By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
OMAHA, Neb. – No need to change the formula now.
What’s worked all year, and especially in the postseason, worked again Saturday for No. 14 Mississippi State. Adequate starting pitching, lockdown relief work, and a big two-out hit carried the Bulldogs to a 5-4 win over No. 4 Oregon State in the opening game of the College World Series.
In front of 24,473 at TD Ameritrade Park, MSU (49-18) knocked off another higher-ranked opponent and won its CWS opener for the fifth time in nine tries. Up next is a winner’s bracket game at 7 p.m. Monday versus the winner of Saturday’s late game between Indiana and Louisville.
Wes Rea stroked a two-out, two-run double in the eighth inning off Matt Boyd (10-4), the second All-American pitcher MSU faced Saturday, for the go-ahead run. Rea had two doubles on the day, the first off starter Andrew Moore.
Rea said he had a good idea what was coming in the eighth after watching Boyd enter the game, give up a Hunter Renfroe infield single and then get a strikeout.
“He was just getting swing and miss on changeups,” Rea said. “I was fortunate enough he threw me one in the middle of the plate I was able to do something with.”
Rea is hitting .360 with seven RBIs in NCAA tournament play. MSU, which knocked off No. 6 Virginia last weekend in the super regional round, had eight hits against Oregon State (50-12).
“We know we belong here,” MSU closer Jonathan Holder said. “It doesn’t really matter where people are ranked.”
What a relief
Reliever Ross Mitchell (13-0) worked 22⁄3 shutout innings for the win. He entered in the fifth with Oregon State holding a 4-3 lead. Starter Kendall Graveman had just given up a go-ahead groundout RBI to Dylan Davis.
“I just wanted to keep putting up zeros,” Mitchell said. “This whole season I feel like our hitters have come up clutch every game, and I knew if I could keep our team in it, our hitters would produce.”
MSU had six hits off Moore and got to the freshman for three runs in the second inning for a 3-2 lead.
In 71⁄3 innings, the first-team All-American gave up four earned runs, the most he’s allowed all season. He left after a one-out single by Alex Detz, and in came Boyd, a third-team All-American who’s normally a starter.
After MSU took the lead, Mitchell gave way to Holder, who worked the final 12⁄3 innings for his 19th save. Oregon State tried to rally, getting two men on base with one out in the ninth.
Holder struck out Davis, then Danny Hayes sent a long fly ball to right field that Renfroe tracked down at the wall. MSU is now 44-0 this season when leading after eight innings.
Michael Conforto, the Pac-12 player of the year, had four of the Beavers’ 10 hits. OSU stranded 10 runners, while MSU stranded four.
“I don’t think we were very efficient with what we did with 10 hits,” OSU coach Pat Casey said.
Adam Frazier had two hits for Mississippi State to set a school record.