June 25, 2006

College World Series Capsules

College World Series Schedule and Recaps


Beavers battle back

Oregon State pushes North Carolina to third game


By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


OMAHA, Neb. – Oregon State was on the canvas.


Knocked around for the first three and a half innings Sunday night, the bruised and battered Beavers, needing a win to continue their season, had a choice: Fight back or roll over. Starting by going to its All-American closer Kevin Gunderson in the top of the fourth, then putting a seven spot on the board in the bottom of the inning, Oregon State chose the former.


OSU avoided elimination by beating North Carolina 11-7 to even their best-of-three College World Series at one game apiece before a crowd of 25,046 at Rosenblatt Stadium. The Beavers and Tar Heels will play a winner-take-all game Monday night, when one of them will take home their first college baseball national title.


“Last night sitting in here, we only said a few things but one of them was that we would come out and play with pride and play hard,” said Beavers head coach Pat Casey, the 2005 CollegeBaseballInsider.com national coach of the year. “And those are the two things that I can always guarantee that the Oregon State baseball team will do.


“You saw a bunch of young men with some heart, guts and determination take the field here at Rosenblatt,” Casey said.


The Beavers (49-16) spotted the Tar Heels (54-13) a 5-0 lead as UNC scored one in the second, three in the third and one in the fourth – all with two outs. Their starter, Mike Stutes, had been lifted after three innings, and his replacement, Daniel Turpen, threw only six pitches and allowed a RBI single to Reid Fronk before OSU head coach Pat Casey made a desperate move to stop the bleeding – he called on Gunderson, who boasts 19 saves.


“It was my game to win or lose, and they were going to leave me out there for whatever,” Gunderson said. “And obviously it worked out for the best.”


Gunderson (3-2) struck out Josh Horton to get the Beavers out of the inning, then threw the final 5.1 innings. The lefty recently chosen in the fifth round by the Atlanta Braves allowed four hits, including a two-run homer to Tim Federowicz (4 for 4, 4 RBI, 2 runs), in closing out the Tar Heels. Extremely impressive considering Gunderson normally faces fewer than five batters an appearance. 


After getting out of the fourth, it was the Beavers’ turn to fight back.


“I’d say we were pretty frustrated,” OSU shortstop Darwin Barney said. “It wasn’t the way we planned on starting the game. After yesterday, we planned on coming out with a vengeance. Try to get ahead early, something to build off of. It definitely didn’t go to plan.”


Robert Woodard wasn’t exactly cruising, but was in control over the first three innings. After throwing first-pitch strikes to 9 of 12 batters to start the game, Woodard, who tossed a shutout against Clemson earlier in the College World Series, hit Tyler Graham to begin the fourth. John Wallace singled before Woodard got ahead of Chris Kunda 0-2 but walked him to load the bases.


“I didn’t show the mental toughness I usually have,” Woodard said. “I’m very disappointed.”


Shea McFeely laced the first pitch he saw from Woodard down the line in left for a two-run double to make it 5-2. That was the end of the night for Woodard, but just the beginning for the Beavers’ bats. With one out, Darwin Barney singled in a run off Matt Danford, who then uncorked a wild pitch to allow McFeely to score to pull OSU within one.


Danford struck out Cole Gillespie for the second out and appeared as if he might get out of the inning with Carolina still on top. But he quickly fell behind cleanup hitter Bill Rowe 2-0. Danford tried to sneak a curve past Rowe, but the big lefty belted the thigh-high hanger into the stands in right for a three-run homer and 7-5 lead.


“It took a couple of hits, it took a spark,” said Barney, who went 3 for 4 with two runs and a RBI. “That’s the thing about the college game is that one spark can change the whole attitude of your team.”


The fourth-inning damage: 10 batters, four hits, two walks, a hit batter, seven runs and a series-changing counterpunch.


“We opened the door for them, and they really took advantage of it,” Carolina head coach Mike Fox said. “We couldn’t prevent the big inning.”


The Beavers gave Gunderson four more runs by batting around in the sixth, as UNC continued its implosion. Three more walks and two miscommunications on bunts contributed to the four-run frame.


Barney led off with a single, and Mitch Canham bunted toward third, where Danford thought third baseman Fronk would take the ball and veered to cover the bag. Fronk, however, was on his way back to the bag, and Danford was late with his throw to first. Later in the inning, Graham executed a safety squeeze bunt to first, where Chad Flack thought about going home a little too long and Graham beat the throw to first.


“I felt like we opened the door for them by not making plays,” Fox said.


And because the Beavers capitalized, there will be a Game 3 of the championship series for the second time in the four-year history of the best-of-three series. No team has lost the first game and come back to win in the previous three years.


Oregon State, which won four straight after losing its opener to Miami just to reach this weekend, has proven it won’t back down.


“Playing for a national championship, there’s nothing better,” Barney said. “What’s better than one game and one champion?”