One step closer

Aaron Trask Orange Media Network
The Beavers celebrate after winning the Corvallis regional, bringing their record to 52-4. 

If there was any doubt who the best college baseball team in the country was entering the postseason was, Oregon State put all the questions to rest with a dominant showing to advance one step closer to a trip to Omaha.

The top-seeded Beavers swept their regional by beating Holy Cross, then knocking off Yale 8-1 to win the Corvallis Regional.

The Beavers not only advanced out of the regional round for the first time since 2013—the last time they played in the College World Series—they steamrolled the competition, outscoring their opponents 27-3 in three games.

Oregon State trailed for half an inning throughout the regional, falling behind Yale 1-0 in the first inning Sunday. The Beavers would immediately respond in their half of the first, and tack on eight more runs to clinch the win.

Yale’s head coach, John Stuper, perfectly summed up what it’s like to face a team who is on pace to have one the greatest seasons in college baseball season history.

“It’s a little different when you play Oregon State, huh?” Stuper said.

Oregon State was passed for the tournament a year ago, lost two of three games in 2015, then was upset when they were the No. 1 overall seed in 2014 by UC Irvine.

This weekend was a three-game muscle flex, showing the nation why they’ve been the unanimous No.1 team since March 27.

The Yale Bulldogs came into the regional as one of the hottest teams in baseball, winning 16 of 19 games to end the season and ranked in the top-50 in the RPI.

The Orange and Black Machine that has become the Oregon State baseball team rolled over Holy Cross 8-2 on Friday, shutout Yale 11-0 Saturday before Sunday’s victory to win their 19th straight game, while tying a school record with 51 wins in a season.

Michael Gretler went yard twice, Harrison broke a car window parked behind the left field fence and Steven Kwan (the Regional’s Most Outstanding Player) finished with eight of the team’s 41 hits on the weekend.

“If you put good swings on it, it’s always got a chance,” Gretler said.

While the balls were launching off the Beavers’ bats, the OSU pitching staff kept up their historic pace and didn’t allow any chances for teams to make a comeback.

Jake Thompson and Luke Heimlich set the tone for the team on the mound. Thompson would Thompson struck out 10 Holy Cross batters.

“Jake kept us there, and we stayed with it, and were able to get on the board,” head coach Pat Casey said after Friday’s victory.

But it was Heimlich who sent Stupers—a former major league pitcher—into a trance. Calling Heimlich the best college pitcher he has seen, and putting the nation’s leader in ERA in a category of some of the game’s all-time great pitchers.

“I think he has a real good chance to be a top of the rotation guy in the big leagues,” Stuper said. “And I’m hard to impress. If you asked me if I had seen a better-left hander, I’d say yeah I have: [Clayton] Kershaw, [Steve] Carlton, Sandy Koufax…but seriously he’s just outstanding.”

The one time Heimlich ran into trouble in the fourth inning when he issued a four-pitch, leadoff walk. Yale’s Alex Stiegler would break up Heimlich’s no-hit bid with a ground-rule double into the right field corner. The Bulldogs had runners on second and third with no outs.

But Heimlich would do what he did all year—keeping runners from scoring. Heimlich maneuvered his way out of the jam, sitting down the next three Yale batter by way of a groundout, strikeout and fly out without scoring a run.

“I’m sure this joke has been used before, but I feel like I need a Heimlich maneuver right now,” The kid is legitimate. I’ve been here 25 years, I pitched in the big leagues, he’s the best pitcher I’ve seen in college baseball,” Heimlich said.

Oregon State will now play the winner of the Clemson Regional, which will be either Clemson or Vanderbilt who play their final game on Friday. The winner of the three-game series will punch their ticket to the College World Series.

After being outscored by OSU 19-1, Stuper sees big things ahead for the Beavers.

“I think they’re destined for Omaha,” he said.