June 22, 2013 11:24:02 PM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
OMAHA, Neb. -- For the first time in school history, the Mississippi State University baseball team will play for a national championship.
After a 4-1 victory against No. 3 national seed Oregon State University on Friday afternoon in the bracket one championship game at the College World Series, MSU (51-18) will play UCLA (47-17) 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."
Prior to this season, the most victories MSU had earned in Omaha, Neb., was two. The 1985 team that accomplished that feat lost its next two games and was eliminated.
The Bulldogs used a little power to reach the title series. Junior right fielder Hunter Renfroe and sophomore first baseman Wes Rea combined for three hits and three RBIs. Renfroe, who had been quiet in the College World Series, hit a three-run home run, the third home run of the event, into the left-field bullpen at TD Ameritrade Park.
Renfroe, the 13th overall selection by the San Diego Padres in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft, took a 3-1 pitch from starting pitcher Andrew Moore and lined it well over the fence for his 16th home run. The home run tied Renfroe with LSU's Mason Katz for the Southeastern Conference lead.
"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. 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. The third-year sophomore also made a jumping catch on a line drive to start a 3-6 double play with the game was tied in the second inning.
MSU starting pitcher Kendall Graveman threw 5 2/3 innings, his longest outing since the 2013 NCAA Starkville Regional opener, and allowed one a run. The senior from Alexander City, Ala., held one of the best lineups in the Pacific-12 Conference to four hits after giving up just two earned runs to the Beavers (52-12) in the first game of the College World Series, a 5-4 MSU victory.
"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 game, Oregon State was 8-1 in elimination games at the College World Series under coach Pat Casey.
"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 with an amazing catch against the left-field wall in the second inning. The Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year also had an outfield assist when he threw out Rea at home plate to end the fourth.
"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 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief before sophomore closer Jonathan Holder recorded the final two outs. Holder's 21st save gave him 30 for his career and broke the school record. He entered the game with two runners on and one out and he induced a soft liner to left field and groundball to Brett Pirtle at second base.