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LOUISVILLE — Bowling Green knew it would have to play flawless baseball to survive the weekend in the Louisville Regional of the NCAA tournament.
That did not happen.
So the Falcons’ season ended Saturday. One day after Bowling Green lost to Louisville, the top seed, the Falcons were eliminated by Oklahoma State 7-3 in Jim Patterson Stadium.
They could not overcome four walks in the first 1 1/3 innings by starter Cody Apthorpe, who also allowed four hits. They also could not deliver the clutch hit, stranding nine runners. The Falcons trailed 4-0 early and managed just eight singles.
“Obviously we wanted to get off to a little better start than we did [against Louisville],” Bowling Green coach Danny Schmitz said. “One thing we didn’t want to do was fall behind right away.
“Before we could blink, we were already down 4-0. We tried to use the scenario of the Buffalo game, the last game of the regular season [a game the Falcons rallied to win] and the first game of the conference tournament against Northern Illinois. We tried to battle back. We had opportunities, but didn’t cash in.”
The Falcons trailed 7-1 in the eighth when they forced Oklahoma State to replace starter Tyler Nurdin with Vince Wheeland. With runners on first and second, catcher T.J. Losby singled in a run.
Oklahoma State shortstop Randy McCurry misplayed a possible double play grounder by Jesse Rait. That cut the lead to 7-3, and the Falcons had runners on second and third with no outs.
The rally died quickly when Logan Walker and Brandon Howard struck out. A walk filled the bases, but pinch-hitter Matthew Pitzulo flew out to right.
“We had opportunities, especially in the eighth,” Schmitz said. “But the next two guys don’t put the ball in play and then we actually swing at ball four with bases loaded and a full count.”
“We had our opportunities,” said senior Nick Bruns, who pitched the final three innings and tied the school record for career appearances (91).
“We were right there with Louisville and the difference between us and teams like that is they capitalize when we make mistakes and they don’t make mistakes.”
The Falcons finished with a 24-31 record, delivering an upset in the MAC tournament to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999. Schmitz expects an even better season in 2014. The Falcons did not start a senior Saturday. Shortstop Brian Bien, only a sophomore, had three hits while batting leadoff.
“With only have four seniors on the team, we’re still a fairly young group,” he said. “I felt we learned how to start winning. I would like to have seen us play a little better here.
“We’ll see what the June [MLB free agent] draft holds, if we were to lose anybody. But if we don’t lose anybody, we’ve got a great foundation.”
“We had quite a year,” Bruns said. “It was a special way of ending it, by winning the MAC tournament after barely making it. I can always say I’m a MAC champion. It will take a little while to realize that baseball is over, but that is what I will look back on."