9 things to know about the 2018 College World Series finals between Arkansas and Oregon State
Here’s the obvious: Arkansas and Oregon State will begin a best-of-three series Monday night to decide the 2018 College World Series champion. This is just the second time the Razorbacks play for the title after coming up short in 1979, while the Beavers look for their program’s third championship after winning back-to-back titles in 2006-07.
Below are nine more things to know ahead of the final series:
Oregon State can join a short list of national champs who lost their CWS openers
In the NCAA Division I baseball championship's 71-year history, there have been only 10 national champs who won the title after losing their first game in the CWS. Since Oregon State lost their opening game this year to North Carolina, the Beavers have outscored opponents 42-15 in four consecutive wins. South Carolina was the last team to win the title after an opening loss in 2010. Before that? Oregon State in 2006, the first year the Beavers hoisted the trophy.
Away teams are 9-4 in the 2018 College World Series
Generally speaking, having the last at-bats is an advantage in baseball. But this year’s College World Series has seen the opposite. So far in 2018, the designated away team has won nine of the 13 games played at TD Ameritrade Park. In those games, the visiting team has outscored the home team 90-61.
Oregon State, the higher overall national seed, will be the home team Game 1 Monday night, while Arkansas will be in the third-base home dugout on Tuesday night for Game 2. If a Game 3 is necessary, the Beavers will be the home team on Wednesday.
Arkansas’ dynamic freshmen duo are having record-breaking seasons
If you’re not familiar with Arkansas freshman third baseman Casey Martin or left fielder Heston Kjerstad, start doing your homework because they’re going to be household names in college baseball.
Here’s where Martin and Kjerstad rank in terms of all-time single season Razorbacks records:
Martin: Batting average (second, .357), hits (tied-first, 85), home runs (second, 13), total bases (second, 138)
Kjerstad: Batting average (third, .337), hits (tied-first 85), home runs (first, 14), total bases (first, 142).
17 players selected in the 2018 MLB draft will be playing in the CWS finals
The Razorbacks tied a program record with 11 players selected in this year’s MLB draft, while the Beavers had six players taken, including a school-record three selected in the first round.
Beavers second basemen Nick Madrigal was selected fourth overall by the Chicago White Sox, followed by outfielder Trevor Larnach (20th overall, Minnesota Twins) and shortstop Cadyn Grenier (37th overall, Baltimore Orioles). Arkansas starting pitcher Blaine Knight was the first Razorback to hear his name called when the Orioles selected him in the third round with the 87th overall pick.
Oregon State could re-write the CWS record book
It’s no secret the Beavers’ offense has been on a tear as they’ve made their way through the elimination bracket. But if Oregon State keeps its pace, they’ll re-write the CWS record book.
Through five games played in the College World Series, the Beavers have totaled 48 runs and have posted the most runs per game in 17 years at a clip of 9.6. Southern California set the record for most runs scored in one CWS with 62 in six games in 1998. Oregon State is certainly in striking distance, only 14 runs behind that 1998 Trojans team.
Oklahoma State’s 1981 CWS record for team doubles is also in jeopardy, too. The Beavers have matched the '81 Cowboys' 13 doubles in Omaha.
Individual hitting records could be broken, too
Team records don’t get broken if not for the spectacular play by individual players. Madrigal and Larnach each lead this year’s CWS field with 10 hits apiece, five shy of USC’s Jason Lane, who had 15 hits in the 1998 CWS. Oregon State’s Adley Rutschman (nine hits) and Arkansas’ Martin and Dominic Fletcher (eight hits) could also potentially reach the mark if this series goes the distance.
Beavers first baseman Tyler Malone arrived in Omaha with only five home runs to his name in the 2018 season. On Saturday night, he became just the second player in CWS history to hit three home runs since the event moved to TD Ameritrade Park in 2011 (LSU’s Michael Papierski in 2017). One more deep shot and he’ll be the 12th player history with four home runs at the College World Series; two more and he’ll be the sole record holder. Arkansas’ Fletcher is the only other player with multiple home runs in this year's CWS with two.
Larnach and Rutschman are close to setting the CWS doubles record as well. Both have three doubles so far, one shy of the current record of four, which has been accomplished by 18 different players.
The Razorbacks’ offense has also been red-hot this postseason
Though the Razorbacks don’t have the same total numbers as the Beavers, Arkansas’ offense has been impressive as well. The Hogs, who’ve played two fewer games than Oregon State, are averaging 7.7 runs per game in the CWS and have scored 23 overall. Dating back to regionals, they've reached double-digit hits in eight of nine postseason games, including all three here in Omaha.
The Razorbacks are hitting .330 as a team (second to only OSU) and have 38 hits, five doubles and four home runs in 115 total at-bats. Martin (.571 batting average, eight hits, six runs, two doubles, two RBIs) and Fletcher (.571 batting average, eight hits, eight RBIs, two home runs, two doubles) have paced their lineup and are looking like all-tournament selections.
Arkansas is 15-3 in games started Blaine Knight
Arkansas’ Knight has been one of college baseball’s best pitchers this year with a pristine 13-0 record. He's posted a 2.88 ERA while holding opponents to a .226 batting average against. The Razorbacks are 15-3 in his 18 starts in 2018 (83.3 winning percentage) and won their first game in Omaha behind his five innings of four-hit, two-run ball in an 11-6 win over Texas.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn has the luxury of resetting his normal weekend rotation, meaning Knight will likely be on the bump against Luke Heimlich in Game 1 Monday night.
The Beavers are doing damage with two outs
Oregon State is no stranger to two-out rallies at this year's College World Series. After scoring all five of their runs Saturday night in the third inning with two outs, the Beavers brought their two-out RBI total to 28 in Omaha. That’s the most two-out RBIs since the tournament expanded to its current format in 1999, breaking the previous mark set by Fresno State in 2008.