CWS: Day six wrap: Casey brings joy to the Mudville Nine

DAM! Beavers again!

This is weird. This is Rod Serling weird man. Okay, lemme put it this way, raise your hand if, at the beginning of the season, you thought Oregon Freakin' State would be in the national championship series? Go ahead, let me see 'em...

That's what I thought. Not a damn soul thought this would happen.

How do you lose a Dallas Buck, a Kevin Gunderson, a Jonah Nickerson, a Chris Kunda, a Bill Rowe and a Tyler Graham and still make a run at the big brass ring the next season?

Here's how... I've got two words for you: Pat Casey.

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(Media director Lenli Corbett and OSU coach Pat Casey in post-game)

I'm betting the OSU fan base is glad he didn't take that dangling carrot called the Notre Dame job in the off-season. According to the people I talked to up in Corvallis when I was there for the Arizona State series, the ND job is the ONLY gig in the country that he would've left Oregon for. And that has more to do with his being a strict catholic than it does about money prying him away from his Oregon roots. He loves Notre Dame.

But after careful consideration, his heart was still with his family and his home state institution, Oregon State University.

We've also got to send a shout out to the leadership of guys like Darwin Barney, Mike Lissman and Mitch Canham, who held this team together with duct tape and bailing wire after it looked like their season was sunk in early May. Even Coach Casey admitted after tonight's game, "we'd be sitting at home if it wasn't for the leadership of these guys helping us develop confidence in our younger guys."

So considering the Beavers made it back to the title round for another swing, do we DARE use a set of words that we NEVER thought would belong together in the same sentence? Those being "Oregon State baseball" and "dynasty?"

My God! What is this world coming to?


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Okay, on to today's pair of games from Rosenblatt.

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GAME ONE.
UNC- 120 000 300- 6 8 0
Rice- 000 000 100- 1 7 2

WP: Robert Woodard, 11-2
LP: Ryan Berry, 11-3

Top Hitters:
UNC-
Tim Fedroff, 2-for-3, 1rbi
Dustin Ackley, 2-for-5, HR 3rbi
Rice-
Brian Friday, 2-for-4
Danny Lehmann, 2-for-4, rbi

Game Time: 2:42
Attendance: 18,000 (approx. Today is considered a double-header)

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In A Nutshell---
UNC coach Mike Fox was wrong. He said yesterday that his team would need more than the three hits they got against Louisville to beat Rice. But in hindsight, three hits was all his team needed again today. UNC jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two innings on the strength of three hits (okay, and a walk, two errors and two hit batsmen) and UNC cruised from there to a 6-1 win over Rice. As you might guess from the score, they were never really threatened after the second inning.

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Key Moment---
The 2nd inning jitters for Rice.
Back-to-back errors by SS Brian Friday and 2B Aaron Luna to begin the 2nd inning for the Tarheels, opened the gates for UNC to build on its 1-0 lead and - strange as it sounds - put the game away right then and there. Both Chad Flack and Dustin Ackley, the two beneficiaries of the Es, came around to score. Flack scored on a bases-loaded walk by Reid Fronk and Ackley scored on a sac fly by Tim Fedroff.

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Working for the Clampdown---
After jumping out to that early lead, the Tarheel pitching and defense took over. Robert Woodard went 6.2 innings, giving up just the lone run and only five hits. Rob Wooten and Andrew Carignan finished things off by giving up just a hit each. But the defense was brilliant, getting a pair of big-time double plays to end Rice threats in the 4th and 7th and committing no errors along the way.

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Shades of '06---
I'm sure I'm not the first one to mention the fact that Rice is mirroring their performance of 2006 where they started out 2-0 and then the bats went quiet in a pair of losses to Oregon State. Today, the seven hits and single run is very reminiscent of that. But Rice at least made some solid contact and threatened in the latter innings. So it's not as dire as last year's hitless wonders.

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Fox News on Woodard---
UNC coach Mike Fox was gushing about his ace on the mound after tonight's game, as you might expect. "I've been fortunate to coach a lot of good players, but none have had the heart that Robert Woodard has. So today didn't surprise me about how he came out and pitched after a rough first outing. Robert's confident and has as much pride in his performance and how he prepares. He regroups between pitches and between innings. It's all about a mindset."

