Oregon State freshman right-hander Kevin Abel ably disabled the Arkansas Razorbacks Thursday night from what would have been the first national baseball championship in school history they almost grasped Wednesday at the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.
Wednesday’s winner in 23-pitch relief of the 5-3 victory that Arkansas led 3-2 into OSU’s 3-run ninth reprieved by a 2-out foul fly eluding the triple pursuit of Razorbacks second baseman Carson Shaddy, first baseman Jared Gates and right fielder Eric Cole, Abel came back Thursday and threw a complete game 2-hitter and struck out 10 as the Oregon State Beavers prevailed, 5-0 in Thursday’s winner take all game for the national championship capping with successive victories the best 2 of 3 series that Arkansas opened winning 4-1 on Tuesday night.
Abel, 8-1, won four of Oregon State’s five CWS victories in Omaha as the Beavers last week won their 4-team double-elimination Bracket 1 4-team double elimination bracket splitting two with North Carolina and beating Washington and twice beating Mississippi State while the Razorbacks, for the second national runner-up finish in their history, went 3-0 over Texas, Texas Tech and 2017 national champion Florida.
Arkansas’ lone two hits, Grant Koch’s double and Casey Martin’s infield single between Eric Cole’s walk, loaded the bases with one out in the third. He struck out Heston Kjerstad and retired Luke Bonfield on a fly to right, the first two of 20 consecutive Hogs failing to reach base as they were shut out for the first time in this 49-21 SEC West co-championship season.
“I thought that obviously Abel was incredible, mixing that fastball, 90, 92 miles an hour, with that plus changeup,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. A”nd just showing that fastball enough that kept us out front, breaking ball was good. Didn’t throw it a lot, but it really had depth. Just kept us off balance.”
SEC Freshman of the Year Kjerstad gave Abel his due.
“Abel was commanding them well and keeping us all off balance, as Coach said, with his fastball,” Kjerstad said. “But he would also challenge you with his off-speed changeup or flip a breaker in there for a strike every once in a while and kept the hitters off balance the whole game.”
Koch was asked if the pain from Wednesday’s close but no cigar burned out the Razorbacks Thursday or if they had recovered mentally by Thursday night’s game.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Koch said of the Hogs being recovered. “I think we did,” I think the message was really good. We came in this morning and we remembered the message from the night before. And you just gotta get that sour taste out of your mouth the night it happened and show up to the ballpark and play the same game you have all year. The 70th game or whatever, you learn to flush things pretty quick, and I don’t think we had any negativity at all going into that game.”
They just weren’t able against Abel and unable to dam the other Beavers Thursday who vexed them Wednesday.
Adley Rutschman, home run Wednesday, and Trevor Larnach, 2-run home run in Wednesday ninth’s after Cadyn Grenier’s game-tying RBI single after his foul fly eluded Arkansas’ grasp, factored again Thursday against Coach Dave Van Horn’s Hogs.
Catcher Rutschman, named the MVP of the CWS, went 3 for 4 with 2 RBI Thursday night. Larnach went 1 for 3 with a run scored Thursday while Grenier scored twice Thursday.
Arkansas losing starter Isaiah Campbell opened well Thursday with a leadoff groundout and an 0-2 count to Grenier but finished the first down 2-0 on the scoreboard. Grenier took three straight balls then was hit by a pitch.
Larnach perfectly executed a hit and run single to right. Rutschman singled past third baseman Martin on the shortstop side for OSU’s first run. After a grounder to Shaddy made it 2-out with runners to second and third, Michael Gretler hit another one to Martin who made a nice stop but threw wide to Jared Gates at first. OSU’s second run scored on the throwing error.
Campbell got Jack Anderson to ground out stranding two then threw a 1-2-3 second with two strikeouts
Arkansas loaded the bases for naught in the third. Grant Koch’s leadoff double off the left wall galvanized the bulk of the TD Ameritrade Park become Baum Stadium North. But Jax Biggers struck out and so did Heston Kjerstad after Eric Cole walked and Martin’s infield single loaded the bases. Cleanup hitter Luke Bonfield made contact but his sinking fly ball was caught in right.
The Beavers kept the momentum churning scoring one and exiting Campbell in their third. Grenier walked leading off. Campbell threw Ball One to Larnach that several in the Razorbacks dugout barked was a strike.
Home plate umpire Joe Burleson showed his bite was worse than their bark. Shouting “That pitch is down clearly. No more.”
Burleson heard more and ejected Zach Barr, the Razorbacks’ video coordinator with a “ You know what, good bye. You’re done.”
Van Horn added his 2-cents worth to the umpires while removing Campbell for Jake Reindl with the 1-0 count to Grenier. Ineffective in brief relief Wednesday, Reindl walked Larnach and got tagged by Hog nemesis Rutschman for the RBI single then righted himself. Reindl retired the side in the third and stranded a Beaver single in the fourth before running into 1-out trouble in the fifth Rutschman’s bloop single, walk and wild pitch.
Reliever Cody Scroggins inherited the runners at second and third and Michael Gretler up with a 1-1 count. Gretler’s sacrifice fly to right scored Rutschman before Scroggins struck out Jack Anderson. Scroggins pitched a scoreless sixth.
Freshman Kole Ramage, effective Wednesday in relief, threw a 1-2-3 seventh with two strikeouts but was touched for 9-hole hitter Zak Taylor’s RBI single in the eighth.
Arkansas was the national runner-up in 1979, the first of four times that retired Coach Norm DeBriyn piloted the Razorbacks to the College World Series. The Razorbacks now have been nine times to the CWS in Omaha, the last four under Van Horn in 2004, 2009, 2012 and 2015 with this first national runner-up since ’79.