College World Series champion Oregon State won six straight elimination games. Here's how each one happened
Newly crowned College World Series champion Oregon State had its back against the wall for nearly two weeks in Omaha after losing its opening game to North Carolina and later, the first game of the championship series to Arkansas. After each loss, the Beavers' next defeat would've been their last, eliminating them from the College World Series.
Instead, Oregon State staved off elimination by winning four consecutive games to reach the championship series and six of seven to clinch the title. Here's how the Beavers won each game and how close they came to elimination.
Oregon State 14, Washington 5
This game won't go down in history in the same breath as the Chicago Cubs' victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, which was interrupted by a pivotal weather delay and ultimately ended the Cubs' 108-year championship drought, but the Beavers potentially benefited from a four-plus-hour rain delay.
With two outs and the bases loaded for OSU in the top of the sixth inning, play was stopped for four hours and 31 minutes. When play resumed, Tyler Malone drew a walk, which scored the game-tying run, then the Beavers scored nine runs in the seventh and eighth inning to put the game out of reach.
How they scored the game-winning run: Michael Gretler doubled down the left-field line in the top of the seventh, scoring Nick Madrigal from second base.
What could have gone wrong: Washington was in control of the game for the first four innings with a 3-0 lead. Before the weather delay, Washington was one out from getting out of the top of the sixth inning with a 5-4 lead. Maybe the weather delay didn't impact the game at all. Maybe it completely changed the course of the 2018 College World Series. We'll just never know.
Oregon State 11, North Carolina 6
After losing 8-6 to the Tar Heels in their opening game, the Beavers bounced back with an elimination game victory over North Carolina four days later. Oregon State appeared to be on the verge of quietly exiting Omaha after trailing 6-3 through seven innings before exploding with a pair of four-run innings to end the game. The Beavers' first four batters were 9-for-19 with four doubles, two home runs and seven RBI.
How they scored the game-winning run: Anderson walked on a 3-2 count with two outs in the top of the eighth inning with the bases loaded, scoring Adley Rutschman to cap off a four-run inning.
What could have gone wrong: For the second time in four days, Oregon State ace Luke Heimlich was chased out of the game before finishing the third inning, forcing the Beavers to use four pitchers in the game and straining the team's bullpen. Kyle Datres, North Carolina's first batter of the game doubled to lead off the bottom of the first, but the Tar Heels were unable to knock him in. They left nine runners on base in the game.
Oregon State 12, Mississippi State 2
Needing to beat a surging Mississippi State team twice in a row to reach the College World Series championship series, Oregon State broke the game open early, scoring five runs in the second inning and chasing out MSU starter Jacob Billingsley after just 1.1 innings. The Beavers managed five hits off of Billingsley – as many as the Bulldogs recorded for the entire game.
How they scored the game-winning run: Nick Madrigal singled to left field in the bottom of the second, scoring Gretler.
What could have gone wrong: This was as resounding of a victory as the Beavers had since the Corvallis Regional. Bryce Fehmel only lasted 3.2 innings, leaving the game with OSU leading 5-2, but Brandon Eisert put the clamps on MSU's offense, holding the Dawgs to just one hit in the final 5.1 innings.
Oregon State 5, Mississippi State 2
Oregon State completed its four-game run through consecutive elimination games in a fairly offensively challenged matchup. The Beavers scored all of their runs in the third inning, when they recorded five of their eight hits. MSU, meanwhile, mustered just four hits all game. Freshman Kevin Abel was lights out, going seven innings while allowing just three hits and one run.
How they scored the game-winning run: Tyler Malone hit a three-run home run to right center on a 3-1 count, providing all the firepower the Beavers needed to win.
What could have gone wrong: Abel had made just five starts all season and making a start as a freshman, with a finals berth on the line, could have gotten to the righty. Instead, he was dominant – a common theme of the College World Series. The Beavers also scored all five runs in the third inning with two outs. If even one play in the chain of events that led to a monster inning for OSU had been different, we're maybe coming off Mississippi State or Arkansas celebrating the national championship.
Oregon State 5, Arkansas 3
Arkansas was in control of a competitive one-run game, needing just one more out to clinch the College World Series, when a play that will go down in history as one of the most infamous blunders in college baseball history occurred. We'll touch on this more in a little bit. The two starting pitchers combined for just 6.1 innings and nine pitchers were used in total. There were 19 hits in the game but 16 were singles.
Each team's leadoff and five-hole hitters went hitless, while their No. 2, 3 and 4 hitters were responsible for the bulk of the offensive production in the game. It was a game where one big play could turn the tide and that's exactly what Oregon State capitlized on to even the championship series.
How they scored the game-winning run: Trevor Larnach homered to right field with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, also scoring Cadyn Grenier.
What could have gone wrong: Trailing 3-2 with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Grenier hit a pop-up in foul territory along the first-base line behind the bag. Arkansas first baseman Gates, second baseman Carson Shaddy and right fielder Cole all made attempts to run to the ball for the final out, but it dropped in the middle of the trio. With a new life at the plate, Grenier singled, starting a two-out, three-run rally that allowed Oregon State to win 5-3 and force a Game 3. If that ball had been caught, Arkansas would have won the College World Series.
Oregon State 5, Arkansas 0
Oregon State never trailed in Game 3 of the College World Series, taking a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning and gradually added to its lead over the next eight innings. Abel was stellar, throwing a two-hit shutout while striking out 10 batters. College World Series Most Outstanding Player Adley Rutschman continued swinging a hot bat, going 3-for-4 with 2 RBI and one run, putting his name in the record books with a record 17 hits in the CWS.
How they scored the game-winning run: Rutschman drove in what proved to be the game-winning run in the fourth at-bat in the bottom of the first inning. He singled through the left side, scoring Grenier.
What could have gone wrong: After Oregon State's hot start in the first inning and Abel's incredible work on the mound (he retired the final 20 batters he faced), there really wasn't an imminent threat that the Beavers narrowly avoided. Arkansas had the bases loaded with one out in the third inning after Abel surrendered a leadoff double but he settled down and retired the next two batters.
Maybe Abel misses a few of his spots and that inning plays out differently, but Oregon State was never seriously in danger of letting the game slip away.