Oklahoma State extended its season-long winning streak to eight games Friday as the 20th-ranked Cowboys opened Big 12 Conference play with a 5-0 victory over Baylor at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.
Jason Hursh and Zach Fish were the heroes for the Cowboys as that duo helped OSU improve to 19-3, with Hursh tossing another gem on the mound and Fish providing power in the middle of the lineup.
Hursh worked eight innings and struck out eight, two shy of his career high, and the sophomore righty allowed just five hits and one walk to improve to 3-0 on the season while lowering his ERA to 1.04.
"Jason (Hursh) pitched fantastic — he gave us as good a quality start on a Friday night as you could ask for against a very good team — and some good quality at bats in the middle innings gave us the offense we needed," said OSU head coach Josh Holliday, whose club is now 17-2 at home this season.
The game was a pitcher's duel early between Hursh and BU's Dillon Newman and entered the sixth inning still scoreless.
The Bears (10-13) looked poised to change that, however, as Nathan Orf led off the sixth with an infield single and Cal Towey followed with a double.
With runners at second and third and no outs, Hursh got Duncan Wendel to ground out to third before striking out Adam Toth. Up next, Steve DalPorto worked a full count, then send a sharp grounder up the middle. But Hursh snagged the ball and tossed to first to get out of the jam unscathed.
"I just reacted to it – it was a hard comebacker right at me – I just stuck my glove out there, found the ball in there and ran over to first. Good things happen, I guess," Hursh said.
Holliday said Hursh's ability to pitch out of the jam was a turning point for the Cowboys.
"(Hursh) kept his composure, took a deep breath and got right to work on pitching his way out of it," Holliday said. "That was a huge momentum shift in the game, for them to get second and third and nobody out and not score gave us momentum. We felt like we won that situation, and it kept us on an even playing field because we didn't have to turn the scoreboard around."
Riding that momentum, Fish and the Cowboys finally got to Newman in the bottom of the inning. Gage Green was hit by a pitch with one out, and after Aaron Cornell flied out, OSU perfectly executed a hit-and-run play as Tanner Krietemeier delivered a single through a vacated hole at shortstop to put runners on the corners.
That brought Fish to the plate, and the sophomore took a first-pitch strike before sending an opposite-field shot over the wall in right field to give OSU a 3-0 lead. The home run was Fish's team leading fifth of the season
"In the fifth inning, we started going the other way and getting more comfortable at the plate. We just stuck with our approach and trusted what we've been working so hard on, and we started to hit the ball the other way," Fish said. "Last year, I had a real pull-happy swing, and Coach (Josh) Holliday and I have been working hard on hitting the ball to all fields with power and average.
"When I went up there, (Newman) had thrown me five sliders in a row. He started me off with a slider, which I didn't go for. I was waiting for a fastball away, something I could really drive into the gap. I saw it on the outer half, and I'd seen that pitch a hundred times in batting practice, so it was just staying within myself and going the other way."
OSU added a pair of insurance runs in the seventh, with Saulyer Saxon executing a safety-squeeze bunt to bring home the fourth run before Robbie Rea scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-0.
After Hursh tossed eight scoreless frames, OSU called on Brendan McCurry to close things out in the ninth. The junior gave up a pair of hits but left those runners stranded to seal the win.
The two teams return to action Saturday in a game that has been rescheduled for noon due to the possibility of inclement weather.
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