STILLWATER, Oklahoma – A week ago, Northwestern State was the beneficiary of an unusual play on a fly ball, which sparked a decisive rally in a Demons win against Nicholls.
Friday night one of those plays went against the Demons, and No. 18 Oklahoma State took advantage.
After a pop-fly double fell in front of NSU left fielder Matt Valdez after he lost his footing opening up a five-run Cowboys fourth inning. That eruption was enough for Oklahoma State to start the series with a 6-3 win at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.
Northwestern State (5-11) had tied the game on David Fry’s solo home run in the top of the fourth and appeared to have momentum on its side in its sixth game against a Big 12 Conference opponent this season.
Instead, the Cowboys (12-6) made the most of their opportunity. After Cameron Dobbs’ two-out, tie-breaking double fell in, Ryan Sluder followed with an RBI double off Nathan Jones (1-3) before Jones walked Jon Littell.
Garrett Benge, who broke a scoreless tie with a two-out, solo home run in the third, struck the biggest blow of the night, a three-run home run to right field to push the Oklahoma State lead to 6-1.
“They did what good teams do,” first-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “They took advantage of a mistake. I wanted to see how they played and how they attacked the game. Aside from fighting with two strikes, we played well. We could have cashed it in there when they get the five-spot when it looked like we were going to keep it tied, but they fought back.”
Jones left the game after four innings, but the Demons bullpen picked up the slack.
Senior left-hander Devin Bear struck out three in a scoreless inning and sophomore right-hander Kyle Swanson followed with three scoreless innings, striking out a career-high five batters. As a staff, the Demons collected 12 strikeouts, their fourth double-digit strikeout game of the season.
“That’s the first thing I told them,” Barbier said. “That’s what we needed, guys coming in throwing strikes with good stuff. Hopefully, the guys who come in the next couple of days can build off that. We get performances like that out of the bullpen, we’ve got a chance to win some games. I’m really excited about what Bear and Swanson did tonight.”
Down 6-1, the Demons chipped away at the Cowboys lead with Fry figuring heavily in both rallies.
Oklahoma State starter Tyler Buffett (3-2) hit Fry in the helmet to lead off the sixth and the Demons second baseman eventually scored on Austin Townsend’s RBI groundout.
Fry then delivered an opposite-field RBI double off reliever Carson Teel in the seventh inning to pull the Demons within three.
Teel, who tossed the final 3 1-3 innings to earn his first save, recorded eight of his 10 outs via strikeout to keep Northwestern State at bay.
“That’s what we need from him as an older guy,” Barbier said of Fry, who connected on his team-leading fourth home run of the season and leads NSU with 15 RBIs. “We’re playing three freshmen, and we need him to lead some of these younger guys along.”
Fry and Kelsey Richard each had a pair of hits for the Demons while Benge, Dobbs and Andrew Rosa each collected two hits for Oklahoma State.
The series continues at 4 p.m. Saturday. Northwestern State sends senior right-hander Tim Winders (0-1, 9.00) to the mound against Oklahoma State sophomore right-hander Jensen Elliott (3-0, 3.63).
Oklahoma State 6, Northwestern State 3
NSU 000 101 100 – 3 6 0
OSU 001 500 00x – 6 9 0
W – Tyler Buffett (3-2). L – Nathan Jones (1-3). S – Carson Teel (1). 2B – NSU, David Fry; Kelsey Richard. OSU, Ryan Sluder; Carson Dobbs. HR – NSU, David Fry (4); Garrett Benge 2 (5). Highlights: NSU, Fry 2-3, 2B, HR, 2 RBIs; Richard 2-3, 2B. OSU, Sluder 2B, RBI; Benge 2-4, 2 HRs, 4 RBIs; Andrew Rosa 2-4; Cameron Dobbs 2-4, 2B, RBI.
Records: Northwestern State 5-11, Oklahoma State 12-6.