The Washington State Cougars' baseball season ended sooner than they would like after a 7-2 loss at the hands of Oklahoma.
Sunday afternoon, WSU faced Oklahoma for the right to play Arkansas that evening.
Win and you get to play a double-header trying to advance toward the College World Series in Omaha.
Lose and your college baseball season is over.
Aside from one pitch Stilley would like to have back, Coach Marbut placed confidence with the right Coug.
Stilley pitched a terrific ballgame after getting off to a rocky start.
He walked the lead off hitter to begin the game. After a ground ball force play, one of the best hitters on the Sooner ball club stepped into the batter's box.
Bryant Hernandez of Oxnard, CA turned on a Stilley fastball and sent it over the left field fence for a two-run shot.
The Sooners roughed up Stilley for two more singles in the inning before the young man settled into a groove.
WSU returned the favor in the top of the second.
Garrett Richards was a little shaky in the first inning for Oklahoma. The big junior right hander benefited from some anxious Cougar batters.
Greg Lagreid wasn't going to make that mistake and drew a walk to begin the second.
With Lagreid on first, Michael Weber stepped into the batter's box and showed some patience as well. On a 2-2 count, Weber was sitting on a fast ball.
Richards left one out over the plate and Weber launched it deep over the right field wall.
It looked as though this game might be a high scoring affair...Anyone with those thoughts early on would have been thinking wrong.
Richards was spectacular on the mound.
He went the distance, pitching the first complete game of his career for the win. Along the way, Richards had the Cougs completely off balance with a dandy curve complimented by a good fastball.
The young man has had control issues much of the season, but not today when the stakes were high.
In a loser-goes-home game, Richards struck out 10 WSU hitters while giving up just one walk. The temperature in Norman, Okla. might have been in the 90's, but the junior from Edmond, Okla., was cool and calm on the pitching mound.
Stilley gave his WSU teammates six strong innings of pitching. It appeared that he tired in the bottom of the seventh after giving up a solid lead off single and hitting the next batter.
Coach Marbut went with the same setup combination out of the bullpen he used yesterday.
The first man on in relief was Connor Lambert.
Lambert wasn't able to shut down the Oklahoma rally, yielding a pair of singles sandwiched around a strikeout. The second single drove in the go ahead run and brought the Sooner fans to life.
This game was on the brink of being broken open by the Sooners standing on all three bases in their home ball park. Coach Marbut opted to bring in the lanky freshman Adam Conley to secure the final two outs to keep it a one-run game.
Power hitting Aaron Baker stepped up and crushed Conley's first pitch for a monster grand slam home run to expand the Oklahoma lead to 7-2.
Seth Harvey was summoned to the mound to extinguish the Sooner rally. He did just that, but not before plunking the first batter he faced. Emotions were running high for both teams and things were testy for a couple of minutes. Harvey went back to work and restored order for WSU recording the final two outs of the inning rather quickly.
He went on to completely overpower Oklahoma batters in the eighth, striking out the side.
The Cougs have come back from large deficits over the past month leaving room for belief that they would do just that.
Even though the bottom of the seventh took over about a half hour to play, Richards didn't lose any of his stuff waiting on the bench while his team scored five runs. Richards would work the eighth and ninth innings looking fresh and in complete command.
Close game, but one that Oklahoma earned a victory in with a late inning rally.
This has been such a great year for Cougar baseball it's hard to believe it's over.
The season is over, but Washington State baseball isn't done yet.
"Oklahoma is the best offensive team one-through-nine in the country," Coach Donnie Marbut said after the Cougs were eliminated from the NCAA tournament.
"I am proud of the way our guys battled, not only today, but all season long. I promise you this (the postseason) will not be a one-time thing for us."
The pride expressed by Coach Marbut is shared by all of Cougar Nation.
Originally published on Examiner.com