OMAHA, Neb. — Unbeaten national wins leader Jake Thompson was scuffling, his teammates were struggling against Connor Seabold, and Oregon State was facing a four-run deficit that was its biggest in almost two months.
This Beavers team can never be counted out, though. They have, after all, lost only four times.
After reliever Jake Mulholland settled things down for the Beavers and Fullerton coach Rick Vanderhook made a pitching change he ended up regretting, Oregon State came back to beat the Titans 6-5 on Saturday in the College World Series opener.
“I think just with how this whole season’s gone for us, we know that we’re in just about any game,” the Beavers’ Jack Anderson said. “Doesn’t matter. We’re down one, down four, we’re just believing in ourselves regardless of the score.”
Adley Rutschman hit the tie-breaking single in the eighth inning after having flied out four times and stranded eight runners in his previous at-bats, Mulholland pitched 4 1/3 innings of no-hit relief and No. 1 seed Oregon State (55-4) extended its winning streak to 22 games.
Thompson, who came into the game with 14 wins, lasted 3 2/3 innings in his shortest outing of the season. Mulholland (7-1), who throws in the mid-80s compared with the low 90s for Thompson, retired 12 of 13 batters. The hard-throwing Drew Rasmussen pitched the ninth for his second save.
“Mully was really good,” Beavers coach Pat Casey said. “He just carved — goes in, out, soft, firm. And then he’s a contrast to the velocity of Jake Thompson, and I imagine that Drew looked like he was throwing 200 when he got in the game after Mully’s stuff.”
The Beavers tied it with four runs in the sixth inning, and Rutschman put them ahead with his single up the middle off Blake Workman (6-3).
Timmy Richards’ three-run homer in the first and Chris Hudgins’ two-run single in the fourth gave the Titans (39-23) a 5-1 lead, the largest deficit the Beavers have faced since losing 7-1 to UCLA on April 22.
Seabold worked a strong five innings, but his pitch count ballooned to 97 and he was relieved by Colton Eastman to start the bottom of the sixth. Eastman, who was spectacular in a seven-inning start in the super regional-clinching win over Long Beach State last Sunday, couldn’t find the strike zone.
“They’re really good,” Vanderhook said of the Beavers, “and I’m stupid. I out-thought myself. Eastman was on a normal rest. We had a healthy lead. At that point, I figured let’s turn it over to the best guy. I let them get back in the game, and you don’t do that to good teams.
“When you have them down, you keep them down, and we didn’t do that. We gave them momentum, and they took advantage of it. That’s why they’ve only lost four games.”
Eastman got only two batters out, walked four and threw 40 pitches, including 13 to KJ Harrison during an at-bat that ended with a bases-loaded walk.
Workman came on and Trevor Larnach singled up the middle for two runs, and Jack Anderson followed with another base hit to center to tie it 5-all.
Thompson struggled from the start, issuing a leadoff walk and hitting a batter before Richards drilled a fastball into the left-center seats. Thompson left after Hudgins’ two-run single in the fourth.
“I never should have said before the game what my biggest concern was, that he would be too amped up and won’t throw the ball where he wants,” Casey said. “He was a little over-excited.”
The Titans lost their eighth straight CWS game over five appearances. They went 0-2 in 2007, 2009 and 2015.
“We’ve lost a lot of first games (this season) and won a lot of second games,” Vanderhook said. “I wish we were playing tomorrow. I wish we didn’t have a day off. They’d like to get right back on the horse, but we don’t get to do that.”
Hurst, the Fullerton center fielder, made the defensive play of the game in the top of the eighth when he went to the wall to catch Harrison’s fly and rob him of extra bases. Larnach, the next batter, singled to start the Beavers’ winning rally.
As long as the Beavers keep winning, their pitching situation should be OK, Casey said. Bryan Fehmel will start Monday, and Rasmussen would be available Wednesday if he’s not needed in relief Monday.
“You’d like to be in a situation where you know who your 1, 2 and 3 are,” he said, “and we’re not in that situation.”
Pac-12 pitcher of the year Luke Heimlich has not been with the team since super regionals. It was revealed last week that when Heimlich was a teenager he pleaded guilty to molesting a 6-year-old girl. He is not with the team in Omaha.
Oregon State plays Monday night against the winner of the Florida State-LSU game Saturday night. Fullerton plays the loser of that game Monday afternoon.
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