There’s something magical about those pinstripe grey uniforms.
Wearing the famed throwbacks of the 2007 national champions, the top-seeded Oregon State baseball team clinched its spot in the College World Series by blasting Vanderbilt 9-2 on a chilly Saturday night to sweep the Corvallis Super Regional.
It’s the Beavers’ first trip to Omaha since 2013 and the fifth under coach Pat Casey.
“We owe it all to the coaching staff and coach Casey for pushing us day in and day out,” first baseman KJ Harrison said. “They’ve built such a good program. Every night we go out there for our teammates and for our coaches because we love one another and we know that this program is really built upon that.”
OSU (54-4) will be riding a 21-game winning streak when it opens the CWS against Long Beach State or Cal State Fullerton next weekend. The Beavers have previously reached Omaha in 1952, 2005-07 and 2013.
“It’s about the players,” Casey said. “Obviously you don’t have to have all the best players, but you’ve got to have the right players. We have the right players.”
The Beavers knocked around Vanderbilt (36-25-1) ace Kyle Wright for seven runs on eight hits in 6⅔ innings. Wright (5-6), a likely top-five pick in Monday’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, struck out eight with three walks before 3,734 fans at Goss Stadium.
“He’s one of the best we’ve ever had in our program, and that’s saying a lot,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said of Wright. “He’s a very, very competitive young man and after that four-spot today, you just got a glimpse of someone that kept us right in the game.”
Making his first start since May 6, Bryce Fehmel returned to his early-season form by scattering two runs (one earned) on five hits in a complete-game effort. The sophomore right-hander struck out 10 with no walks.
Fehmel (5-2) had thrown just one inning of relief since losing his spot in the rotation to Drew Rasmussen prior to the Civil War conference series.
“I’ve been ready to be in this situation and get us to Omaha,” Fehmel said. “It’s been our whole goal all year, so I was ready for the moment.”
Added Casey: “He was so good that I almost fell asleep… What a game to pitch in that situation, against that club.”
Fehmel started in place of Pac-12 pitcher of the year Luke Heimlich, who chose to sit out this weekend in the wake of Thursday’s report in The Oregonian. Heimlich’s status moving forward remains uncertain.
For the second straight evening, Harrison belted an early three-run bomb to ignite the Goss Stadium crowd. The junior’s team-leading eighth homer of the year capped a four-run third inning.
“Just trying to be as relaxed as possible,” Harrison said of the at-bat. “We knew the kind of guy that Kyle was, he’s going to be a first-rounder on Monday, so I just went in there and competed.”
Steven Kwan, Nick Madrigal, Trevor Larnach, Adley Rutschman and Cadyn Grenier all recorded two hits for the Beavers. Harrison finished 1 for 4 with four RBIs.
After cruising through the first two innings on just 19 pitches, Wright was knocked around in the third.
Rutschman led off with a single, advanced to second on a groundout and scored when Kwan lined a 3-1 fastball from Wright back up the middle. Madrigal then reached on an infield single to set up Harrison’s three-run shot into the temporary bleachers in left field.
“After you give up something like that, all you can do is reset,” Wright said.
It was Harrison’s third homer of the NCAA tournament.
Jeren Kendall got Vanderbilt on the board in the sixth with a base hit that plated Will Toffey, who led off with an infield single. Julian Infante later grounded out to score Toffey and cut it to 4-2.
But the Beavers quickly restored order, tagging Wright for three more runs in the seventh.
OSU loaded the bases with two outs on consecutive infield singles by Grenier and Kwan, followed by a Madrigal walk. Harrison fell behind 0-2 but worked a free pass of his own to bring home Grenier.
Vanderbilt then brought in reliever Zach King to face Larnach, who grounded a two-RBI single into center for a 7-2 lead.
The Beavers blew it open one inning later, going up 9-2 on a Grenier triple over Kendall’s head in center that scored Christian Donahue and Rutschman.
“They just keep coming,” Corbin said. “Now after playing them twice, you get a pretty good understanding of why they’ve done what they’ve done. In reality, to go through a schedule like they have, to go through a regional like they have and to go through a super regional like they have, they are very deserving of being in Omaha.”
The Beavers, who went 31-1 at Goss this year, are now 5-0 all-time in home super regionals. OSU lost its lone road super regional at Vanderbilt in 2011.