OMAHA, Neb. -- After carrying Oregon State throughout the College World Series, Kevin Abel and Adley Rutschman did so one more time as the Beavers captured their third national title with a 5-0 victory over Arkansas on Thursday night.One night after earning a victory with a scoreless inning of relief
OMAHA, Neb. -- After carrying Oregon State throughout the College World Series, Kevin Abel and Adley Rutschman did so one more time as the Beavers captured their third national title with a 5-0 victory over Arkansas on Thursday night.
One night after earning a victory with a scoreless inning of relief in advance of a dramatic ninth-inning rally, Abel set records for wins in a CWS (four) and fewest hits allowed (two) in a championship game. Rutschman provided three hits to establish a series mark with 17, drove in two runs and scored a third.
"What they did here," Oregon State coach Pat Casey said, "will be remembered for a long time."
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The CWS championship didn't come easy. The Beavers (55-12) had to overcome losses to North Carolina in the first round and to Arkansas in the championship series opener, and they would have lost the finals in two straight games had the Razorbacks (48-21) been able to catch a foul pop with two out in the top of the ninth on Wednesday. Thanks to Abel and Rutschman, they were able to cruise in the decisive third contest.
A freshman right-hander who's a potential first-round pick in the 2020 Draft, Abel had his entire arsenal working against Arkansas. He retired the final 20 batters he faced and recorded 10 strikeouts -- four on fastballs, four on curveballs and two on fading changeups.
"Abel was incredible," Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn said. "Mixing that fastball, 90-92 miles an hour, with that plus changeup. And just showing that fastball enough that it kept us out front, breaking ball was good. He didn't throw it a lot, but it really had depth. He just kept us off balance."
A day after Abel threw 23 pitches in relief, Casey hoped to get four or five innings out of him. Instead, he worked nine innings for the first time in his life, throwing 82 of 129 pitches for strikes. Arkansas loaded the bases against him with one out in the top of the third inning and never had another batter reach base.
"My job was to go as far as I could," Abel said. "Whether it was three innings, four innings, five innings didn't matter. ... I didn't really have the curveball at the start of the game and we didn't even call it really in innings three through seven. But I had fastball command and the changeup off of it, overlaying the two."
"This guy just went nine innings, complete-game shutout in the biggest game of the year and he said he didn't have his best stuff," Rutschman said. "I'm just baffled right now. That shows how good he's going to be. He's a great pitcher."
Abel battled his control through much of the first half of his first college season, to the extent that Casey said, "We were pulling our hair out trying to get him in the zone."
But he turned a corner after walking six in a loss to Stanford in mid-May, and he showed what he was capable of by shutting out Louisiana State for eight innings in the regional playoff clincher.
In Omaha, Abel provided Oregon State with its only two quality starts in eight games and won all four of his appearances. He allowed one run in four relief innings against Washington in the first round, started and held Mississippi State to one run in seven innings in the bracket championship game Saturday and struck out the side in the eighth inning on Wednesday. All told, he gave up two runs in 21 CWS innings, striking out 23 while permitting just 14 baserunners.
Rutschman was just as dominant at the plate as Abel was on the mound. A sophomore catcher and a leading candidate to go No. 1 overall in the 2019 Draft, he had three straight multihit games in the finals and sparked scoring outbursts with each of his three hits on Thursday. He had RBI singles in the first and third innings and scored after singling again in the fifth.
Rutschman went 17-for-30 in Omaha, batting .567/.649/.867 with more extra-base hits (five) and walks (seven) than strikeouts (four). He broke Jacoby Ellsbury's school record for hits with 100 and erased another held by Michael Conforto with 83 RBIs. He's a switch-hitter as well, and his receiving skills and cannon arm stand out just as much as his offensive prowess.
"A guy gets on and it's like go ahead and steal, do us a favor," Abel said. "He steals strikes better than anyone. He probably stole 25 for me tonight and he was phenomenal, keeping the ball in front of him. He's just unreal. . . . And then he just rakes, he hits the ball, doesn't matter who it is, what side of the plate, he just hits. He's been a big spark for us this year. I've never seen anything like it."
The championship helped erase a bitter end to Oregon State's 2017 season. The Beavers won 56 of their first 60 games and were one victory away from the CWS finals, where they could have laid claim to being the best college team ever by finishing with a national title. Instead, Louisiana State beat them in consecutive games before losing to Florida in the final round.
"Having the season we had last year was phenomenal, but to come up short, there's that missing piece at the end that you can never get back," said Rutschman, who went 1-for-15 in Omaha as a freshman. "You don't know if you're ever going to make it back to Omaha. This place is a special place, but to be able to come through the losers bracket, play eight games, the maximum amount here, having everyone step up at the right time when we needed them to, it just makes everything so much better."
College World Series championship series
Tuesday, June 26
Arkansas 4, Oregon State 1
Wednesday, June 27
Oregon State 5, Arkansas 3
Thursday, June 28
Oregon State 5, Arkansas 0
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.