7 memorable performances from the College World Series in Omaha
Whew, what a grand 'ol time in Omaha. Balls flying into the stands like t-shirts, pitchers singeing bats as they burn the strike zone, and a bevy of sterling defense on display from eight of the best teams that college baseball has to offer. Sound like fun? Well, it was. But as they say C'est la vie (that's life). And all good things do come to an end.
But that just means it's time to reminisce over some of the best performances that fans were treated to during college baseball's 10-day takeover of TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. Scroll on below for a smattering of what you may have missed.
Papierski homers from both sides of the plate in win over Oregon State
Following a 13-1 shellacking at the hands of Oregon State, LSU needed a little Bayou juju to get back into the winners’ bracket at the CWS. A win over Florida State set the rematch and the Tigers again had their shot to topple the Beavers — which would require two wins in as many days over the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed. Nonetheless, coach Paul Mainieri rallied his group for a 3-1 win to force a play-in game where Michael Papierski, the junior catcher from Illinois, shined brightest. Not a bad day at the dish, as NCAA.com's Ryan Cooper noted while on site in Omaha:
The pair of swings put Papierski all over the College World Series record books. He became the only documented player in the championship's history to homer from both sides of the plate in a game, was the first player to have a multi-homer CWS game since TCU's Bryan Holaday in 2010 and was the first LSU player to do it since Brad Cresse in 1998. ... Papierski has gone on a home run binge in Omaha, bashing three of his 11 dingers for the season.
KJ Harrison with the first grand slam in CWS play since 2010
Oregon State's stay in Omaha featured plenty of highs for the near wire-to-wire No. 1 team in the nation, but unfortunately for skipper Pat Casey and company, the season ended on a low note after a pair of losses to LSU. Likely a tough pill to swallow for a team that didn't lose consecutive games all year long before reaching Omaha, but boy were the good times rolling when this bunch put together timely hitting, solid pitching and stalwart defense. Case in point, the drubbing of the tournament — the afformentioned 13-1 victory over the LSU Tigers. And right smack dab in the middle of that win was Harrison, the Hawai'i native, with a big fly to left-center field. Harrison's bases-loaded blast was the first grand salami in Omaha since 2010, per NCAA.com's Mike Lopresti.
When Oregon State’s KJ Harrison went to the plate in the sixth inning of game 6, there had been 196 CWS at-bats with the bases loaded since the last grand slam, in 2010. But not anymore. “This is the kind of stuff you dream of, growing up as a little kid,” Harrison said afterward.
Timmy Richards three-run shot against Oregon State finds a familiar face
The 2017 College World Series started with a bang courtesy of Cal State Fullerton's shortstop Timmy Richards. With Oregon State opening up CWS play against CSUF, Richards came up with two on in the top of the first before taking the Beavers' Jake Thompson deep to the tune of a three-run shot. And before fans had fully settled into their seats — be it the hard plastic variety at TD Ameritrade Park or a favorite recliner at home — the Titans had thrown and landed the first proverbial punch. Sure, the Beavers would claw their way back from a four-run deficit to win the game, 6-5, but for a few moments the Titans had the college baseball world rooting for the upstart squad from Fullerton, California. What made the moment sweeter? Richards' uncle was the one who caught the dinger.
Primetime pitching performances:
Faedo flexes his muscles vs TCU, 2X
The man holding down the rotation for the Florida Gators all year has been Tampa, Florida, native Alex Faedo. And his time at the College World Series featured more of the same as he worked two scoreless starts against TCU to expel the Horned Frogs from their stay in Omaha. Faedo's starts against TCU came just six days apart, but that was not nearly enough time for TCU to size up the burly right-hander. He worked seven innings in both starts, striking out 11 batters both times he went toe-to-toe with the TCU bats.
Caleb Gilbert pitches LSU onto CWS
When a team is fighting to get into the College World Series, or more importantly to stay alive at the CWS, coaches and their teams go into survival mode. By any means necessary, whaterver the cost, etc. Anything to get the job done. For the LSU Tigers, a chance to get into the CWS Finals meant having to beat Oregon State twice in two days. Ace Alex Lange did his job to keep the Beavers at bay in the first win, but the task would fall to an unlikely hero in the second meeting with Oregon State in as many days — sophomore right-hander Caleb Gilbert. Some may have been skeptical of Gilbert's potential to deliver a W, but Gilbert gave the naysayers a lot to talk about with a major effort from the mound. His 7.1 innings of work kept Oregon State off balance all day.
Big-Time Game... Big-Time Performance!— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 24, 2017
LSU's Caleb Gilbert
7.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 7 SO pic.twitter.com/aUIXM8dug8
Not even LSU coach Paul Mainieri could foresee the performance by sophomore pitcher Caleb Gilbert on Saturday afternoon against Oregon State. But pressed into service, the righty took the hill Saturday for LSU’s most important game of the season — an elimination game against the No. 1 team in the country to decide who would move onto the College World Series finals. And Gilbert came out on top. The sophomore righty handed the Beavers just their sixth loss of the season in 7.1 stellar innings of two-hit, one-run ball. He struck out seven and was the pitcher of record in LSU’s championship game-clinching 6-1 victory.
Austin Horvath's game-changing throw against LSU
The Florida Gators may have won the school's first NCAA baseball while riding the coattails of their standout pitching, but a few defensive gems figured heavily in the Gators success. Chief among those so-called gems was an outfield assist courtesy of defensive replacement Austin Horvath. With the Gators leading 4-2 in the eighth inning of Game 1 in the CWS Finals, a base hit to right-center field from LSU's Josh Smith whittled the lead down to 4-3. But as Smith attempted to stretch the base hit into a two-bagger, Horvath nailed the runner with pinpoint accuracy. The toss from Horvath and the tag from Florida's shortstop Dalton Guthrie squelched a potential rally and gave the Gators the oomph to finish off the Game 1 win.
Adley Rutschtman with a trio of spectacular plays
It's a bird, it's a plane, no it's Oregon State freshman catcher Adley Rutschman. And no you are not double-taking fans, Rutschman made one of the impressive plays you can make from the catcher's position not once, but twice in the last few weeks — catching a short pop up in front of the plate with a face-first dive into the field of play. It's known that baseball players like to get their uniforms dirty, but this precocious freshman is taking that mantra to a whole new level. Unfortunately, Rutschman's heroics largely went for naught as LSU would go on to take Saturday's elimination game, 6-1. Oregon State would bow out of the tournament after two consecutive losses to LSU, but the stellar defensive play from the Beavers catcher was just one of the many defensive gems the top team in the nation turned in during their stay in Omaha.