 pitches
Bryan Case had an RBI single that scored Conor Costello after a leadoff double that gave the Cowboys its first lead of the game in the second inning. Casey Fletcher evened the game up for the Illini with an RBI base hit in the third off Freeman.
RHP Trey Cobb relieved Freeman and gave up the go-ahead run on a wild pitch after allowing two singles in the sixth inning. LHP Alex Hackerott got an important strikeout to end the inning and stop a potential rally from the Illini.
Illinois would not keep this lead for long as Garrett McCain scored on an RBI single by Costello in the bottom of the inning.
The bullpens would trade zeroes for the next three frames, giving the Cowboys its first extra-innings contest at home this season. Koda Glover came on to pitch the 10th inning for OSU and allowed a two-run home run to David Kerian that would win the game for the Illini.
The Cowboys have played two extra-inning ballgames in 2015 and both have resulted in Glover allowing a game-winning home run, the other being opening day against Arizona State.
OSU MVP: Two hits for Costello again
Overall, I was relatively disappointed by the Cowboys performance this weekend. They continue to struggle against high-quality opponents.
OSU has lost to: Arizona State (x2), Oregon State, Auburn and now Illinois (x2).
It's not time to overreact quite yet, but a trend is definitely starting to develop. A team has to beat a lot of quality opponents on the road to Omaha and a possible College World Series berth. I understand that you can't win a CWS in March, but the conference season starts in less than two weeks and this team needs to step up.
Series MVP: Conor Costello, 5-10 and two clutch RBI's at the plate.
The Cowboys play a two-game series against Alcorn State starting on Tuesday at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.