Oregon State is proving teams must play near-perfect baseball to challenge it in College World Series
OMAHA, Neb. — LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri couldn’t recall the last time his team had been on the losing end of a lopsided game that matched Monday night’s beatdown to Oregon State. Upon further review, it’d been six years.
“It wasn’t much fun out there tonight for us,” Mainieri said.
In a highly-anticipated clash between the two longest active winning streaks in college baseball, the No. 1 Beavers silenced the Tigers 13-1 in the winners’ bracket of the 2017 College World Series.
LSU’s eight pitchers combined to issue 12 walks and the defense made two errors in a game that was blown open in the middle innings.
Free passes and miscues in the field are never a winning formula at any level of baseball. Against Oregon State, winners of 56 games and 23 straight, it’s nearly impossible to come away unscathed.
“Walking 12 batters and hitting a batter, making an infield error, you can’t do that against anybody, much less a team like Oregon State,” Mainieri said. “Every time we made a mistake, they took advantage of it.”
The Beavers scored six of their runs off walks or errors and consistently worked deep counts, forcing LSU to tie the CWS record with seven calls to the bullpen. After being held to one run through the first four innings, a change in approach led to four straight frames in which Oregon State posted crooked numbers.
Tigers starter Eric Walker lasted just two innings due to forearm tightness and was replaced by Caleb Gilbert, who struck out four of his first seven outs. Oregon State coach Pat Casey then huddled with the offense.
“We were sitting in the dugout and I said, ‘Guys, we’ve got to make some adjustments, man, you’ve got to make a box adjustment’ — [Gilbert’s] too good to think that you’re going to chase and you’re going to have to pick a side of the plate and stay with it.
“And so we made some adjustments and got him in some pitch counts.”
Oregon State chased Gilbert in a two-run fifth, which was prolonged by an error from LSU shortstop Kramer Robertson, and broke the game open in the sixth against three different LSU relievers.
The Beavers drew three walks in the first four batters of the sixth inning, and KJ Harrison then extended the lead to 8-0 on one swing of the bat. It was the first grand slam in the six-year CWS era at TD Ameritrade Park.
“They’re definitely a scrappy offense,” Gilbert said. “I thought I was making some good pitches. They would just foul it off, and I’d have to go right back at it, do it again… I just couldn’t get that put-away when it was crunch time.”
The Tigers are not alone when it comes to Oregon State taking advantage of every missed location, baserunning miscue or booted ball. In the Beavers’ 6-5 comeback win over Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, the usually consistent Titans pitching staff gave up five walks and the defense made two errors.
Four of those walks came in the Beavers’ four-run sixth inning that evened the score.
“When you have them down, you keep them down, and we didn't do that,” CSU Fullerton coach Rick Vanderhook said after that loss. “We gave them momentum, and they took advantage of it. That's why they've only lost four games.”
No top overall national seed has won the College World Series since Miami (Fla.) did so in the first year of the tournament’s current format. However, if Monday night’s statement by the Beavers was any indication, the 1999 Hurricanes may have company soon.
But before the Beavers continue their historic season in Friday’s Bracket 1 finals, they’ll take a break from the diamond and focus their attention on a different assortment of tigers.
“We’re not cocky. We’re just business, business, business, and then now they get tomorrow [off] and they want to go to the zoo,” Casey said. “So, hell, go to the zoo.”