TD AmeriBaum. pic.twitter.com/o16UduLfEO
— Razorback Baseball (@RazorbackBSB) June 27, 2018
A contested umpire’s call in the fourth inning Tuesday night tipped the momentum to the Arkansas Razorbacks, who capitalized on the good fortune to rally for a 4-1 victory over the Oregon State Beavers at the College World Series.
Arkansas is now one win away from its first NCAA baseball title.
The same two teams will play again Wednesday night in Game 2 of a best-of-three series for the championship. Game 3, if necessary, would be held Thursday. The series is being played in Omaha, Nebraska.
A key sequence in the opener unfolded in the bottom of the fourth when a baserunner interference call led to an Oregon State run being taken off the scoreboard.
Trevor Larnach opened the inning with a double to left on a fly ball that Arkansas leftfielder Heston Kjerstad lost in the sun. Adley Rutschman followed with a single, moving Larnach to third.
On Tyler Malone’s ground ball to the right side, Larnach ran home and crossed the plate, Rutschman was thrown out at second on the force and Malone was called safe at first on a double-play attempt.
Umpires, however, ruled that Rutschman — who ducked his head as he neared second base — had interfered with the relay throw from Arkansas shortstop Jax Biggers.
It meant that both Rutschman and Malone were erased on a double play. Worse for the Beavers, umps told Larnach that he had to go back to third.
Oregon State coach Pat Casey came out to argue, but the call stood.
From there, Arkansas pitcher Blaine Knight struck out Michael Gretler to end the inning, keeping the Beavers’ lead at 1-0.
In the top of the fifth, Oregon State starter and 16-game winner Luke Heimlich came unraveled, with the Razorbacks scoring four runs.
Heimlich walked one, hit two batters with pitches and watched as star Nick Madrigal made a critical infield error.
On the play, Casey Martin hit a slow roller that Madrigal failed to handle cleanly. So, instead of getting a force at second base for the second out of the inning, the third run of the inning scored and everyone was safe.
Heimlich would throw one last pitch, a ball, to Heston Kjerstad. After that, Casey pulled him for Christian Chamberlain, who proceeded to issue a walk to force in a run that made it 4-1.
The Beavers entered the day with 48 runs scored in five games at the CWS. But the Razorbacks’ pitching trio of Knight, Barrett Loseke and closer Matt Cronin combined to hold them in check.
Knight pitched six innings and allowed a run on seven hits, improving his record to 14-0 on the season. Loseke worked two innings and Cronin closed in the ninth.
Heimlich, a senior, took the loss and fell to 16-3.
He worked 4 and 1/3 innings and was charged with all four runs, three of them earned. Heimlich struck out five and walked two.
Chamberlain was dominant in 4 and 2/3 scoreless innings of relief. He yielded only two hits while striking out 11.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn, to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette:
“We feel very fortunate to have won the ball game. Baseball is a little different game sometimes, and you can have eight innings where you don’t do much and you put together one inning and you pitch good enough and play defense and you can win.”
Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, to the Corvallis Gazette-Times:
We’ve got to come out tomorrow with more of an edge and better competitiveness, and see what happens. There’s something about it, something about facing elimination that you can’t really explain. So I’m hoping we come out with that fire and energy tomorrow.”
Rutschman, on the interference call:
“I don’t exactly know the rule on it, but I just did my best to get out of the way and get out of his throwing lane. I just kind of crouched down, and I don’t really know what else to say … you can’t obstruct his throwing lane, so that’s just what I tried to do. I guess you can’t do that.”
Oregon State is expected to pitch righthander Bryce Fehmel (10-1, 3.16) on Wednesday night. Arkansas is scheduled counter with lefty Kacey Murphy (8-5, 3.15).
Game 1 had been scheduled for Monday, but it was rained out, pushing the opener to Tuesday.
Oregon State has been dealing with controversy in regard to Heimlich since this time last year when he left the team before the CWS after an Oregon newspaper reported that he had pleaded guilty to molesting a young relative when he was 15.
Officials allowed him to return to the team this season. The Associated Press reports that he served two years of probation and went through a treatment program. Heimlich denied wrongdoing in recent interviews with Sports Illustrated and the New York Times.
He was not drafted either last year or this year.
Oregon State 53-12-1