Down to last strike, Oregon State rallies against Arkansas to force decisive Game 3 at CWS

Down to last strike, Oregon State rallies against Arkansas to force decisive Game 3 at CWS
World-Herald News Service

The dogpile will have to wait.

Oregon State spoiled Arkansas’ chance at a coronation in front a raucous collection of Razorback fans, who were standing and cheering with anticipation until the Beavers resurrected their title hopes in a ninth-inning sequence Wednesday night.

Junior shortstop Cadyn Grenier was down to his final strike — in fact, he’d just flared a popup along the right-field line that landed foul between three converging Razorbacks who miscommunicated. It could have been the College World Series-clinching out.

Instead, OSU took advantage of the extra life.

Grenier guided a 2-2 pitch into left field to drive in a run from third base and tie the game 3-3. Next batter Trevor Larnach then smashed a 2-0 fastball into the right-field bullpen — the two-run homer capped the comeback and secured the Beavers’ 5-3 win.

The teams will now meet for a winner-take-all title game at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at TD Ameritrade Park. Arkansas is going for its first national championship. Oregon State is looking for its third crown — it won the CWS in 2006 and 2007.

“Just to watch it unfold, to watch our team come together there,” sophomore Adley Rutschman said, “just to have that kind of roller coaster of emotions there, I can’t ask for anything more.”

He has found himself pondering similar feelings in Omaha these past couple of weeks. The Beavers (54-12-1) have been at their best here with their backs against the wall.

They lost their CWS opener June 16. Then they won four consecutive elimination games, including two in two days over tournament darling Mississippi State.

They fell 4-1 to Arkansas in the first game of the CWS finals Tuesday. And they were down 3-2 heading into the ninth inning Wednesday.

Yet here they are, still alive, still competing for a chance at hoisting the trophy.

“I’ve seen it for a while in this club and this program, just that will to keep going,” Oregon State coach Pat Casey said. “Very resilient team. Character is off the chart.”

The Beavers could have folded at various points Wednesday.

Oregon State left the bases loaded in the fifth. The Beavers put runners on first and third with nobody out in the sixth inning, but reliever Kole Ramage caught a popped-up bunt and threw to third to complete a rally-killing double play.

Rutschman, whose solo homer in the fourth tied it 1-1, began the eighth inning with a single. But he was left stranded on third.

The constant scoring threats collectively formed a bit of an ominous tone within the mind of Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn, though. He had to use five pitchers, including two who helped the Razorbacks seal Tuesday’s victory.

It wasn’t as if the Beavers’ ninth-inning rally came out of nowhere, Van Horn said.

“We kind of lived on the edge a lot, obviously,” he said. “They finally got us there with two outs.”

And now the Razorbacks (48-20) will have to recover.

They were one out away Wednesday. Teams in the CWS had won 126 of the last 128 games when leading in the ninth. Arkansas was 42-0 in those situations this year.

The potential tying run stood on third, sure — but closer Nick Cronin was on the mound. He just set the school’s single-season saves record a day earlier. The fans were on their feet. The celebration seemed imminent.

Then Grenier’s popup sailed down the right-field line.

Arkansas just needed someone to settle under it. First baseman Jared Gates or second baseman Carson Shaddy or right fielder Eric Cole sprinted into foul territory. All three had a shot. Shaddy said he didn’t hear anyone call for it.

The ball dropped. The crowd gasped. OSU’s junior shortstop took a deep breath.

“That’s a gift,” Grenier said when asked what he was thinking. “It’s new life. You do what you can with it.”

Three pitches later, Grenier guided a fastball into left field to tie it. Larnach then blasted the two-run homer that secured Oregon State’s win.

Now both teams have to reset for Thursday. The winner gets a championship.

“Arkansas is here for a reason, and they got us (Tuesday),” Larnach said. “We were fortunate to get them (Wednesday). And (Thursday’s) a brand new day. So we’re focused on that.”

Spotlight

Play of the Game

Three pitches after hitting a pop foul that could have ended Oregon State’s season, Cadyn Grenier laced a two-out, two-strike RBI single to left field to tie the game. The first-round draft pick pumped his fist as he ran to first after his third consecutive — and biggest — hit of the night.

Star of the Game

Trevor Larnach made a rare miscue by the Razorbacks sting in a big way when he forced a winner-take-all finale with a two-run homer to left field. The ninth-inning blast, his 19th of the season, came three pitches after Grenier’s game-tying single.

Close Play

Oregon State came close to recording an out twice when Arkansas scored the tying run in the fifth inning. Charging center fielder Preston Jones nearly made a sliding catch on a Luke Bonfield bloop single with two on and one out. Then the left fielder Larnach came within a whisker of throwing out Casey Martin at the plate as he aggressively tied the game 2-2.

Key Decision

With the bases loaded and one out in a tie game, Oregon State elected to have Grenier lay down a bunt in the top of the fifth. The first-round draft pick singled on a perfect safety squeeze and scored Zak Taylor to give the Beavers the lead. Reliever Kole Ramage entered for Arkansas and retired the next two batters, perhaps making Oregon State wish it had Grenier swing away earlier.

Quirky Moment

Arkansas first baseman Jared Gates had the foul ball off the bat of Grenier in his sights when second baseman Carson Shaddy ran behind him to take over. There were two outs in the top of the ninth, and the Razorbacks were on the verge of a national title. Shaddy overran the pop foul and the ball dropped safely to the ground. Three pitches later, Grenier tied the game with an RBI single.

Our Take

On the verge of elimination again, Oregon State found a way to survive. Grenier and Larnach proved they were big-time talents with their clutch at-bats in the ninth. The Beavers will carry the momentum of a thrilling finish into the CWS championship finale Thursday.

Six-player field set for College Home Run Derby at TD Ameritrade Park

The field for Saturday’s College Home Run Derby at TD Ameritrade Park was announced Wednesday.

The six players are Wil Dalton of Florida, Logan Davidson of Clemson, Thomas Dillard of Mississippi, Kyle McCann of Georgia Tech, Parker Phillips of Austin Peay and Nic Ready of Air Force.

All six hit at least 13 home runs this season. Davidson will compete in the event for the second straight year.

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