OMAHA, Neb. – Never a doubt? Might be hard to sell that notion with a completely straight face, but Oregon State didn’t waver Saturday against Cal State Fullerton and that fact can’t be disputed.
As a result, the Beavers are off to spirited and successful beginning at the College World Series.
With Jake Mulholland playing a huge momentum-halting role out of the bullpen and the OSU hitters remaining patient long enough to come up clutch, the Beavers overcame a punch-in-the-mouth start to rally past the Titans 6-5 at TD Ameritrade Park.
Oregon State (55-4) scored the final five runs of the game, the last four on two-out RBI hits from three different players, to erase 3-0 and 5-1 deficits.
Adley Rutschman’s two-out single in the OSU 8th inning chased Trevor Larnach home with the go-ahead run and Drew Rasmussen retired the Titans in order in the 9th to seal the victory and send the Beavers into a winner’s bracket game at 4 p.m. Monday vs. LSU or Florida State.
Mulholland was the star on the mound, logging 4.1 scoreless frames to notch the victory, his 7th
“I think there was never a doubt in anyone's mind we wouldn't end up winning the game,” Mulholland said. “We all battled really well and ended up coming back. It was great.”
Added Larnach, whose two-out, two-run single in the 6th inning pulled OSU within 5-4, “Even though we're down, we've been down before in the season, and just the thought of losing, it just never comes in our head. We like to battle. (Beavers’ coach Pat Casey) instilled that attitude in us, just battle and never give in, and that's exactly what we did.”
It took some mettle-testing.
Fullerton (39-23) pounced on top 3-0 in the 1st inning on Timmy Richards’ three-run home run after OSU starter Jake Thompson walked leadoff man Scott Hurst and hot Dillon Persinger with a pitch.
Thompson, who lasted only a season-low 3.2 innings, fell behind Richards 3-and-1 before the CSF cleanup man pumped a three-run home run over the fence in the power alley in left-center field.
Oregon State got one of those runs back in the second. Michael Gretler started the frame with a double, moved up on Cadyn Grenier’s bunt and dashed home on a ground ball that Persinger smothered at first base to prevent a hit.
Thompson ran into more trouble in the 4th inning when he walked Hank LoForte with out and gave up a single to Taylor Bryant. Hunter Cullen chopped out to first base to move both runners up and Chris Hudgins won a battle vs. Thompson when he yanked a full-count offering through the left side to score both teammates for a 5-1 Titans’ lead.
“I thought we were really tight at the beginning of the game,” Casey said. “Obviously, Jake missed his spots, and (Richards) did a nice job to get them on the board.”
Fullerton starter Connor Seabold grinded through a tough 5th inning by retiring Rutschman on a fly ball for the third out with two men on, but that was the end of the Titans’ starter’s day. And once he departed, the chance arrived for OSU to hit the reset button.
The Beavers rallied when Fullerton reliever Colton Eastman couldn’t command the strike zone. He walked Michael Gretler to begin the Beavers’ 5th inning, issued another free pass to pinch-hitter Tyler Malone and walked Steven Kwan to load the bases. Pac-12 Player of the Year poked a ball to deep center field for a sacrifice fly to whittle the difference to 5-2.
KJ Harrison stepped in and refused to go away, fouling off seven pitches after Eastman recorded a second strike. Harrison finally walked on the 12th pitch of the at-bat to reload the bases for Lamach, who rifled a two-run single through the middle off of Blake Workman, who came on after Eastman fell behind 2-and-0.
Jack Anderson knotted the score, 5-5, when he jerked another two-out RBI hit through the middle.
“That was a good game,” CSF coach Rick Vanderhook said. “They're really good. And I'm stupid. I out-thought myself. Eastman was on a normal rest. We had a healthy lead. At that point, I figured let's turn it over to the best guy, and definitely out-thought myself. Probably would do it different again. I let them get back in the game, and you don't do that to good teams. When you have them down, you keep them down, and we didn't do that. We gave them momentum, and they took advantage of it.”
CSF had four more innings to try and regain the edge, but never could, largely due to Mulholland’s smothering relief effort.
Mulholland ended Fullerton’s productive 4th inning when he got Chris Prescott to pop out to second base to begin a stretch when he mowed down 12 of 13 batters and never allowed one to get beyond first base.
“I was using my slider and curveball often early in counts, and when I was able to have a well-placed fastball, it was working well,” Mulholland said. “Just keeping hitters off balance even though my stuff is not as good as Jake's and Drew's, but just keeping them off balance any way I can.
“I was able to work backwards, and I think that was important. In my mind, I was just thinking to give my team the best opportunity to come back and end up getting a win.”
Which the Beavers did, with clutch hitting wrapped around free passes. Those ingredients were vital, but Casey saw other things else he liked – things that OSU has done all season.
The Beavers were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position in the first 2 innings on the way to stranding eight runners in the first 4 frames (four in scoring position). That cam vs. Seabold, who limited Oregon State to 1-for-12 hitting with runners on base.
Starting with Larnach’s two-run single, the Beavers produced three hits in their final six at-bats with men in scoring position with four runs coming across on those hits.
“We just battled,” Casey said. “That's kind of the way we've done it all year long.”