OMAHA, Nebraska — There was no magic in Thomas Hatch’s arm this time.
Oklahoma State’s fantasy season came to a screeching halt in the humidity of Omaha and the heat of the College World Series, a 5-1 loss to Arizona.
The Wildcats beat OSU for the second day in a row to eliminate the Cowboys and advance to next week’s best-of-3 championship series against either TCU or Coastal Carolina.
“I was plenty comfortable,” Hatch said. “I got one outing under my belt earlier this week. I got acclimated to the environment. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way. I felt good mentally and physically. It was just an off day.”
Hatch won his first start at the CWS 1-0 last Saturday against Cal-Santa Barbara, and hadn’t allowed a run since May 26 — 23 consecutive scoreless innings.
But he gave up two runs in the first, then two more in the second.
“The only thing I could tell is it looked like some of his balls were elevated,” said OSU coach Josh Holliday. “That’s what it looked like on the Jumbotron from the side.”
“He was a little bit outside his delivery for sure, not in his right arm slot,” said pitching coach Rob Walton. “I think ultimately he was trying to do too much. And that can happen. When you get on streaks of throwing the ball for a long period of time, you’re probably due to struggle a little bit. I was hoping he could find his rhythm.”
Like Jensen Elliott in Friday’s 9-3 loss to Arizona, Hatch — the undisputed ace of the OSU staff — lasted only two innings, facing two batters in the third. Hatch had yielded only nine extra base hits all season, but he gave up four doubles (along with two walks, five hits and four runs) against 14 Wildcats batters.
“The dominance of his sinker all year is and was why that number was what it was,” Holliday said. “For teams to not be able to elevate him all year, to hit ground balls, is such a compliment to the amazing consistency he showed, the dominance of that sinker pitch.”
“I watched what he did to Santa Barbara the other day, and … we knew we had our hands full,” said Arizona coach Jay Johnson. “And you had to hope that he was going to be a little bit off, and I think he was.”
Conversely, Arizona’s Bobby Dalbec — so good in the Wildcats’ 1-0 second-round loss to the Cowboys on Monday — went seven innings and gave up just four hits, two walks and one run.
Ineffective hitting finally caught up with the light-hitting Cowboys on college baseball’s biggest stage.
OSU (43-21) tied for last in the Big 12 Conference this season with a .268 batting average and led the league with 505 strikeouts.
In four CWS games at TD Ameritrade Stadium — three against Arizona (48-22) — the Cowboys batted just .182.
“It’s going to happen,” said OSU slugger Conor Costello. “It’s baseball. You can’t find holes sometimes. I felt like we definitely put some good swings on it.”
OSU’s defense — best in the Big 12 this season with a .978 fielding percentage, and so special in the Cowboys’ first two games in Omaha — also let them down for the second day in a row with two errors.
OSU needed to win just once Friday or Saturday to advance to the title series, but couldn’t hold up against a determined and talented Arizona squad.
Regardless, the Cowboys’ return to Omaha in Josh Holliday’s fourth season was a huge step for the program and ended a 17-year streak with no series appearances. Holliday pointed out it was OSU’s deepest CWS run since 1990.
“I look at this team and the way they managed the season, the way they stuck together, the way they came together and the amazing amount of investment some of these kids have made in OSU baseball and I can’t help but smile and be proud of ‘em,” Holliday said. “I can’t even sit here and be sad. The only thing that makes me sad is we’ll never get to play together as a group again.”