Thanks to another timely performance from the comeback kids, the Beavers are sitting in the winners bracket after a 6-5 win against Cal State Fullerton in game one of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.
It’s safe to say that the Oregon State baseball team has a taste for drama. The Beavers won their 22nd straight game, and(55-4) put themselves, their coaches, and fans through a washing machine for the first five innings of play in Omaha. But in typical washing machine fashion, the cycle changed and so did the Beavers fortunes.
The game started off in just about the worst way possible for the Beavers. Jake Thompson had his worst and shortest performance of the year as he worked only 3 ⅔ innings for the Beavers before being pulled in favor of Jake Mulholland. Thompson struggled with command early and found himself behind in counts that led to big hits for the Titans.
Cal State Fullerton (39-23) got to Thompson right away as Scott Hurst walked to open the game to put pressure on OSU immediately. Sahid Valenzuela sac-bunted Hurst over to second and then Thompson hit Dillon Persinger to set the stage for shortstop Timmy Richards.
Richards sat on a pitch right down the middle from Thompson and sent it into the left-center bleachers to give Fullerton a quick 3-0 lead.
After the quick start from CSF, it appeared Thompson was going to settle down and be the pitcher that we have all seen perform at a high level this season.
The Beavers were able to get their goose egg off the board in the second inning thanks to an RBI from Steven Kwan via a fielder's choice that scored Michael Gretler. Even though the Beavers were able to get a run in the second, the momentum was clearly on the side of the Titans.
Unfortunately for the Beavers, Thompson’s inconsistency was going to hurt them again. Chris Hudgins lined a two-out RBI single into left field to score Hank LoForte and Taylor Bryant and give the Titans a commanding 5-1 lead. However, those were the last runs of the game for Fullerton.
If there was a turning point for the Beavers in this game, I would have to say that it started with the top of the 6th inning. Freshman Adley Rutschman was able to record a double play on a bunt attempt where he made a diving catch to record the first out, and then had the presence of mind to throw to first to complete the double play. The last out of the sixth was made by Steven Kwan who made an incredible diving catch to end the inning for the Beavers. It turned out to be a 1-2-3 inning, but it gave the Beavers a much needed shot in the arm to start their comeback.
The break OSU needed was by way of a pitching change. Once Connor Seabold left the game, the Beavers made their move. They earned four walks in the 6th inning, and had timely hitting from key players.
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Nick Madrigal started the scoring for the Beavers in the 6th as he had a sacrifice fly to score Michael Gretler who walked to open the inning. Trevor Larnach and Jack Anderson had two clutch two-out hits to score three more runs and all of a sudden it was a 5-5 game.
The Beavers scoring punch ended there as both teams headed to the 7th deadlocked at 5, but the momentum was on the side of the orange and black.
Larnach mentioned that even though the Beavers were down early, their confidence never wavered.
“I just think that we feed off of each other's confidence. We trust each other, and we love each other,” Larnach said. “So we come out and fight for each other. It's not just one person, it's just for everyone -- for Coach, for our teammates, for the fans, for everybody.”
Both teams exchanged zero’s in the 7th, before the Beavers struck in the bottom of the eighth to score what would be the game winning run. There were two down in the B8 for the Beavers when two familiar faces reached came in clutch once again. Larnach singled up the middle, and Anderson was hit by a pitch to set the stage for the 0-for-4 Rutschman.
The freshman from Sherwood was determined to not go 0-for-5. He smacked a single back up the middle to score Larnach and give OSU the 6-5 lead that would turn out to be the final score.
After Rutschman’s big-time hit, the Beavers were three outs away from getting the win, and Pat Casey had a big-time decision to make. Who was going to throw in the 9th? Jake Mulholland was pitching great, but Casey and pitching coach Nate Yeskie had an ace up their sleeve, as co-captain and MLB first round pick Drew Rasmussen was warming up in the bullpen.
Casey decided to go with Rasmussen, and boy did the move make him look smart. “Raz” came in and threw 12 TP and got two K’s and a flyout to seal OSU’s come-from-behind victory. He earned his second save on the season for his efforts.
Mulholland earned the win for the Beavers, improving to 7-1 on the season.
“I was able to work backwards. I think that was important,” Mulholland said. “And in my mind, I was just thinking to give my team the best opportunity to come back and end up getting a win.”
Cal State Fullerton starter Seabold was fantastic for the Titans. He worked five innings and had OSU hitters off-balance. However, he exited after the fifth inning as he was at 97 pitches and was showing signs of tiring. The decision to replace Seabold was a decision that head coach Rick Vanderhook certainly wishes he could take back.
The Titans brought in Colton Eastman who was arguably their best pitcher of the season, despite missing several months for elbow tightness. Eastman threw a gem last Sunday against Long Beach State to clinch a trip to Omaha and Vanderhook was betting that his “ace” could close the door on the No. 1 national seed.
That bet didn’t pay off.
Eastman worked just ⅔ of the sixth inning, walking four batters in the process to set the stage for the OSU comeback. Eastman allowed four earned runs and was then yanked in favor of Blake Workman who came in and stopped the bleeding for the Titans, but the damage was done. The Beavers added four runs in the sixth, tied the ballgame, and took all the momentum. Workman was saddled with the loss to fall to 6-3 on the season.
Player of the game
Jake Mulholland: 4 ⅓ IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K, 45 TP
No disrespect to any other Beaver, but Mulholland won this game for the Beavers. His calming presence is what settled them down in my opinion. When he came in, the Beavers were in desperation mode and needed a steady hand to bring them back. Even though he didn’t have a bat in his hand, Mulholland changed the momentum of the game, and took the wind out of the Titan’s sails. And not to mention this is a freshman. He had ice water in his veins, and earns the player of the game nod for playing stupendous baseball on the game’s biggest stage.
The Beavers will now be playing the winner of the LSU-Florida State game Monday night at 4:00 p.m. OSU is now just one win away from being in the driver's seat of their side of the bracket. The CWS is set up just like the regionals, where if you win your first two games, then someone has to beat you twice. LSU and FSU are two incredibly talented teams and the Beavers will need to play much better than they did against CSF to get the win. My best guess is that OSU will go with Bryce Fehmel on Monday.