Once again, Adley Rutschman lived up to his moniker.
Known simply as “Clutchman” for most of the 2018 baseball season, the sophomore catcher stepped to the plate in the ninth inning Saturday night with a chance to deliver the biggest hit of his young Oregon State career. An all-time record crowd of 4,025 at Goss Stadium could sense what was about to unfold.
Rutschman lined a 1-2 pitch from reliever Jackson Rose back up the middle, knocking in Steven Kwan and Cadyn Grenier to break a 3-3 tie. The third-seeded Beavers added one more insurance run and clinched the Corvallis Super Regional by a 6-3 decision over No. 14 Minnesota.
The victory sends OSU (49-10-1) back to the College World Series for the second straight season.
“Baseball is a weird game,” said Rutschman, who has been responsible for countless late-inning heroics this season. Prior to the NCAA tournament, his biggest moment may have been a walk-off inside-the-park home run to beat Nevada.
The stakes were slightly higher on a frigid Saturday night.
“Being able to get that hit meant a lot to the guys,” Rutschman said. “I just feel fortunate now because we get to celebrate and go back to Omaha.”
OSU has advanced to the CWS for the seventh time in program history. Six appearances (2005-07, 2013, 2017-18) have come under coach Pat Casey.
The Beavers will face North Carolina, the team they defeated in back-to-back championship series in 2006-07, to open the CWS.
Locked in a 3-3 stalemate entering the ninth, OSU — the designated visitor — put pressure on Minnesota (44-15) closer Max Meyer with one-out singles from Kwan and Grenier. Nick Madrigal then worked a four-pitch walk against the weary Meyer, who gave way to Rose after a career-high 81 pitches.
Rose fanned Trevor Larnach for the second out, but Rutschman followed with a bullet up the middle for a 5-3 lead. Rose then hit Michael Gretler and Kyle Nobach on consecutive pitches to force in another run.
“Our club, I have unbelievable trust in what they’re doing," Casey said. “I knew they were going to battle … and we stayed with it.”
Jake Mulholland pitched a quick ninth for his 15th save of the year.
With OSU trailing 3-2 in the seventh, Christian Chamberlain came on in relief of starter Bryce Fehmel. Chamberlain inherited an 0-2 count and struck out five of the first six batters he faced.
“He was effectively wild,” Minnesota third baseman Micah Coffey said. “Had a good fastball that would kind of ride in on guys, but you couldn’t really predict where he was going to go with it. … He was tough.”
The freshman lefty improved to 3-0 after allowing just one hit in two scoreless innings. He was fearless in his biggest outing to date.
“I had all three pitches today which was awesome, but being competitive is the biggest thing on the mound,” Chamberlain said.
Meyer (2-3) took the loss after working 3⅓ innings in relief of Patrick Fredrickson, the Big Ten pitcher of the year.
Fredrickson left the game after issuing a leadoff walk in the sixth. Minnesota coach John Anderson knew it was a little early to bring in Meyer, whose previous high for innings (three) and pitches (48) came against UCLA at last week’s Minneapolis Regional.
But Anderson couldn’t let the season slip away with his hard-throwing freshman righty in the dugout.
“We haven’t pushed him hard all year,” Anderson said. “I didn’t want to use him past 75 or 80 (pitches) and we got to that point. It looked like he got tired, the slider lost some of its bite. He’s your best arm and if you lose the game, you’re done.”
Meyer, who leads the team with 16 saves, entered the game having allowed just six earned runs in 40⅓ innings. OSU tagged him for four runs on five hits.
Fredrickson limited the Beavers to two runs on seven hits in five-plus innings.
Kwan went 3 for 5 — including two infield singles off Meyer — to pace the OSU offense. Grenier, Larnach and Rutschman finished with two hits apiece.
Nobach’s RBI single in the eighth tied the game at 3.
Larnach walked with one out and Rutschman followed with a base hit to left. After Meyer struck out Gretler, Nobach slapped a 1-0 offering into right that brought home Larnach for the tying run.
The Beavers took the lead in the ninth and didn’t dogpile following the final out. They are saving their grand celebration for TD Ameritrade Park.
“Going on the road and playing in environments like this in the NCAA tournament, it’s difficult,” Anderson said. “The crowd has a big influence on the game in my opinion, and that’s why the ability to play at home and being good enough to play at home is critical to advance and get to the College World Series.”
OSU strung together three consecutive one-out singles from first-round draft picks Grenier, Madrigal and Larnach to grab a 1-0 lead before Fehmel threw a pitch. The damage could’ve been greater, but Madrigal was thrown out at third after taking too big of a turn on Larnach’s infield single.
Minnesota tied the game in the third on Ben Mezzenga’s base hit up the middle. The line-drive brought home Cole McDevitt, who singled with one out and snagged second on a wild pitch.
The Golden Gophers took advantage of some uncharacteristic wildness from Fehmel to go up 2-1 in the fourth. Minnesota loaded the bases with a single and two hit batters before Fehmel forced in a run with a walk.
It was OSU’s first deficit in five postseason games.
The Beavers tied it in their next at-bat, putting two aboard with no outs when Nobach drew a leadoff walk and Jack Anderson followed with a bunt single that hugged the first-base line. Kwan knocked in Nobach with a liner into center.
A Coffey RBI single put Minnesota back up 3-2 in the fifth.
Fehmel worked six-plus innings and allowed three runs on six hits with six strikeouts and three walks.
“Fehm did a great job of keeping us in the game,” Madrigal said. “He didn’t have his best stuff today, but he competed. … He’s a fighter, and we needed that out of him.”