June 21, 2013 4:46:15 PM
OMAHA, Neb. - For the first time in school history, Mississippi State University will play for a national championship starting Monday.
After a 4-1 victory in the bracket championship game against Oregon State University Friday afternoon, the Bulldogs (51-18) will play in the best-of-three national championship series.
"I think these guys really believe something is going to happen that's going to allow us to win a game," MSU coach John Cohen said. "Our kids just believe something good is going to happen. And it has."
Before this 2013 MSU team's feat, the most victories in Omaha, Neb., that a Bulldogs team had achieved is two by the 1985 team that immediately lost its next two to be eliminated.
It was the power thump of the MSU lineup that led them to the championship series as Hunter Renfore and Wes Rea combined for three, hits and three RBIs Friday afternoon. Renfroe, who had been quiet in the College World Series, hit the third home run of the event with a three-run home run in the left field bullpen.
Renfroe, the 13th overall selection by the San Diego Padres, took a 3-1 pitch from Oregon State starting pitcher Andrew Moore for a line drive shot just over the fence for his 16th home run of the season. The round tripper tied Renfroe with Louisiana State's Mason Katz for the Southeastern Conference lead in home runs.
"I didn't think it was going out right away," Renfroe said. "I was running out of the box right away (and) going for a double," Renfroe said. "I was just able to get enough back spin to hit it out to left field."
Rea had his third multi-hit game of the tournament with a single and double for the 272-pound first baseman. The third-year sophomore also made a spectacular jumping catch on a line drive for a 3-6 double play when the game was tied in the second inning.
MSU starting pitcher Kendall Graveman tossed 5 2/3 innings, his longest outing since the 2013 NCAA Starkville Regional opener, and allowed just a single run on four hits. The senior from Alexander City, Ala., held one of the best lineups in the Pacific 12 Conference to just four hits after giving up just two earned runs to the Beavers (52-12) on Saturday.
"Graveman did a great job pounding the zone and able to work both sides of the plate," Oregon State sophomore outfielder Michael Conforto said. "He was able to switch it up all day and kept us off balance."
Before the start of Friday's game, Oregon State was 8-1 in elimination games at the College World Series under head coach Pat Casey. The only two losses of the 2013 College World Series for the Pacific 12 Conference regular season title came via MSU.
"There's no bad nights in Omaha (but) we couldn't get some things to go for us today offensively." Casey said. "I don't want to take away from what these guys have accomplished. We're more disappointed in the fact they won't get to play together again."
Conforto made his case for All-Tournament team despite with an amazing catch in the second inning against the left field wall and the Pac 12 Conference player of the year made a another outfield assist to throw out Rea at home plate to end the fourth inning.
"Michael Conforto is a hell of a defender and we've said it during the Super Regional against Kansas State and told the ESPN people about it during the production meeting," Casey said. "I think it gets overlooked but that play he made today was inspiration for our club. He's been doing that for us all year."
MSU sophomore reliever Ross Mitchell worked a scoreless 2 2/3 innings of relief before sophomore closer Jonathan Holder got the final two outs of the game. Holder's 21 save of the season also broke the school's all-time saves record with 29. Holder entered the game with two runners on and one out and he got a soft liner to left field and ground ball to Pirtle at second base
MSU will play UCLA starting Monday night in the CWS championship series. UNC, the number one overall seed, will need to defeat UCLA twice in a row in order to face the Bulldogs.
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.
4. Ho ho ho -- Downtown Open House heralds the holidays ENTERTAINMENT