CORVALLIS — After breezing through four NCAA tournament baseball games, it was beginning to look like Oregon State’s first gut check moment in June would come at the College World Series.
But unlike LSU the previous week, No. 14 seed Minnesota rebounded from a decisive loss to give the third-seeded Beavers all they could handle Saturday night in the Corvallis super regional.
The Golden Gophers took a 3-2 lead into the eighth inning and had star closer Max Meyer on the hill. Meyer, who had already recorded six outs, needed six more to force a winner-take-all finale.
He was unable to do so.
OSU tied the game on a Kyle Nobach base hit in the eighth before Adley Rutschman struck a two-RBI, go-ahead single with two outs in the ninth. The clutch hits, coupled with strong relief appearances from Christian Chamberlain and Jake Mulholland, locked up a 6-3 win to send the Beavers back to the College World Series.
“They are a very unified group, and I can’t tell you how proud I am of them,” said Pat Casey, who has guided OSU to six CWS appearances (2005-07, 2013, 2017-18) in 24 seasons as head coach. The Beavers won back-to-back national titles in 2006-07.
“That’s a very good team we just beat, a really good team, and getting to go back to Omaha is an honor,” he said.
OSU, which came up three wins shy of another championship last year, didn’t dogpile after Saturday’s win before an all-time record crowd of 4,025 at Goss Stadium. The veteran team is saving the celebration for the finals.
The Beavers (49-10-1) will face No. 6 North Carolina (43-18), the program they defeated for both national titles, to begin the CWS. UNC swept Stetson in the best-of-3 Chapel Hill super regional.
The full CWS schedule is expected to be unveiled late Monday at the conclusion of the remaining super regionals.
Following an 8-1 loss in Friday’s Corvallis opener, the Golden Gophers were anything but discouraged with their backs against the wall.
Big Ten pitcher and freshman of the year Patrick Fredrickson worked five-plus strong innings and exited with a 3-2 lead. Meyer, who entered with 16 saves, used his lively fastball and slider to keep OSU — the designated visitors — from threatening in the sixth and seventh.
“We would’ve liked to have gotten a little bit more out of Patrick, but he walked (Trevor) Larnach on what we felt like was a strike pitch and forced us to play our hand,” Minnesota coach John Anderson said. “We probably had to get Max Meyer in there earlier than we wanted to.”
Meyer began to tire, and OSU finally got to the freshman in the eighth.
Larnach drew another walk and Rutschman followed with a base hit through the left side. Nobach tied the game by going the other way with an outside slider for a run-scoring single to right.
Rutschman said it was helpful to get multiple at-bats against Meyer, who threw a career-high 81 pitches in 3? innings.
“He’s a really talented pitcher and he knows what he’s good at,” Rutschman said. “We battled against him and our guys did a great job of competing.”
Meyer allowed two more singles and walked a batter in the ninth. Rutschman got the game-winning hit off new reliever Jackson Rose.
Mulholland struck out the side in the bottom of the frame for his 15th save of the season. Chamberlain, also a freshman, fanned five in two dominant innings.
“It was an outstanding baseball game,” Anderson said. “Really proud of our guys. They competed all year long and we have nothing to hang our heads about. Playing on the road in environments like this in the NCAA tournament, it’s difficult.”
OSU led wire-to-wire in its first four postseason games, scoring 43 combined runs while giving up just five. But Minnesota made the Beavers earn Saturday’s victory, a perfect tuneup for the CWS.
“Baseball isn’t always as easy as people think,” Casey said. “There are guys that are pretty good that get you out, and their pitching was outstanding.
“We don’t care how we win, we just want to win.”