College World Series Notebook, Late Edition

OMAHA – During batting practice Hunter Renfroe had put one ball out of Ameritrade Park. Just one, but into the leftfield bullpen and—more to the game point—on the proverbial string. The irony? "I thought that one was the weakest one I had," said Renfroe his BP cuts. "I had a bunch to left-centerfield that I thought was gonna be way-gone, and end up just camped on the warning track."

Fortunately for Mississippi State, when it came time for Renfroe to swing for real, he used the same sort of hack that had worked in BP. Even better, it landed in just about the identical bullpen spot. Instead of just practice jokes from teammates though this drive was good for a three-run homer and what proved the margin of Bulldog 4-1 victory over Oregon State.

Because it wasn't a perfect contact—"I kind of hit it on the end of the bat"—Renfroe had his doubts. In fact, he figured it was going to be a double. "I knew this ballpark played big and I had to get around the bases as fast as possible!" About the time Renfroe reached first base though, he could afford to slow down. "I was watching the trajectory of it and the player got to the fence and jumped. I said it has a chance to go."

From his perspective 1B Wes Rea had no such doubts. As for Renfroe's down-playing, "He crushed that ball, whether he said he hit it off the end of the bat or not," said Rea. "That guy's got crazy power, you can't listen to him."

Until today Rea even had home run-trumps on his roommate. He'd hit a home run in the Charlottesville Regional, an absolute no-doubter. For that matter Rea owned the last home run of the regular State season way back on May 16 against South Carolina. Renfroe's most recent homer was May 4 against Alabama, and he'd gone 91 at-bats since a shot.

"It's kind of a relief, I guess," Renfroe said. "It didn't help this ballpark is huge and knocked a few of our home runs (down), including Wes'." Rea crushed a drive in the second State Saturday inning that did get pushed down for a great leaping catch on the track by Oregon State's Michael Conforto to rob even a double.

Maybe that did help his roomdog out, Rea suggested. "Fortunately Hunter learned from me hitting mine more towards the gap; he said I'm going to turn mine a little bit and be able to get one out of the yard. But this guy hits a few more home runs than I do so he can tell you how to do it, I guess."

Joshing aside, Renfroe and Rea paid a price for calling Dudy Noble Field home in both the regular season and Starkville Regional, as well as playing post-season in Hoover and Charlottesville. "A bunch of big ballparks the last part of the season," Renfroe said. A fascinating note is that during practices at Creighton University this week Renfroe has regularly cleared the fence and often trees of that leftfield, as well as dinging a few cars parked beyond. CONNECTIONS: Renfroe's three-run homer will rank with the biggest and best Bulldog base hits ever. By pure coincidence, it came during a game where a former State great was interviewed live on the video board between innings. Father Burke Masters was in the house.

Masters of course is annually and eternally celebrated in MSU annals for his grand slam during the 1990 Regional which sent those Dogs, including Cohen, to the College World Series. He was already due to be in town this week on a working trip to Creighton; thus Masters was able to watch his old teammate's squad win the game that sends them to the national championship best-of-three series.

And, see a shot that might not have had the same dramatic elements but came on a historic stage. Not that Renfroe is putting himself in that category just yet.

"That hasn't sunk-in. I haven't really thought about it that way. I'm just happy to help the team win any way possible, and it happened to be on a home run. I wasn't looking for a home run at that point but I'm glad I to do it."

DIALING IT UP TO 11: Cohen left his players and most media members, or at least those under 40, puzzled by his opening post-game remarks. "I'm going to tell you how the day started, with me leading our team through the bowels of Ameritrade and going all the way to the end and not being able to find the door to our dugout. So I thought I was re-living Spinal Tap there and wondering what kind of day we were going to have. Rock and roll, right?"

Most of the press conference crowd was blank-faced by then, though sadly not all including this old-timer who understood Cohen's reference to the classic mockumentary about a bumbling rock band's comeback attempt. He specifically meant the scene where the band members got lost looking for the arena's stage entrance.

The connection came about because for the first time this tournament the Bulldogs were the home team and in the third base dugout. Though the stadium's innards are well-marked, so much so even dullard media don't get lost, somehow Cohen missed the turn and made a, ahem, Shark Sandwich of arrival. At least he now knows which way to go Monday, and if necessary Wednesday, as State will be home game after the NCAA coin flip.

This reporter was also annoyed that a peer beat him to the first question and got in the natural movie reference, how Mississippi State seems able to dial up the volume to 11. Which by happy coincidence is what Cohen wears.

"But you guys don't know because you're way too young. You'll figure it out one day, trust me."

Sadly, none of the Dogs present said they intended to watch This is Spinal Tap anytime soon. Not even with the promise of dwarves dancing around tiny Stonehenges.

RIPPED: Post-game, Rea's uniform pants sported a big tear front of the right leg. "That happened at the plate, the play where I was safe." Meaning the fourth-inning fly ball to leftfield by DH Trey Porter that Rea tagged on. Immediate impression agreed with Rea that he'd slid in safely, but the umpire signaled out. The stadium board did not show a replay, while the press box monitor did. Consensus: safe.

"I know I was safe," Rea said. "He (the Oregon State catcher) tagged the back-side of the plate, I slid across the plate into his glove. He wasn't in very good position. But I guess that stuff happens."

SEALING ANOTHER DEAL: Jonathan Holder needed just five pitches for the two outs that closed out Mississippi State's win, giving him 21 saves on the season. He has saved five of the eight NCAA Tournament victories in fact, and now has 30 for a two-year career. That just surpassed Van Johnson's standard of 29 saves which has stood since 1998, another College World Series year for State.

Yet entering with a 4-1 lead and two Beavers on bases, apparently Holder did not know it was a save situation. "He talked to me, he wasn't even aware he had it," Rea said. "That tells you he was ready to work and ready to win us ballgames and not worry about stuff like that."

Deal-sealing by Mississippi State's most prolific closer ever is almost routine. What was different Friday was the winner; a starter, as Kendall Graveman earned the victory on 5.2 innings. He stepped aside after Oregon State scored its first and happily only run in the sixth inning, with Ross Mitchell taking over.

As fans know by now, Mitchell has an amazing knack for entering games in situations to pick up victories either on the timing of his stint or because the offense takes a lead while he is on-record. So this was an unusual situation; a 4-1 lead where Mitchell might get a save but could not win.

"I like it, because that means we're playing good and winning the game at the time," said Mitchell, who has put together a simply remarkable 13-0 record…all in relief, which is something most suspect is a program first. Having his senior starter get a Series victory was as much fun as having one himself, anyway.

"Kendall did a great job, he set the tone of the game," Mitchell said. "He kept putting up zeroes until we were able to put up four runs." There was some natural concerns about giving Graveman the start, for a second time against a team that had seen him for 4.2 innings last Saturday and had experience to draw on.

Only, Graveman saw it exactly the other way-around.

"For me to see them the other day was pretty big on my part," Graveman said. "I think once I see a team and physically face them, not just see them on video, I feel like I can discover a few more things that I can go to." Which he obviously did, more than long enough to let the Bulldog bullpen finish the win off.

And their real key is completely contrasting styles from a loose lefty to the hard-hurling righty. "And I would hate to face Ross Mitchell and then Jonathan Holder behind him my very next at-bat," admitted Rea. "Good thing they're on our side." Besides, he said, handing those relievers a 4-1 advantage was "huge". Not to mention unusual.

"Going into that ninth inning with a three-run lead felt like we were winning by 100," said Rea. At which Cohen interjected "I'm glad he felt that way." It didn't deter the first baseman a bit.

"You weren't out there having to go through it on the field!" he told his coach. "It's a little more nerve-wracking."

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