OMAHA, Neb. — Coach Pat Casey told center fielder Max Gordon during the Corvallis Super Regional that he brought consistency to the Oregon State baseball team when he became a permanent fixture in the lineup.
The light-hitting centerfielder – he has a .238 average – was coming off a two-hit performance and provided an offensive spark on Monday when the Beavers staved off elimination with an 11-4 win over Louisville.
Gordon was ready to back up that performance, but “an honest accident” — as he described it — kept him out of Wednesday’s elimination game against Indiana at the College World Series.
Gordon, who wears contacts, accidently used eye drops for allergies instead of regular contact solution. It made it difficult to see and he was unable to go as the game was about to start.
“Case was asking me, hey are you good to go, are you 100 percent,” Gordon said. “And it was the hardest thing to bite my lip and tell him no. But I didn’t want to be out there and miss a fly ball and lose a game.”
So with Gordon on the bench, in stepped freshman Jeff Hendrix from Santiam Christian High.
Hendrix made two putouts and also collected an infield single as the Beavers took a 1-0 victory over the Hoosiers to stay alive and meet Mississippi State at noon Friday.
“It’s exciting,” said Hendrix, who made just his fourth start of the season. “It’s what you dream of as a kid and to finally get out there, it’s a dream come true. And I want to get out there again.”
Getting back in the lineup might be difficult as Gordon said he should be ready to play on Friday.
“He’s always ready,” Hendrix said of Gordon. “I’m fine with what the coaches decide and he’s been playing great the last couple games.”
Hendrix received plenty of support from his teammates, especially Gordon.
“I reviewed the signs with him and just told him, ‘hey man, just play ball,’” Gordon said. “You’ve been doing it your whole life.”
Left fielder Michael Conforto praised Hendrix’s performance.
“Jeff’s a real composed freshman,” Conforto said. “He’s real calm, he’s really collected so I think he responded and was excited to play when Max couldn’t go. I did talk to him and said look for a fastball and see some pitches and once you see it, just get the timing down and let it go. Be free with it and be loose and don’t try to do too much.”
Hendrix came up with a runner at second and two outs in his first at-bat in the second inning and flew out to right.
In the fourth, he had another RBI chance but grounded out to second for the second out of the inning.
In his final at-bat, Hendrix beat out a slow roller to third for an infield single.
“All the guys seemed to be pretty pumped up when I got that little hit,” Hendrix said. “It was exciting.”
Conforto poked a little fun at the hit.
“You got to see his blazing speed their on the squibber, and that power, his strength to just squib that one out there,” he said.
But in the end, Hendrix filled a key role and made the plays needed to help the Beavers move one step closer to a possible national title.