Winner take all Game 3 starts at 5:30.
FAYETTEVILLE - Second baseman Carson Shaddy, right fielder Eric Cole and first baseman Jared Gates converged but failed to catch the national championship that would have been Arkansas’ had one of them caught Cadyn Greiner’s two-out ninth-inning foul fly ball Wednesday night at the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.
Granted the reprieve against Arkansas closer Matt Cronin trying to preserve a 3-2 lead, Greiner singled home pinch-runner Zach Clayton from second tying it 3-3 for Oregon State before Trevor Larnach hit a 2-run home run for a 5-3 victory that Beavers reliever Jake Muholland preserved turning a game-ending doubleplay forcing a winner-take all national championship game tonight.
Game time is 5:30 p.m. on ESPN2 as Coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks, 4-1 winners over Coach Pat Casey’s Beavers Tuesday night each have a victory and a loss in their best 2 of 3 series determining the national champion after each last week won their respective 4-team double-elimination bracket in Omaha.
“We lived on the edge a lot tonight obviously,” Van Horn said. “ Finally got us there with two outs. It was tough a play down the right field line, kind of that no-man's-land ball, stand's coming up, got a second shot and fouled off a couple of pitches and tried to get it inside and the ball ran back out over the plate. Really nice piece of hitting. And they tied it up obviously. And the big two-run homer.”
Shaddy was asked postgame about the foul fly that the three couldn’t catch.
“You know, it's a tough play,” Shaddy said. “I was running, and didn't hear anybody call it. So I just kept running trying to make the play and overran it. It's a tough break. Just have to get back out tomorrow and we're really confident in Isaiah (Campbell, scheduled to be Arkansas’ starter tonight after beating Florida for the Bracket 2 Championship that Arkansas won three-games to none also beating Texas and Texas Tech) and we're ready to go.”
Grenier was asked his thoughts after the foul ball reprieve.
“ Pretty much as soon as you see the ball drop, you have another life,” Grenier said. “And really all I thought was I just need to refocus and make the most of that extra life that we got when that ball did drop. And that's all you can do. You take it as this was -- that's a gift. And it's a new life. And do what you can with it.”
Obviously for Wednesday the Beavers did enough.
Cronin, who saved Tuesday’s triumph on behalf of winning starter Blaine Knight and middle reliever Barrett Loseke, followed Wednesday starter Kacey Murphy and relievers Jake Reindl, Kole Ramage and Loseke to the mound with the 3–2 lead and one out and a runner at second in the eighth. The sophomore southpaw stranded that runner at third after a passed ball striking out Tyler Malone and retiring pinch-hitter Steven Kwan on a fly to left.
Zak Taylor walked opening the OSU ninth and was replaced by pinch-runner Clayton and advanced on pinch-hitter Andy Armstrong’s sacrifice bunt. Nick Madrigal grounded to first moving Taylor to third. Down to his last strike, Greiner wafted his foul that Shaddy and Gates pursued going out and Cole coming in. Shaddy called for it initially but couldn’t locate it while Cole, with likely the best angle, deferred to the second baseman. Greiner’s single to left and Larnach’s 2-run homer broke Arkansas heart but not resolve.
Reliever Kevin Abel, who struck out the side coming on in the eighth, got tagged for 9-hole hitter Jax Biggers’ single leading off the ninth and yielded to lefty Mulholland. Mulholland struck out Cole then snagged the bullet that Casey Martin hit up the middle and turned it into the 1-6-3 doubleplay setting up the showdown that Isaiah Campbell start for Arkansas tonight.
Arkansas took a 1-0 lead off OSU starter Nick Fehmel in the second. Shaddy singled with one out for the inning’s only hit. Jared Gates got hit by a pitch. Grant Koch smashed one bouncing down third but OSU third baseman Michael Gretler’s exceptional stop denied the hit for a force at third. But after Biggers walked loading the bases, Fehmel’s wild pitch bounced by catcher Adley Rutschman scoring Shaddy. Cole walked re-loading the bases before Martin flied out to short center.
Rutschman tied it 1-1 with his 1-out solo home run off starter Kacey Murphy in the fourth.
Two bunts put the Beavers up 2-1 in the fifth. Taylor grounded a 1-out single through the right side before Preston Jones , the 9-hole replacement for injured OSU center fielder Kwan, beat out a perfect bunt single. Out came Murphy. In came the usually reliable Jake Reindl but not this time. Reindl walked Madrigal on four pitches. Greiner executed a suicide squeeze bunt so perfectly he not only tallied the 2-1 go-ahead run but beat it out for a single keeping the bases loaded.
On came freshman reliever Ramage on by far the biggest stage of his career. He instantly starred as Arkansas’ leading man striking out No. 3 hitter Trevor Larnach and retiring cleanup man Rutschman on a grounder to first.
Martin’s wild throw after fielding Gretler’s leadoff grounder followed by Tyler Malone’s single to center, the Beavers menaced with nobody out and runners at first and third in the sixth. Pinch-hitter Jack Anderson tried the Beavers’ third bunt but popped it in the air. Freshman Ramage not only caught in the air but wheeled and threw to Martin doubling Gretler off third.
Taylor grounded to Martin for Ramage to bequeath a 3-2 lead to Loseke in the seventh.
“Kole Ramage did a tremendous job getting us out of that bases loaded jam,” Van Horn said.
Other than freshman Abel throwing seven complete innings in the Beavers’ Bracket 1 5-2 championship victory over Mississippi State, the Beavers didn’t have a starting pitcher in seven games at Omaha last beyond into the fifth inning.
That didn’t change Tuesday. Lefty Brandon Eisert replaced Fehme. 10-1 but struggling all three starts in Omaha, after Heston Kjerstad walked leading off the third.
Eisert pitched brilliantly striking out seven against no walks and five hits through the seventh before Abel struck out the side in the eighth but was touched for Arkansas’ two go-ahead runs in the fifth. Martin singled with one out before Heston Kjerstad blooped a just fair single into left. Luke Bonfield then blooped a Bermuda triangle single falling between the left fielder, shortstop and third baseman in short left withMartin, the fastest player on either squad, scoring all the way from second.
The Razorbacks, striking out 16 times despite winning Tuesday night, struck out a dozen times Wednesday including stranding pinch runner Jack Kenley after Bonfield doubled in the seventh.
Van Horn was asked about Arkansas’ mindset coming off Wednesday’s heartbreaker for tonight’s winner-take all for the title.
“I think they're going to come out, give us a great effort,” Van Horn said. “We've got to swing the bats a lot better. We haven't swung the bats good for two days. And we've been relying on pitching and they gave us another great effort today, the pitchers, and we just didn't score enough runs.”
What was his postgame message?
“It was quick,” Van Horn said. “It was just, hey, we get to play one more game. And what more could you ask for, you know? You gotta move on. You can't take it back, you know? It's over. So get your head up and start getting your mind right because it's going to be tomorrow before you know it and we need to come out here and give ourselves a chance.”