Oregon State shortstop Cadyn Grenier (2) celebrates with second baseman Nick Madrigal (3) and pinch runner Andy Armstrong (9) after all three scored in a four-run eighth inning Wednesday that helped push Oregon State to an 11-6 victory against North Carolina in an elimination game at the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska. Photo by: Steven Branscombe/USA TODAY Sports
June 21, 2018 11:07:26 AM
OMAHA, Neb. -- Oregon State did not get to the College World Series on the brink of a 50-win season by committing three errors in games or stranding 11 runners on base. But that exact performance is how the Beavers found themselves on the brink of elimination after one game.
Consider it a one-game aberration.
Oregon State opened the College World Series by losing to North Carolina but worked back to the doorstep of the championship series by beating Washington 14-5 Monday and North Carolina 11-6 Wednesday, knocking both out of the College World Series. The Beavers (51-11-1) will have to beat Mississippi State (39-27) twice to get to the championship series, beginning 2 p.m. Friday, whereas MSU just needs one win to advance.
Having just played two games with its season on the line, Oregon State has no fear in playing two more.
"Baseball's all momentum, I believe. Once one guy gets a hit, you can string them together and start rolling along," second baseman Nick Madrigal said. "Any game you play down here can give you some momentum, and a win like that can get it rolling a little bit."
Madrigal, the fourth overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, was referencing the win over Washington, in which the Beavers scored 14 runs on 16 hits. Madrigal had three hits, as did fellow infielder Michael Gretler.
They did it all through what could have been an equalizing agent: a four-hour, 31-minute weather delay. Instead, the Beavers shook it off to score 10 runs after the delay and did it all with no intrasquad maintenance required.
"When we came in here, no one really said anything in particular," Madrigal said. "We believed in what we were doing, we knew what we had to do and we're confident in each and every guy on this team."
Gretler said the team has trained throughout the season to keep its composure during those moments and others, including routine meditation as one of those training mechanisms. They have already paid off before: he referenced a lengthy delay in the March 17 game against Cal, when the Beavers came back from the layoff to score eight runs in the final three innings.
"When you're relaxed, it gives you the best chance to be successful," Gretler said.
The poise paid off in Oregon State's Wednesday win.
Two first-inning solo home runs from shortstop Cadyn Greiner and catcher Adley Rutschman gave Oregon State an early advantage, one that evaporated with a three-run third for the Tar Heels. Oregon State later found itself two innings away from the three-run deficit ending its season, just to mount eight runs in its final six outs.
"Well, our club represented everything that I ask teams to be," Oregon State coach Pat Casey said. "They were resilient. They were tough, they fought, they scrapped. I ask guys all the time just be as competitive as you can possibly be and I'll live with that, and they were."
The Beavers have proven they can hit and have now done so at a record pace: with 16 hits and two home runs in the win over Washington, the Beavers set the school record for team hits and team home runs in a season. The only question is if they will be hitting with center fielder Steven Kwan in the leadoff spot.
Kwan has manned the top spot in the order for Oregon State all season and done so well, carrying a .360 batting average with a .469 on-base percentage and 14 stolen bases in Thursday. He was pulled early in the Washington game with what Casey said later was a hamstring; Casey was hopeful Kwan would be able to play in Wednesday's game, just for that hope to go unanswered. Kwan's status for the Friday game against MSU remains uncertain.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson