When freshman pitcher Kevin Abel struck out Arkansas’ Luke Bonfield to clinch Oregon State’s third College World Series title since 2006, an old familiar face in catcher Adley Rutschman was the first to (literally) tackle the ace hurler to the ground.
It was a somewhat fitting moment, considering the impact the two players had on the impressive run from Oregon State throughout the College World Series. While Abel was pegged as the Game Three starter by head coach Pat Casey after working an inning of relief the night before in Game Two, Rutschman was there by his side the whole time, giving him his signature arm around the shoulder each time the duo walked off the field.
It was also Abel and Rutschman who led the Beavers through the bulk of their post-season run.
While Rutschman, a likely top-three pick in next year’s MLB Draft, was busy breaking his own records at the plate, putting together arguably the most impressive batting performance in College World Series history, Abel was working his own magic from the mound.
And while yes, it would end being Rutschman who took home the tournament’s coveted Most Outstanding Player award for his 17 hits, 13 RBI performance, it was Abel who literally shocked the country by pitching the greatest College World Series ever.
Wow, Kevin Abel was terrific.— amanda sullivan (@mandasullivan14) June 29, 2018
A full nine innings, 129 pitches, two hits, 10 strikeouts and 21 retired in a row for the freshman.
To put it plainly, even the tweets and stats don’t do Abel the proper justice that they should.
The freshman was cool, calm, collected and in command throughout all of his four starts for the team, finishing the College World Series with a never before seen perfect 4-0 record. He threw over 150 pitches between the two games in the Finals series, as the workhorse arm for his team who was there when they called on him. And more than anything else, the endless shots of his laser focus on the mound and in the dugout between innings, revealed the inner-makings of a pitcher wise far beyond his years.
Kevin Abel said he came to Corvallis to make a trip to Omaha.
He fulfilled that destiny and more on Thursday night.
The two hits allowed by Abel in the winner-take-all Game Three to a Razorbacks team who packed one of the best offensive punches in all of college basketball, was also a College World Series record. Seemingly, everything Abel did on the mound for the Beavers was record-shattering. His flawless outings. His untouchable ERA. And oh yeah, he was the biggest part of the overwhelming control by the Beavers pitching staff over Arkansas’ offense, prevalent in some of the mind-blowing stats from the series.
Arkansas struck out 38 times in three games.— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) June 29, 2018
(For the non-math majors out there, that’s over 12 1⁄2 strikeouts a game.)
And at the end of the day for Oregon State, maybe the secret to Abel’s success was that no player (besides fan-favorite Steven Kwan and his injured hamstring) embodied the word mostly commonly used by Pat Casey to describe what he looks for in a baseball player.
That word is character.
And for just a freshman, well damn, Kevin Abel’s sure got a lot of that.