OMAHA, Neb. — Oregon State abstained from dogpiling at the Corvallis Super Regional, saving the traditional celebration for TD Ameritrade Park.
The team broke the majority of its huddles during the 2018 season on “finish,” a reference to last year’s disappointment at the College World Series. A dogpile wasn’t allowed until they had atoned for the past.
“Winning the super regional wasn’t finishing what we started,” Luke Heimlich said. “We still had something to get done, so we weren’t going to dogpile yet.”
Behind a legendary pitching performance from Kevin Abel, OSU got to create its mound of humanity on a steamy Thursday evening in Omaha. Abel struck out Luke Bonfield for the game’s final out, capping a two-hit shutout as the third-seeded Beavers clinched their third national title with a 5-0 victory over No. 5 Arkansas.
Adley Rutschman, voted CWS Most Outstanding Player, tackled Abel after the last out. The Beavers, who finished 56-6 overall in 2017 but came up three wins shy of a championship, finally got to dogpile before a crowd of 19,323.
“It’s a moment I dreamed of and visualized, last out being a strikeout,” Rutschman said. The sophomore catcher initiated the celebration with a careful takedown of Abel. “That’s what we got.”
OSU (55-12-1), which began the CWS with a loss to North Carolina and stumbled in the best-of-3 championship series opener, won all six elimination games at the eight-team tournament. The 2006 Beavers also went 6-0 in do-or-die matchups to claim the program’s first of consecutive national titles.
“These guys have been through a lot,” said coach Pat Casey, who picked up his 900th career win at OSU when Abel froze Bonfield on a 3-2 pitch. “We lose the first game of the tournament, lose the first game of the championship series, and nobody is going to give in.”
A celebration is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday inside Goss Stadium.
Pitching for the third time in six days, Abel became the fourth person to go the distance in a CWS championship game. LSU’s Brett Laxton was the last to accomplish the feat, doing so in 1993 against Wichita State.
Abel (8-1), a freshman right-hander, struck out 10 and walked just two while throwing 129 pitches. He retired the final 20 Razorbacks (48-21) in order, relying primarily on fastball command and a devastating changeup to earn a special place in OSU lore.
Abel is the first pitcher to win four games at the same CWS.
“As the game went on, adrenaline kicked in,” said Abel, who threw 23 pitches in Wednesday’s 5-3 come-from-behind victory. “I kept competing and had a lot of fun doing it.”
Abel worked seven strong innings in last Saturday’s 5-2 win over Mississippi State that sent OSU to the finals. He got the win after throwing four innings of relief against Washington, the Beavers’ first of six elimination games.
Casey hoped to get five innings out of Abel, but the Southern California native was pitching too well to come out.
“You can’t describe that performance,” senior Kyle Nobach said as he fought back tears. “How far that guy’s come … we used to run him out there and he’d walk the house. The guy just threw a (129)-pitch shutout in the national championship that clinched it. I mean I’ve been here four years, and the guy comes in and does it as a freshman. That’s damn impressive.”
Abel issued a two-out walk in the first and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third with a strikeout and a popup to Trevor Larnach in right field. The Houdini act began his untouchable stretch.
Abel struck out five of the last eight batters he faced to end the game.
“That was hands-down the best performance I’ve been able to watch first-hand,” Heimlich said.
Casey compared Abel to Jonah Nickerson, who pitched 6⅔ innings on three days rest as OSU defeated UNC to win its first national title in 2006.
“We asked Abel to give us five innings and we couldn’t pull him out in the seventh,” Casey said. “It was an unbelievable performance.”
Rutschman had three hits and two RBIs in Thursday’s clinching win and went 17 for 30 at the CWS with 13 RBIs, three doubles and two home runs. The 17 hits are a new single-tournament record.
Rutschman, a sophomore catcher, finished the season with school-records for hits (102) and RBIs (83).
OSU suffered an 8-6 loss to UNC in its CWS opener before winning four consecutive elimination games to reach the finals. Following a 4-1 defeat to Arkansas, the Beavers plated three ninth-inning runs Wednesday to storm back for a 5-3 win.
Riding the momentum from its season-saving performance, OSU scored a pair of first-inning runs off Arkansas starter Isaiah Campbell (5-7).
Cadyn Grenier was hit by a pitch and Larnach followed with a single to bring up Rutschman, who slapped a ball to left for a 1-0 lead. Larnach came home when Casey Martin made a nice play at third on a Michael Gretler grounder but threw wildly to first for an error.
Rutschman singled home Grenier two innings later to put OSU up 3-0. All three runs were charged to Campbell, who was pulled after two-plus innings.
The Sherwood High product wasn’t done, reaching on a one-out bloop single in the fifth. Gretler plated Rutschman with a sacrifice fly to right.
A Zak Taylor RBI single put the Beavers up 5-0 in the eighth. Jake Mulholland and Heimlich were getting loose late, but Abel wasn’t coming out.
“When I walked out here, I wanted it,” Abel said. “I wanted to get that third out. … If they let me stay out here, I was going to give it everything I had.”
Abel did as OSU clinched its first national title in 11 years.
“It’s a lot of work,” said Nobach, one of OSU’s four seniors. “People don’t get it until you’re a part of this program. It means everything to see those banners hang, because we know what goes into it.”
OSU had five representatives on the all-tournament team: Rutschman (catcher), Grenier (shortstop), Larnach (outfield), Tyler Malone (designated hitter) and Abel (pitcher).