By Eric Olson Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. — Oregon State had to win its super regional the hard way. Now the Beavers face a more difficult task.
Mississippi State took the lead on Wes Rea’s two-run double in the eighth inning, closer Jonathan Holder turned back two Oregon State threats, and the Bulldogs beat the Beavers 5-4 on Saturday in the opening game of the College World Series.
The Beavers (50-12), the No. 3 national seed, must beat Indiana or Louisville on Monday to keep their season going.
“We’ve had our backs pinned before,” coach Pat Casey said. “It’s not completely foreign territory. Certainly we’d like to be in the winner’s bracket, but that’s the way it goes.”
Oregon State lost the first game of its super regional against Kansas State before beating the Wildcats twice to reach the CWS for the fourth time since 2005, and first since winning the second of two straight national titles in 2007.
“Hopefully there’s a lot of baseball left,” said left fielder Michael Conforto, who matched his career high with four hits and reached base five times. “We’ve got to come out on Monday and be ready to play, and this team knows how to do that. We know how to bounce back from a loss. Like coach Casey said, `We’ve been in this position before and we plan on doing the same things that we’ve done all season.”’
The Beavers lost their one-run lead in the eighth after Hunter Renfroe’s hard comebacker off the leg of Matt Boyd (10-4) put runners on first and second in the eighth. Rea then sent a double into the right-center gap. Andy Detz scored easily and Renfroe beat second baseman Andy Peterson’s relay throw home.
Holder got out of a jam after Oregon State put two runners on base in the eighth, getting a flyout and striking out pinch hitter Joey Jansen.
The Beavers had two runners on base again in the ninth when Danny Hayes drove a ball to right that Renfroe caught on the warning track to end the game and give Holder his 19th save. Hayes threw his helmet to the ground as Renfroe gloved the ball, and the Bulldogs came pouring out of the dugout in celebration.
“I think Daniel put a great swing on a pitch that was left up,” said Conforto, who was on first base after getting walked. “From my perspective, it looked like it had a shot to go out. Obviously, it didn’t.”
Bulldogs reliever Ross Mitchell (13-0) pitched 2 2-3 shutout innings before turning the game over to Holder.
Oregon State starter Andrew Moore turned in a strong performance after giving up three runs in the second inning.
Moore, the Pac-12 freshman of the year, came into the game off wins in seven straight games and had worked eight or more innings in five of his previous six starters.
He Moore missed up with his fastball early but settled down to retire 18 of 20 batters before Detz singled with one out in the eighth.
Conforto, the Pac-12 player of the year, doubled twice, threw out Sam Frost at the plate from left field to end the second inning and made a sprinting catch on Rea’s short fly to start the fourth.
Kendall Graveman came in as the only Mississippi State starter to pitch out of the fourth inning in 10 postseason games. He left after Davis’ RBI groundout gave the Beavers a 4-3 lead in the fifth.
Mississippi State overcame an early base-running mistake and Frost’s throwing error at third that led to two Oregon State runs in the first.
The Bulldogs scored three times in the second. After Frost’s bases-loaded single brought in the first run, DeMarcus Henderson lined the ball into right. Rea scored on the hit, and C.T. Bradford came home when Dylan Davis hesitated throwing the ball in.