Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Thursday, June 28.
The Arkansas Razorbacks were so close, in fact as close as they could be to wrapping up the 2018 College World Series. Even ESPN thought they had done it. But any reader of Sidney Sheldon, or O. Henry knows sudden unexpected plot twists happen in real life as well as in commercial fiction. In an agonizing minute for fans back in Arkansas, the script flipped. Thanks to a 5–3 Oregon State win on a 9th-inning rally, the two teams meet a third time for a winner-take-all game at 6:30 PM tonight.
Early on, this looked like another very low-scoring game like we saw on Tuesday when Arkansas stopped Oregon State cold, 4-1. The Hogs scored in the last of the second, but Adley Rutschman tied the game for Oregon State in the 4th. With the Beavers ahead 2-1 in the fifth Arkansas got a pair in the last half. There the two teams stood until the 9th. Arkansas’ closer Matt Cronin came on. The Arkansas radio broadcaster Phil Elson had dubbed Cronin “The Fire-Breathing Dragon”, the most clever baseball nickname I can think of since Pepper Martin was the “Wild Horse of the Osage.” It looked like the Dragon would devour OSU batters as he did Monday night. But after a dominant inning, he ran into trouble in the 9th. He walked Zak Taylor, leading off the inning for the Beavers. Another Zach, this time Zach Clayton ran for Taylor. Andy Armstrong placed a sacrifice bunt down the first-base line. Nick Madrigal grounded to first, moving Clayton to third but leaving Oregon State just one out to play with. Cadyn Grenier popped the ball up. Any of 3 Razorbacks could have and probabably should have caught it but the ball fell in among the 3 of them. Given a new life, Grenier singled between third and short, tying the game. Then, cast in the role of St. George, Trevor Larnach slew the “Fire-Breathing Dragon” wwith his aluminum sword. He launched a 2-run home run out of the impossibly big ball park, thus putting the dragon’s fire out. The stunned Razorbacks went quietly in the 9th.
This leaves the Razorbacks in a ticklish spot tonight. Both Cronin and setup man Barrett Loseke (pronounced Low Ski) worked both Monday night and last night. Cronin threw 42 pitches in not saving the championship last night. If the Razorbacks have a late lead, somebody else will have to lock it down. I can’t imagine either of their two top relievers getting more than one or two batters out tonight. For their part, Oregon State has its own pitching woes and they are the starting pitchers. After Luke Heimlich fell apart Monday night, Bryce Fehmel didn’t survive the third inning last night. Brandon Eisert is surely finished, having thrown 82 pitches behind Fehmel last night. Arkansas has tapped Isaiah Campbell to start tonight as he did last Friday against Florida in the game that got Arkansas into the final round.
On the heroic side, Trevor Larnach now has 19 home runs, and in the CWS alone he’s at .424 with a Series-record 5 doubles. Rutschman (Clutchman on OSU’s radio broadcasts) is hitting .538 with 11 RBI’s. He’s still a sophomore and considered a shoe-in for CWS MVP by the scribes in the press box. Arkansas has just 12 hits, to 21 by their foes. The Hogs struck out 16 times Tuesday night.
On the funny side, before Grenier’s game-tying single, ESPN put upp a graphic congratulating the 2018 CWS champion Arkansas Razorbacks. Considering the 9th-inning heroics last night, We can only hope they wait until all the new champion’s eggs have hatched before ESPN starts counting chickens.