Landmark season ends in Tucson Regional

26 Th11 2021 | 04:51

TUCSON, Ariz. — The standing ovation from Grand Canyon fans at the end of the game was more of appreciation than exultation. The embraces among players along the first-base line more sentimental than celebratory.

That was the scene Saturday afternoon after a historic baseball season for GCU came to an end with a 5-3 loss to No. 23 Oklahoma State in an elimination game of the Tucson Regional at Hi Corbett Field.

The Lopes’ first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division I tournament was over in 24 hours — a 12-6 loss to the No. 5 team in the country, Arizona, on Friday night followed by Saturday afternoon’s loss to another Top-25 team in Oklahoma State.

And while GCU coach Andy Stankiewicz doesn’t believe in moral victories – “The goal is to get to Omaha, bottom line” – he acknowledged the experience of competing against ranked teams in a regional of the NCAA tournament is the first step toward reaching that goal.

“Step 1 is getting to a regional, seeing how this feels, seeing the hotel where there’s energy from your fans and your family, and getting on a bus… All of the experiences you have in this type of setting are different than what we’re used to. So any time we can get in these moments where the guys can get a feel for what it’s going to feel like, I think it’s going to help them down the road. This moment and this experience is obviously not what we wanted but it will put us in a better spot when we get back to a regional.”

Cowboys left-hander Parker Scott, who defeated GCU earlier this season with six innings of one-run ball, was nearly as dominant Saturday, allowing two earned runs on seven hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings to get the win.

The momentum started to tilt toward GCU in the seventh inning. The Cowboys, leading 4-2, loaded the bases with no outs on two hit batters and a walk. But GCU’s Carter Young, who stands 5-foot-11, 150 pounds, struck out the No. 4 and 5 Oklahoma State hitters – Jake Thompson (6-0, 210) and Carson McCusker (6-8, 250) — then got Cade Cabbiness (6-4, 232), who had already doubled and homered in the game, to fly out to right field to end the threat and keep GCU close.

“That was big, absolutely,” Stankiewicz said. “Bases loaded for Carter Young without giving up a run was pivotal. You’re thinking OK, that’s what we need. Let’s get back in the dugout and put some good at-bats together.”