After 6 days of competition The College World Series has chewed up and spit out half of the field that made it to Omaha. After losing their first game the Beavers went on to eliminate Washington and North Carolina. On the other side of the bracket, top-seed Florida took a similar path losing to Arkansas before bouncing back to eliminate Texas and Texas Tech in elimination games.
Both Oregon State and Florida are facing up-hill battles though, having to defeat Mississippi State/Arkansas two-games in a row won’t be easy. The Beavers have had one goal all season and that is to win the championship, but before they can even think about the championship series the Bulldogs stand in their way posing a significant challenge.
It’s obviously been a very weird season for the Bulldogs. The slow start and strange extramarital scandal that lead to the resignation of their head coach, Andy Cannizaro, would have crippled most teams postseason chances. Instead, pitching coach Gary Henderson stepped up admirably in the interim head coach role and everyone on the team and the staff has bought in completely. The Bulldogs while extremely talented are so team-oriented its tough to single the most important players out on their roster.
After taking a deep-dive into the Bulldogs season it’s really not that shocking to see they are one-win away from the CWS Championship. They actually share a strong resemblance to Oregon State’s squad with the way they keep fighting, play good defense and are strong up the middle.
While Mississippi State had the benefit of waiting to see who their opponent would be (and resting their pitchers); Friday’s game will actually be their 10th of the tournament (9th for the Beavs). The Bulldogs just don’t quit and have been the story of the tournament so far with their flair for the dramatic and the walk-off wins.
Heading into today’s match up, Mississippi State’s pitchers are well-rested which could be troublesome for Oregon State’s chances. The Beavers have been forced to lean heavily on certain pitchers their first three games of Omaha due to battling through the losers-bracket. The Bulldogs on the other-hand will likely start their ace Ethan Small today, who last pitched on Saturday and has had almost a full week of rest. As for the Beavers? Who knows what Pat Casey is thinking, but my guess is Bryce Fehmel will get the start on short rest (3 days). He only threw 57 pitches against the Huskies and should be fine to give it a go. I’d also expect Kevin Abel, Christian Chamberlain, Brandon Eisert and Jake Mulholland to be available at the first sign of trouble because there is no tomorrow for the Beavers.
If the Beavers do manage to pull off the arduous task of taking game one, they would likely face the 81st-pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, Konnor Pilkington. The Bulldogs have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to pitching, their third-starter Jacob Billingsley will be available out of the bullpen against Oregon State and out of the seven players they had drafted in the MLB Draft, five of them were pitchers. In fact the Bulldogs have 10 pitchers who have thrown 20+ innings this season. In addition to their three starters Cole Gordon, JP France and Zach Neff all could be dangerous out of the bullpen for the Bulldogs.
On Wednesday against North Carolina, Caden O’Brien, was mowing down Oregon State’s lineup for four innings before getting pulled. Things looked bleak before the Beavers started to rally back. Mississippi State has the pitchers to really frustrate the Beavers bats like O’Brien did. They’ll need to be locked in and extremely disciplined at the plate in order to beat MSU. The Bulldogs starters almost always go deep into the game and are the type of pitchers that go for strikeouts; Oregon State has got to make them work and get their pitch count up early.
Don’t ignore the Bulldogs non-pitchers though. Jake Mangum is their undisputed leader in center-field; he’s batting .351 at the lead-off spot. Rowdey Jordan (LF) and Elijah MacNamee (RF) are also impressive ball-players to round out their outfield. Second-basemen, Hunter Stovall, is probably their best position player. Luke Alexander doesn’t have the best batting average, but he anchors the short-stop position and was the hero in their 1-0 win over Washington. Oregon State’s pitching staff is going to have to navigate the top of the Bulldogs lineup carefully, the top-5 hitters in their batting order have a .322 avg as a group.
During the CWS, Oregon State has averaged over 10.3 runs per game, but they probably won’t be able to rely on scoring double-digit runs against this pitching staff. The Beavers pitching staff on the other-hand has mostly struggled in the CWS giving up an average of 6.3 runs per game. If they are going to make it to the championship they are going to need their pitching (especially their starters) to make an impact.
Oregon State has shown impressive resolve the past two games, battling back from deficits with their season on the line. The Bulldogs are no strangers to dramatic come from behind victories though. They lead the nation with over 20 come-from-behind victories on the season. They also show up against the toughest competition, with an outstanding 11-1 record against top 10 teams.
Their overall record isn’t that impressive at (39-27), but they’ve played their best baseball late in the season and show up in big games. They hold 3-game series sweeps over Arkansas and Florida (one of whom will be playing for the championship). The Bulldogs have to be feeling very confident in their ability to win it all. Oregon State isn’t content to be one of the last four teams standing for the 2nd year in a row though; despite the odds I wouldn’t beat against this Beaver squad. We’ll find out in a few hours if the Beavers are up for the challenge
The best-of-three Men’s College World Series Finals is set for Monday, June 25. The series will air on ESPN.