VICTORY!! Beavs to play for national title!!

OREGON STATE IS TWO WINS from the pinnacle of the college baseball world. The Beavs on Thursday shut out Rice, the consensus No. 1 team in the nation, for the second time in as many days with a 2-0 win to advance to the College World Series Finals. Facing elimination for the fourth straight game, Jonah Nickerson -- pitching on two days rest -- was nothing short of brilliant.

Pitching on tired legs and sporting a bloody thumb late in the game, Nickerson allowed the Owls only two hits over 7 2-3 innings Thursday. He struck out nine on the night.

The right-hander's remarkable performance came after throwing 114 pitches against Georgia on Monday for the Beavs' first CWS win.

Nickerson, a junior out of Oregon City, said the Beaver offense getting on the board early against Rice was the key to the game.

"It's huge," said Nickerson. "The fashion we did it in was ridiculous. We came back from an 0-1 start and just showed how much heart this time had."

OSU (3-1) indeed opened the series on an inauspicious note, dropping their opener to Miami 11-1. Ever since then, however, Oregon State has marched through the competition like a Beaver through toothpicks. The last four games, OSU has outscored the opposition 20-4.

Oregon State began their improbable run Monday, eliminating Georgia 5-3. Next, OSU dominated Miami in the rematch, shutting down the Hurricanes 8-1. Last night, the Beavers blanked Rice, 5-0, forcing tonight's deciding game.

Chris Kunda on Thursday provided all the offense Oregon State would need early. The second baseman's RBI flyout scored first baseman Bill Rowe, who had doubled to open the second inning. The Beavs added an insurance run in the fifth when Kunda crossed home on a fielder's choice off the bat of RF John Wallace.

Lefty closer Kevin Gunderson was once again untouchable for the Beavs against Rice. The Portland native out of Central Catholic High retired the last four batters to seal the win and provide Oregon State with their first ever trip to the finals in three CWS appearances, (2005, 1952.)

Oregon State became the first team in over a decade to throw two consecutive shutouts in the CWS. Pepperdine last accomplished the feat in 1992.

Oregon State will play for the national championship against North Carolina. The Tar Heels have yet to lose a game in Omaha, standing at 4-0 in series play. Scheduled to pitch the first three games for North Carolina are two first round picks in the recent Major League Baseball draft.

The best-of-three championship series starts Saturday night in Omaha, with Games 2 and 3 scheduled for Sunday and, if necessary, Monday. All three games are scheduled to begin at 4pm PT.

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