June 15, 2013 9:50:40 PM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State University first baseman Wes Rea lives for moments just like Saturday afternoon.
With two outs and the Bulldogs down one in the opening game of the College World Series, the 272-pound first baseman, who is hitting .341 (13 for 40) in the postseason, laced the game-winning two-run, two-out double off Oregon State University star pitcher Matt Boyd. The hit gave MSU (49-18) a 5-4 victory over the Beavers and represented the Bulldogs' first victory in the CWS since 1998.
"I think guys on this team live for these moments to get the big RBI in a game," Rea said. "I've been fortunate enough to be up in those situations and then got the job done. It's something I take a lot of pride in."
Rea finished 2 for 4 with those two RBIs and a run scored. The sophomore, who has suffered through injuries to his shoulder, arm and quad in his MSU career, walked to the plate with MSU down 4-3 in the eighth innings looking for one pitch from Boyd.
In a two-strike count, Rea believed Boyd, who was one of the more dominate starting pitchers in the Pacific 12 Conference this season but was being used as an emergency reliever Saturday, was going for a momentum killing strikeout in that at-bat.
"He was getting swings and misses on his changeup and so that's just what I went up there looking for," Rea said. "He threw me on in the middle of the plate that I could do something with."
Oregon State (50-12) was starting a ninth inning rally with runners on first and second but MSU was only out away from earning its first CWS win in 15 years but it was the 27th out - the hardest and often times the most agonizing out to get in a game.
"We're just fortunate to win this game," MSU coach John Cohen said. "The last swing of the bat represents that and we benefited. That ball was hit hard and and sometimes things just work out for you in this game."
MSU sophomore closer Jonathan Holder hung a curveball on a 2-2 count and Beavers first baseman Danny Hayes got the barrel of the bat all over the pitch. MSU (49-18) needed every bit of the 375 feet in right centerfield at TD Ameritrade Park for Hunter Renfroe to haul in the baseball at the warning track.
"I think everybody had a shaky feeling there for a second," Holder said. "The breaking ball was a little high and had nervousness when the ball left the bat. The whole team did."
However, with the large outfields at TD Ameritrade Park and the new BBCOR bats that reduce the power and trampoline effect of balls lifted in the air, Hayes' power ended up just short even though he and his teammates were convinced they'd won the game on a walk-off home run.
"I thought it had a shot," Oregon State sophomore outfielder Michael Conforto said. "I thought Daniel put a great swing on it and it was leaving the yard. It was such a letdown when it didn't."
Conforto went 4 for 4 in his first CWS game after being named as the Pacific 12 Conference player of the year and also saved a run on a perfect throw home to nail Sam Frost at the plate.
Asked if he knew the exact disappointed reaction of Hayes as he rounded first base and watched the entire flight of the ball to the right center wall, Rea was incredulous in his response that focused just on his elation.
"We just won a ballgame man," Rea said with a smile. "I don't really care what he was thinking at the moment. I was ready to celebrate with my guys."
While he was standing in the middle of the diamond, Mississippi State junior shortstop Adam Frazier looked disgusted with what he thought was a walk-off home run for the Beavers.
"Man, he hung that one pretty bad," Frazier said. "When I shook Holder's hand coming through the congratulations line, I told him you better get that pitch down."
Holder has not given up a home run since March 17 against Louisiana State University in a 7-3 loss to the Southeastern Conference Western Division champion Tigers. Cohen talked all week long leading up to Saturday's game that TD Ameritrade Park played big just like MSU's home park at Dudy Noble Field and the location for their Charlottesville Super Regional at Davenport Field.
"Off the barrel, maybe it was just the sound, but I didn't think he got it all," Cohen said. "I thought okay, this thing is over but that baseball just kept going and going and going."
Frazier now owns a piece of history at MSU program that has been playing baseball for 123 seasons. The Bulldogs shortstop for the last two seasons, broke the school's single-season record with his 104th hit in the 2013 campaign. Frazier's single up the middle in the fifth inning off Oregon State University starting pitcher Andrew Moore was one of eight hits for the Bulldogs in their 5-4 victory in game one of the College World Series Saturday.
"I wasn't really thinking about it especially after I tied it with the first at-bat," Frazier said about his leadoff double to left field to start the game. "I gues to get the record and win today makes it even better."
MSU sophomore left handed reliever Ross Mitchell moved his record to a unfathomable 13-0 as the quirky and soft-tossing southpaw provided another magical moment to his improbable run as a middle reliever for the Bulldogs squad.
"I think the word that best deserves what I provide to this baseball team is goofy," Mitchell said Saturday. "When I'm not pitching, my job is to be the guy that people turn to for a laugh and to stay loose. When I'm on the mound, I'm the guy that is supposed to make people turn and look to say 'is this guy really trying to get me out with that stuff?'.
By completing 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, Mitchell (13-0) was able to move into a tie for fifth all-time in school history for wins in a single-season with Jeff Brantley's 1984 total. Mitchell is five wins short of Brantley's 18 wins in 1985 but has the most pitching victories since Bobby Reed had 15 in 1990.
MSU senior starting pitcher Kendall Graveman, who allowed just two earned runs in 4 2/3 innings Saturday, was pumping 91-92 miles per hour with power sink for 10 ground ball outs and then Oregon State (50-12) was forced to adapt to Mitchell's 72-75 mile per hour repertoire from the left side with a unusual delivery.
"It takes a club a least one time through the order to adjust to him and I think when I come off the mound that the opponent has no idea what they're about to see for a while," Graveman said. "I always want to laugh coming off the mound because Ross is about to make some really good hitters look foolish."
MSU will play Indiana (48-14) on Monday night at 7 p.m., and will have the opportunity to win its first two games in Omaha, Neb., for the first time since 1985 when Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro and Brantley played on the MSU squad.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
2. Sunday at the Bluff today explores biology ENTERTAINMENT
3. Big Band experience returns to Golden Triangle ENTERTAINMENT
4. St. Paul's announces Valentine's Day organ recital ENTERTAINMENT