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Dustin Off the Bats---
Tarheel Freshman sensation Dustin Ackley came into his third at-bat in today's game on a 1-for-15 skein. But he then got a single in the 5th and a three-run home run in the 7th to bust out and give UNC some insurance runs, breaking the backs of the Owls. Prior to today's game, Ackley had been dropped from the No. 2 spot in the batting order down to No. 7. Ackley's two hits give him 114 on the season, breaking the UNC single-season record of 113 previously held by Chad Flack from 2006.

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Kids and young players everywhere, don't read the following statement---
Rice SS Brian Friday, when asked about why he didn't wear any shades or eye black after he dropped a routine pop-up which he lost in the sun, "I've never worn sunglasses or eye black in the field and I won't ever wear it. I just didn't shield the ball well that's all." Ummm-hmmm.

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Various notes on today's first game---
- With today's win, UNC now ties Rice for first in the nation in total wins with 56.
- Prior to Dustin Ackley's 7th-inning dinger, UNC had hit just one home run in the last 14 games.
- Rob Wooten has now pitched in all 10 NCAA tournament games for Carolina, helping to break the school record mark for appearances at 45.
- Rice's 2nd inning error snapped a streak of 38.2 innings of error-free defense dating back to the 9th inning of Rice's Regional title game with TCU.
- UNC's arm staff had it's string of 15.1 innings of scoreless innings snapped by Rice in the 7th inning by Danny Lehmann's RBI double.


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GAME TWO.
UCI - 000 100 000- 1 5 1
OSU - 004 010 11x- 7 11 0

WP: Daniel Turpen, 10-1
LP: Christian Bergman, 0-4

Top Hitters-
UCI-
Cody Cipriano, 2-for-3, double
Ollie Linton, 1-for-4, 1rbi
OSU-
Mitch Canham, 3-for-5, HR, 3rbi
John Wallace, 1-for-4, triple, 1rbi
Darwin Barney, 3-for-5, 2rbi

Game Time: 2:59
Attendance: 29,921 (2nd largest crowd in CWS history)


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In A Nutshell---
Hands down, the Beavers did something to UC Irvine that nobody else has been able to do in the last three weeks - they destroyed their will to compete. The biggest factor was that OSU didn't get complacent. Instead, they not only raced out to a 4-0 lead, but they also punched across some late runs in the 5th, 7th and 8th to deflate the hopes of the already leg-weary Anteaters. There would be no comeback, no magic, no storybook finish for UCI. Thanks to an experienced, diligent OSU team that seemed intent on making history here this week.

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Key Moment---
The missed out calls.
In the decisive 3rd inning, Mike Lissman bounced a grounder to 'Eater 3B Tyler Vaughn. But Vaughn's high throw pulled Taylor Holiday off first. Holiday appeared to tag Lissman as he ran by, though it was such a quick, bang-bang play that it looked like a call that could've gone either way - and by the way, 1st base umpire Scott Graham called Lissman safe. But as you might've noticed on the replay, Beaver baserunner Chris Hopkins was rounding third at the same time as the play at first and obviously put his hands on 3rd base coach Marty Lees, before racing home to score. Normally, if an umpire sees that happen (just like in last night's UCI-Arizona State game) it's an automatic out. So that's potentially two outs on one play and UCI got neither. That's tough luck.

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Turpen-time---
For the second year in a row, OSU's Daniel Turpen stepped up in front of the largest crowd in CWS history and performed well. Tonight's 8-inning, 5-hit squashing by Turpen of UCI put the Beavers into the title series for the second straight year. The win improved Turpen to 10-1 on the season. He has also allowed two earned runs or less in 10 of his 13 starts this season. Joe Paterson came on to record the last three outs without any drama whatsoever tonight. If only Texas, Wichita State, Cal State Fullerton and Arizona State were so lucky.

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Quick message to all those dooms-day Beaver fans---
When I was in Corvallis a month ago to see them drop three straight to high-powered Arizona State, the big buzz around Goss Stadium was how this team was either, A) Done. No post-season. or B) Would have to sweep UCLA and still have to hope for a bid.

