Off to Omaha

Michael Gretler and KJ Harrison celebrate after Harrison hit a three-run homerun in the third inning on Friday’s Super Regional game against Vanderbilt, his eighth of the season.

Brian Rathbone, News/Sports Chief

Beavers head to the College World Series after sweeping Vanderbilt in Super Regionals

Nate Yeskie walked from the dugout to the pitching mound to talk with Jake Thompson in the seventh inning.

He asked his pitcher “Where do you want to go?”

“Omaha,” said the junior right-hander during Friday’s game just before the assistant coach took the ball from him.

Thompson got his wish. The Beavers are headed to Omaha, Neb. to play in the Greatest Show on Dirt–the College World Series, after sweeping Vanderbilt in the Super Regionals with a resounding 9-2 victory over the Commodores after beating them 8-4 on Friday.

“We went out there fearless, and it’s a great feeling to be able to go out there and compete at a high level,” said junior first baseman KJ Harrison.

Once the final out was caught at the base of the right field wall by sophomore Steven Kwan, freshman catcher Adley Rutschman charged Fehmel, wrapped him and took him down with a tackle that would’ve made OSU football coach Gary Andersen proud as the rest of team piled on top in the middle of the Goss Stadium infield.

“I didn’t feel anything,” said sophomore right-hander Bryce Fehmel, who struck out a career-high 10 Commodore batters in a complete game effort. “It’s all a blur.”

“Omaha Bound” hats were passed out, and the 54-win Beavers took a victory lap around a capacity Goss Stadium for the final time this season, where the team lost only once during the season.

Fehmel’s performance was reminiscent of his 2016 season, when he earned several all-American honors after going 10-1with a 2.31 ERA as a freshman.

“We never dreamed he’d go nine,” Casey said. “He was so good that I almost fell asleep.”

Fehmel got to start after the OSU pitching rotation was thrown a curveball when Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Luke Heimlich elected not to pitch in the wake of an nvestigative report by The Oregonian/OregonLive that unveiled that Heimlich, at the age of 15, had sexually molested his then six-year-old cousin.

Fehmel did not know until Yeskie sent a text message to him asking “gray pinstripes?” on Saturday. Pitchers get to choose which uniforms the team wears when they pitch. Fehmel would get the start for the first time since May 6.

“I’ve been ready to be in this situation,” Fehmel said. “Getting to Omaha has been our goal the whole entire year. I was ready for this moment.”

Fehmel returned to his 2016 form and stymied the Commodore hitters by getting into pitcher’s counts, and keeping hitter off balance by throwing his breaking pitches for strikes. Fehmel finished with 10 strikeouts and didn’t walk a single batter.

“That’s nice to hear,” said Vanderbilt’s head coach Tim Corbin, talking about Fehmel’s career game.

“It was absolutely warrior mentality from him, for not having started for so long,” Casey said. “Nate told me in the seventh, ‘He’s going to finish this thing.’ We were considering closing with Drew (Rasmussen) or (Sam) Tweedt if it was close. Bryce just made it easy for us.”

Fehmel was so good that even the umpire couldn’t help but make sure that Pat Casey left him in for the ninth inning.

“I went out to make a change (in the field),” Casey said. “And the umpire said, ‘God I Hope you’re not taking that pitcher out.’”

While Fehmel kept the Vanderbilt bats at bay, the Beaver offense jumped out to an early 4-0 lead on Vanderbilt’s junior pitcher Kyle Wight, who could be the No. 1 overall pick in Monday’s MLB Draft.

For the second game in a row, Harrison hit a three-run home run early in the game to give OSU an early cushion.

“I was just trying to be as relaxed as possible,” Harrison said. “Going into this Super Regional, we knew Vanderbilt had a lot of good arms both starting and in the bullpen…I went in there, and took a deep breath and competed. I told myself to relax and put a good swing on the pitch.”

The Beavers would knock around Wright for seven runs and eight hits over 6 2/3 innings.

Through five postseason games, the Beavers have outscored their opponents–Holy Cross, Yale (twice) and Vanderbilt (twice)–by a combined score of 44-7.

The Beavers will head to the College World Series with 54 wins and will enter the series with the 11th best winning percentage of all time–best since 1982 (Texas).

The entire season, OSU would break their team huddles by saying “Omaha,” with two 20-plus game winning streaks under their belts, the team, that was left out of last year’s postseason, is now five wins away from capturing the program’s third national title since 2006.

“I always say ‘You don’t have to have all the best players’, but you have to have the right players,” Casey said. “We have the right players. I give them the credit 100 percent. I feel blessed to able to coach them. Now we’re looking forward to the next challenge.”