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Oregon State Rallies to Defeat Cal State Fullerton in Baseball World Series

Top-ranked Oregon State comes from behind to get past unseeded Cal State Fullerton, 6-5, in Saturday’s start of the 71st annual NCAA College Division I Baseball World Series in Omaha, Neb.

In game two, it was 4th seeded Louisiana State also rallying to survive the challenge of unseeded FSU, 5-4

Arnie Leshin

By Arnie Leshin, Santa Fe Today

Nothing fancy, just the rallying cry that brought top-ranked Oregon State back against upset-minded Cal State Fullerton, 6-5, in Saturday afternoon’s opening day of the 71st annual NCAA College Baseball Division I World Series.

Not only did the Beavers survive without falling into the loser’s bracket, but they maintained their claim of being perhaps the best of all college baseball teams, not just this season, but in history.

For the unseeded Titans, winners of four national championships, it was a heartbreaking setback at Ameritrade Park. They jumped on top 2-0 after one inning when undefeated Oregon State right-hander Jake Thompson surrendered a 2-run home run in the top of the frame.

The teams traded runs in the third inning. But Cal State Fullerton increased its lead to 5-1, ended Thompson’s stay on the mound, and did so on Chris Hudgins’ 2-run single to left field. The Beavers sent freshman left-hander Jake Mulholland on in relief.

At 55-4 with 21 straight victories, these Beavers don’t experience many of these mound visits, especially when Thompson pitches. But he wasn’t at his best, only his fastball was working, and the Titans were making noise.

Oregon State came into the World Series with a pitching staff that ranks No. 1 in the country with a 1.80 earned-run-average. Thompson (14-0), who was not involved in the decision, was also Pac 12 played of the year.

It won the conference by six games, the largest margin since the conference ended divisional play in 1999. Its overall record is the best since Texas entered at 57-4.

That’s the case the Beavers present in comparing them with the greatest collegiate baseball teams of all time.

But Cal State Fullerton just shrugged it off before dropping into Monday’s loser’s bracket, and is now at 39-23. It came out raring to go, and hung onto its four-run advantage until Oregon State tied it at 5-5 in the bottom of the fifth.

For the Beavers’ dugout and fans, it was the first chance to take a deep breath, and then win it in the ninth. They had runners on the corners with one out when a base hit up the middle began the “whew” celebration.

For the Titans, they have to put this past them and remember that they or the FSU-LSU loser goes home with another defeat. The played well, they hustled, their dugout was alive after the first pitch, and the quick lead spread to their hopeful fans.

Cal State Fullerton centerfielder, Scott Hurst, no doubt made the play of the game in the fourth inning when he hustled to the centerfield wall, leaped to the top of it, and caught the ball as he hit the wall. He came down showing the ball in his glove.

Oregon State doesn’t play again until Monday. If it wins this one, it puts it in the driver’s seat, and makes it more comfortable as it goes for its first title since the back-to-back years of 2006 and 2007.

If anything, the Beavers got an idea of how tough a road it can be. They saw how they had to come-from-behind to escape Cal State Fullerton.

In the night game, 4th seeded Louisiana State (48-17) took on unseeded Florida State (45-21) on a mission to bring its 73-year-old head coach Mike Martin the school’s first baseball championship. Martin is in his 38th year of coaching the program.

Upon the Bayou Tigers’ request, the first pitch was removed from play to give to wounded United States Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana. Scalise was shot during a congress baseball practice last week in Arlington, Va. He has also been named an honorary coach of LSU for the championships.

As for the game, it was along the lines of the opener. FSU took a 2-0 lead on a two-run home run in the top of the first, back came LSU with one of its own in the last of the second. The Seminoles upped the margin to 3-1 on back-to-back doubles, but the Bayou Tigers again crept to within a run, and in the bottom of the eighth, and down by 4-2, they tied it, and then held off FSU in its final at-bat to win 5-4.

FSU did not go easily. In the ninth, It came down to right-handed LSU freshman Eric Hass coming on in relief to face the Seminoles with one on and two out. He pitched around the first batter to put runners on first and second, but then bore down to whiff heavy hitting Jim Bosely on a called third strike.

Two games, both close. Two losers that could well have been winners, which only points out how tight the competition is once you reach this plateau.

So on Monday, either Cal State Fullerton or FSU will be eliminated. Oregon State or LSU will get their first loss.

Sunday completes the first round, with 7th seeded Louisville (52-10) meeting up with unseeded Texas A & M (41-21) at 2 p.m., followed by 3rd seeded Florida (47-18) going against 6th seeded Texas Christian (47-16) at 7 p.m.

Monday will pair the Bracket I losers and winners. Tuesday will be the same for Bracket II. After that, four teams go home and four will be left in the hunt.

It was a doubleheader seen by a capacity crowd. It was pre-game tailgating at its best, especially when it came to the Bayou Tigers’ faithful.

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