Well I know that the Beavers were one of the last teams to get an at-large bid, but I didn't think it was that dire of a situation at the time of the ASU series. Here's why:

1- Portland Oregonian sports Godhead Norm Maves Jr. pointed out to me tonight, OSU went 36-4 in the non-conference. And that's a non-conference slate that was chock-full of good teams.
And
2- Even though the RPI always screws teams that are geographically challenged like OSU, it still had the Beavs at a No. 34 rating at the time. Usually that's good enough to get a bid. (It's also yet another indication that the RPI sucks. No. 34? For a team playing for the national title? Way to go worthless judging system.)

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Key Unsung Stat---
The leadoff bats/eyes.
OSU's 1-and-2 hitters Chris Hopkins and Joey Wong combined to go just 2-for-6 today. But Hopkins also got on with a walk and two hit-by-pitches tonight. Meanwhile Wong laid down a great sac bunt to help ignite the 4-run 3rd inning and started the 5th inning with a double, eventually coming around to score.

At the same token, UCI's top two, Taylor Holiday and Ben Orloff went a combined 1-for-8. The lone hit was in Orloff's first at-bat and he was stranded at 2nd base.

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Various notes on tonight's second game---
- OSU has not trailed since the second inning of its game at Virginia on June 5th. That's a span of 52 innings.
- OSU has now held eight of its 10 opponents in the NCAA tournament to three runs or less.
- Talk about clutch, Oregon State is now hitting .426 and driven in 12 of its 22 runs with two outs in NCAA tournament games
- Tonight's loss snapped a string of five straight one-run games for the Anteaters.
- With their two hit batsmen tonight, UCI surpasses national leader Creighton for the most hit batsmen in a season at 119.


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NOTES.

Pat Casey isn't all about intensity.
In the 4th inning of tonight's second game, a beachball was actually hit into the OSU dugout and landed at the feet of Coach Casey. Instead of stomping on the thing with a pair of spikes, three seconds later Casey tossed the large piece of national-championship-deciding distraction back into the crowd. But no, he didn't smile while doing it.

Hit By Pitch rule.
Again, something has got to change about this damn thing. Tonight, Bryan Petersen became the 12 hit batsmen for UC Irvine to extend the CWS record for HBP by a team.

Coach speak on Hit By Pitch rule.
Rice's Wayne Graham, "I think it's a style of play that addresses certain issues that I can't address here. It's a style of play dictated by the environment they play in. That's about all I can say about it."
UNC's Mike Fox, "Our four guys that got hit today couldn't help it. It's not our philosophy or our style of play that we teach. And I think pitchers just throw more inside nowadays.

Can't watch.
The Going Yard guys did a short feature on UCI coach Dave Serrano's wife, Tracy. During the games, she gets so nervous and bound up in knots that she can't watch most of the game. Evan tod me that she gets physically sick when things get down to white-knuckle time. Man! Can you imagine how much of a near-death experience these last few games have to have been for her here in Omaha? Way to go Anteaters.

I bet you're wondering about that career saves leader, huh?
UCI's Blair Erickson finished his four-year career with 53 saves. But in four CWS games, he only pitched little more than an inning. It's mainly because he had a very erratic senior year. Even on the night he broke the record vs. Cal Poly, Coach Serrano told me after that game, "Blair's last few outings have been a circus. You never know what you're gonna get with him." Since that save over Cal Poly on April 14th, Erickson has only had three more saves.

On the radio.
Lastly, in between today's two games, I was on a local Omaha radio show run by Matt Perrault on Big Sports 590. He asked me my thoughts on the College World Series, the state of college baseball and the future home of the CWS in Omaha (with heavy emphasis on the new stadium). He said he had heard that if Henry Doorly Zoo gets its panda exhibit on the site where Rosenblatt currently sits, it will be only the second zoo in the world with a panda exhibit (the other being San Diego). That means BIG money to that place. No wonder the Zoo peeps want to get rid of Rosenblatt.

Here's a quick shot of me while on the air. I'm holding the damn microphone like some 80s soft rock singer. Good night Irene!

MeOnBig590.jpg
(Me and Big Sports 590 host Matt Perrault between games today)


Okay, that's enough for now. As noted by the time (yes Jeremy Mills, it's THAT late!), I've gotta go to bed.

G'night.

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert