Arkansas won game one of the 2018 College World Series finals fairly easily. They beat the Oregon State Beavers 4-1 and appeared to be on the cusp of capturing the program’s first national title in school history Wednesday night when they had a 3-2 lead with two outs in the top of the ninth, and two strikes on OSU’s Cadyn Grenier in game two. With one of the best closers in the country in Matt Cronin on the mound for the second straight day, the Razorbacks had the College World Series title locked up as he got Grenier to fly out in foul territory down the right-field line, but a miscommunication between the right fielder and second baseman allowed the ball to drop, giving the Beavers new life.
Grenier took advantage of the second chance Arkansas gave him and drove in the tying run with a single through the left side of the infield. One batter later, Trevor Larnach stepped up to the plate and sealed the deal for the Beavers as he blasted a Cronin fastball that got left middle-in into the bleachers, giving the Beavers a 5-3 lead that would hold up through the bottom half of the ninth, forcing a game three.
As we prepare for the finale of this series tonight, here is a breakdown of both teams and how they are looking heading into this deciding game.
For Arkansas, while they have been able to put runs on the board, their offense is far from thriving. The team as a whole is batting close to .200 which is not great, but their pitching has been a different story. In game one, Blaine Knight was phenomenal for the Razorbacks as he went 6.0 innings, allowing just one run. He was followed up by Barrett Loseke and Matt Cronin out of the bullpen who went a combined 3.0 innings pitched, allowing just two hits and no runs. Kacey Murphy had a solid outing in game two as he went 4.1 innings allowing two runs on six hits, leaving the game with his team being down 2-1.
The Razorbacks tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the fifth to give them a 3-2 lead which would hold until the ninth inning. Loseke and Cronin both pitched again in game two for 1.1 and 1.2 innings respectively. Going forward for game three, it seems as if the Razorbacks will be counting on another strong outing from their starter since most of their bullpen arms have already been used quite a bit these past two days.
Oregon State, on the other hand, is batting .300 as a team this series, but their pitching hasn’t been nearly as consistent as they’d hoped, allowing 4 runs in game one and 3 runs in game two. Luke Heimlich started game one for the Beavers and allowed 3 earned runs, and one unearned in 4.1 innings of work. Freshman Christian Chamberlain followed him up with 4.2 innings of scoreless relief. Game two was more of a pitching by committee as the Beavers sent four different pitchers to the mound en route to their 5-3 win. One of the heroes of game two for the Beavers, Trevor Larnach has been on a tear all series. The junior outfielder is 4-9 with two runs scored and two rbi’s. Absent from all of the hitting this team has been doing has been star second baseman and fourth pick in this year’s draft Nick Madrigal. The junior is hitless in this series as he carries a 0-7 batting line going into tonights deciding game three.
If the Beavers want to leave Omaha as champions, they will need Madrigal to break out of this slump, and for the rest of the team to stay hot.
The stage is set, and first pitch is scheduled for Thursday night at 6:30 pm. Will the Razorbacks be able to ride another strong pitching performance en route to their first-ever national title? Or will a bolstering OSU offense lead the Beavers to victory, completing their redemption of getting swept by LSU in last year’s tournament? Tell us what you think in the poll below, and be sure to share your thoughts in the comments!