“I actually top spun it… I’m kind of famous for that at Oregon State,” said right fielder Trevor Larnach, describing the home run that would win the game for the Beavers, and force a game three between the Arkansas Razorbacks and Oregon State.
“Must suck being able to top spin balls out of the park,” quipped short stop Cadyn Grenier, as the entire press conference room burst out into laughter.
In an absolute thriller, Oregon State entered a must-win situation in the second game of the College World Series finals. A victory against the Arkansas Razorbacks would tie the three-game series at one win apiece. A loss would give Arkansas their first program championship – but Oregon State wouldn’t have it.
“Obviously very proud of our club, and I would have said that regardless,” said Oregon State Head Coach Pat Casey. “We never quit… we never gave in.”
Oregon State entered the top of the 9th inning down by one run. Zak Taylor gained a base on balls by Arkansas closer Matt Cronin and was replaced by pinch runner Zach Clayton. Andy Armstrong (pinch hitting for Preston Jones) sacrificed himself on a bunt to advance Clayton to second base. And at the top of the order, Nick Madrigal grounded out to first base, as Clayton advanced to third.
Left with two outs, and the tying run at third base, Cadyn Grenier stepped up to the plate. And on a 2-2 pitch (what was essentially Oregon State’s last strike), he hit a pop-up ball in foul but playable territory. It was all but over.
“I was just hoping it was going to keep flaring off into the stands. I knew I’d hit it decently deep, so it wasn’t just going to be a routine pop fly to catch,” Grenier said.
As three Arkansas players converged onto the spot, they all watched the ball land on the ground right in front of them.
“It’s a tough play,” said second baseman Carson Shaddy. “I was running and didn’t hear anybody call it. So I just kept running trying to make the play and overran it.”
“Pretty much as soon as you see the ball drop, you have another life. And really all I thought was I just need to refocus and make the most of that extra life that we got when that ball did drop,” said Grenier.
With a second chance to bring the tying run home, Grenier hit an RBI single to the left side. Clayton scored, and the game was tied.
As if that had not been thrilling enough, star hitter Trevor Larnach then stepped up to the plate, where he hit a home run to the right field dugout.
“I just said get going, get going, and it went. And from there I don’t really remember,” said Larnach after the game.
With the bottom of the 9th inning to go, a shocked Arkansas team failed to answer, forcing a winner-take-all game three.
After going all-in with the pitcher rotation, both Arkansas and Oregon State will struggle to field a well-rested lineup.
“When you get to this point, it’s a one-game-for-all. So our bullpen will have to really be part of the win tomorrow if we get a win,” said coach Casey. He added that everybody was able to pitch for the final game, apart from Bryce Fehmel and Brandon Eisert.
“It’s getting awful thin,” said Arkansas Head Coach Dave Van Horn. As he answered questions, he slowly worked out his options out loud: “Reindl didn’t give us anything tonight, so he can go again. Scroggins can give us an inning or two. As far as Cronin and Loseke, that’s maybe a hitter with Cronin, maybe with an inning with Loseke… maybe nothing.”
The two teams will play at 5:30 PM Central Time on Thursday for the national championship.