June 22, 2013 11:25:09 PM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
OMAHA, Neb. -- Mississippi State University coach John Cohen is constantly talking about Hunter Renfroe doing things on a baseball field normal athletes just can't do.
By hitting only the third home run in the first 11 games of the College World Series, Renfroe's shocked everyone again. His three-run home run into the left-field bullpen at TD Ameritrade Park helped secure MSU's 4-1 victory in the bracket one championship game against No. 3 national seed Oregon State University.
The victory clinched the Bulldogs' first berth in the College World Series championship series. MSU will take on UCLA at 7 p.m. Monday (ESPN) in game one of the best-of-three series for the opportunity to win the school's first national championship in any sport.
After batting practice, Renfroe and Wes Rea said they were convinced a baseball wasn't going to leave the park Friday afternoon. Renfroe proved them both wrong when he took a 3-1 pitch to the shortest part of the ballpark to give MSU (51-18) a 4-0 lead.
"It's like if you don't hit it to the left side of the 375-(foot) sign, you're not going to hit a home run," Rea said. "Just seems like the ball's knocked down no matter how hard you hit it."
Knowing a home run probably wasn't going to happen with a 20-mph wind blowing in, Renfroe was looking for a pitch to drive against freshman right-hander Andrew Moore. Renfroe got his wish on a curveball Moore left up in the zone.
"I was going to take anything but a fastball down the pipe, but he put a breaking ball right on a tee for me," Renfroe said. "I had to swing because it wasn't something I had to put in the outfield with much effort."
Before the at-bat Renfroe was 2-for-10 and hadn't contributed much in MSU's first two victories in Omaha.
"It's kind of a relief, I guess," said Renfroe, the No. 13 overall pick by the San Diego Padres in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft. "It didn't help this ballpark is huge and knocked a few of our home runs, including other's like Wes' down."
After the Renfroe blast, MSU took a 4-1 lead into the sixth inning. The Bulldogs are 41-1 when they need nine outs to close out the game.
"Being real with you, going into that ninth inning with a three-run lead felt like we were winning by 100," Rea said. "That's just how close these games have been lately."
Rea's coach didn't share that sentiment.
"I'm glad he felt that way," MSU coach John Cohen said.
Moore (14-2) didn't earn a quality start in two chances against MSU in Omaha. The 2013 Pacific-12 Conference Freshman of the Year came to the College World Series with 10 consecutive outings of six innings or more.
"Renfroe's a first round draft pick and Rea is a stud," Moore said. "I got two quick outs and maybe got a little lazy there and they had some good at-bats and made some quality swings."
MSU also scored four runs against Moore in a 5-4 victory against Oregon State in the first game of the College World Series
The home run by Renfroe was his first since May 4 against the University of Alabama at Dudy Noble Field. In a season where Renfroe has 16 home runs, which ties him with LSU first baseman Mason Katz for the Southeastern Conference lead, the 91 at-bat gap between home runs seemed like an eternity.
"We've played in some big parks with the SEC tournament and then here," Renfroe said. "You can't ask for anything more than just line driving a ball like I did."
Cohen loved the effortless swing Renfroe used to hit the home run. He said it is a similar swing the Bulldogs use to get base hits. This time, Renfroe and the Bulldogs were fortunate the ball left the yard.
"When he goes to full effort, he pays for it all the time," Cohen said. "He doesn't need to because he's as strong as an ox, so he can just flip his hands, and even here sometimes the ball will leave the park."