One pitch at a time
Oregon State's Boyd nabs W in double complete-game outing
OMAHA, Neb. -- Lefthander Matt Boyd knew that elimination loomed for Oregon State against Indiana on Wednesday in Game 9 of the College World Series.
Across the diamond, in the third-base dugout, Indiana’s 6-foot-10 Aaron Slegers had an unobstructed view of what the Hoosiers needed in their loser-leave-town matchup: a win.
Thus the stage was set with two All-Americans dueling to help advance their team to a Friday matchup against Mississippi State.
In the end, the 1-0 win was Oregon State’s 12th shutout -- tied with Rice for the most in the NCAA -- as Boyd posted the 81st complete-game shutout in CWS history.
“Entertainment value, I think it was off the charts,” IU coach Tracy Smith said. “It’s just one of those where you had two guys who were on [Wednesday night] and both of them throwing extremely well. And unfortunately we came out on the wrong end of that.”
Oregon State went on the offensive from the jump, putting the lead-off hitter on base in the first and second innings and had a runner in scoring position with one out in both frames. In the third, Slegers yielded a two-out double and issued an intentional base on balls -- and again worked out of the jam with no damage.
Despite having its opportunities, Oregon State was 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position with five runners left on base through three innings.
“I tried to focus not on the scoreboard, just making pitches,” Boyd said. “With the game 0-0 or 1-0, the score shouldn’t matter or dictate how you pitch -- still go after guys, try to get ahead and just get outs. The whole game that was my focus, just really trying not to focus on the score, just making pitches, focus on one pitch at a time.”
However, the pressure was mounting on redshirt sophomore Slegers. Indiana’s hitters were having a tough time solving Oregon State’s Boyd, who had six strikeouts through three innings, including five consecutive -- the Nos. 4-8 batters. Boyd faced the minimum through three, thanks to two pickoffs of IU baserunners.
Oregon State kept pecking away in the fourth inning, again getting on its lead-off batter, Kavin Keyes. Ryan Barnes followed with a double down the third-base line to put runners at second and third with none out. A sacrifice fly to right by Jake Rodriguez plated Keyes to give the Beavers a 1-0 lead.
“When you know the guy on the other side is throwing well, it gives you a little bit more motivation to make those pitches because you know runs are going to be at a premium,” Slegers said.
“Looking back on this game, a lot of plays were made behind me...I just tried to do my part to get the win.”
Meanwhile, the Beavers’ lefty was keeping Indiana at bay. Boyd, a senior who was a Pac-12 all-conference selection, retired the side in order in the fourth. He gave up back-to-back one-out singles in the fifth -- the first hits allowed by Boyd through 4.1 innings -- before escaping unscathed. In the sixth, IU got its leadoff batter on, but that potential rally was snuffed out by an inning-ending double play.
Slegers continued to keep Indiana in the ballgame, facing the minimum in the fifth and sixth innings. Boyd responded with another 1-2-3 inning in the seventh, the sixth frame in which he had faced the minimum. However, Slegers (9-2) again came out dealing in the eighth, setting down Oregon State in order, the last two outs via swing-and-miss strikeouts.
In the home-half of the eighth inning, IU managed to get one runner on but Boyd dashed the Hoosiers’ hopes by retiring the next two batters to set up a dramatic ninth inning that carried the hopes of two teams.
Slegers’ 101st pitch was a strike to Oregon State’s Danny Hayes and the at-bat ended with a swinging K. Three batters later, IU was coming off the field and looking to do something, anything, to not only reward Slegers’ season-high 116-pitch effort on the biggest stage of his career but to extend its season, if only for another inning.
Like clockwork, Boyd (11-4) got two quick outs before Sam Travis reached on a soft single to right. With the Hoosiers’ season on the line, Nick Ramos bounced out to third and with the putout, Oregon State pocketed its eighth consecutive victory in CWS elimination games.
Boyd threw 126 pitches and Oregon State coach Pat Casey was looking to go the distance with Boyd -- to a point.
“It would be hard to take Matty out in that situation. As well as he was pitching, we were going to win or lose with him on the mound.”
Boyd’s gem was the first shutout tossed this season against Indiana, which ended its season 49-16. He allowed only four hits, walked three and fanned 11. Indiana struck out 25 times in its two CWS losses.
“My curveball and slider were working very well [Wednesday],” Boyd said, “and being able to put it on both sides of the plate and get ahead with it early down in the zone opened up both sides of the plate for my other pitches as well.”
Slegers’ line was similarly impressive as he yielded seven hits, one earned run and two walks while striking out five.
The last CWS game to feature complete games by the starting pitchers was on June 19, 2006, when North Carolina’s Robert Woodard blanked Clemson’s Stephen Faris in the Tar Heels’ 2-0 victory.
The Beavers’ victory was the 18th 1-0 game in College World Series annals and the first 1-0 CWS game since 1985, when Arkansas shut out South Carolina in 14 innings. It was the first nine-inning, 1-0 game since 1977.
Indiana was the first Big Ten team to advance to Omaha since Michigan in 1984 and Smith said despite going 1-2 that the CWS was a learning process for the Hoosiers program.
“Until you’re [in Omaha] and experience it, it’s kind of what you see on TV," Smith said. "I’m stubborn enough where I’m not going to come out and sit and watch it. I’m not going to watch everybody else have fun.
“I think it was important for our guys to see it. It was definitely important for me to see it. We’ve seen the blueprint. We know what areas we need to improve on. We know what it takes to get here. You’ve gotta be darned good.”