OMAHA—In the top of the fifth inning Wednesday night, Jonathan Casey (son of Oregon State coach Pat Casey) approached Matt Boyd in the dugout.
“He said, ‘Hey, throw a no-hitter, throw a no-hitter, throw a no-hitter!” Boyd recalled with a chuckle. “I laughed and said, ‘Thanks, Jonny, I will.’ ”
Boyd proceeded to give up his first hit of the game in the bottom of the frame, but he didn’t give up a lot else. OSU’s senior lefthander turned in one of the best College World Series pitching performances in years to win one of the best Omaha pitching duels in years, 1-0 against Indiana’s Aaron Slegers. Both pitchers went the distance, but Boyd allowed just four hits and three walks while striking out 11 in his third shutout of the season. It was the first 1-0 game at the CWS since 1985, and the first nine-inning 1-0 game since 1977. The win propelled Oregon State to the bracket final against Mississippi State, while Indiana was eliminated after a 1-2 showing in Omaha.
|Game At A Glance|
|Turning Point: The game’s only run came in the top of the fourth, when Kavin Keyes led off with a single to center for Oregon State. Third baseman Dustin DeMuth crashed toward the plate anticipating a bunt from Ryan Barnes, but instead he slashed a double down the left-field line, putting men at second and third. Then Keyes scored on Jake Rodriguez’s sacrifice fly to left.
The Hero: Matt Boyd out-dueled Indiana’s Aaron Slegers by allowing just four hits and three walks in a complete-game shutout. Boyd allowed just one runner to reach scoring position—in the fifth—and set a TD Ameritrade Park record by recording 11 strikeouts.
You Might Have Missed: Indiana was shut out for the first time this season. The Hoosiers averaged 6.9 runs per game this season, but their season is over even though they allowed just six runs in three games in Omaha. They also scored just six runs in those three games. Indiana just struggled to make consistent contact, especially against lefties Boyd, Chad Girodo of Mississippi State and Cody Ege of Louisville. After averaging 5.7 strikeouts per game this season, IU’s offense struck out 38 times in three CWS games (12.7 per game).
“The unfortunate part is that these are some of the best lefties in the country, and it’s hard to get mad at your guys,” Indiana coach Tracy Smith said. “I give credit to them. We’re a good hitting team, and that guy (Boyd) stifled a good hitting team.”
“For entertainment value, I think it was off the charts,” Indiana coach Tracy Smith said of the game. “It’s just one of those where you had two guys who were on tonight. And both of them were throwing extremely well tonight.”
The way Boyd started the game, there’s no wonder Jon Casey thought he could throw a no-hitter. Through three innings, Indiana put just one ball in play, as Boyd racked up five strikeouts, issued two walks and picked off both baserunners attempting to steal. Boyd credits Bellevue (Wash.) CC coach Mark Yoshino with teaching him that pickoff move when he was about 8 years old.
“He used to say I walked guys on purpose just to pick them off,” Boyd said. “That wasn’t on purpose tonight. But it’s been a weapon for me growing up.”
His curveball and, especially, his slider were even bigger weapons Wednesday. He showed outstanding feel for his breaking balls from the outset of the game, using them to record six of his seven strikeouts through the first four innings. And he hit his spots with his 86-89 mph fastball.
“He talked about getting ahead with his offspeed pitches, but his fastball was great today,” OSU catcher Jake Rodriguez said. “I think he got ahead more with his fastball, worked both sides of the plate with his fastball. He was down with all of his pitches, that’s why he was so successful. And when we needed him to throw an offspeed pitch early or late in the count, he hit his spot and threw balls in the dirt and did a great job all night keeping them off balance.”
Like Mississippi State’s Chad Girodo on Monday, Boyd had success against Indiana’s righties by throwing his slider to the back door or the back foot. He did not break out his changeup until the final out of the eighth inning, when he used it to strike out Justin Cureton.
“My changeup’s usually my best offspeed, in my opinion, but I threw it three times today, and not until the eighth and ninth,” Boyd said. “I don’t think that’s ever happened in a successful start. But I felt like even in the bullpen, it was my best pitch. I was talking to pitching coach (Nate) Yeskie the first time through (the order), and he goes, ‘You haven’t even thrown your changeup yet.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah. It feels great, too.’ He said, ‘Let’s see if we can hold it off as long as we can.’ It’s always beneficial when you can hold a pitch off and show it later, increase its effectiveness.”
Likewise, Slegers broke out his changeup effectively in the late innings after pounding the zone with his 89-90 fastball and good 81-83 slider for most of the game. He seemed to get stronger as the game went on, touching 92-93 in the eighth inning. He struck out just one batter through 7 1/3 innings, then recorded four of his final five outs with strikeouts.
But Oregon State got to him for a run in the fourth inning, and it was all the support Boyd would need. Kavin Keyes led off the frame with a single to center, then advanced to third when Ryan Barnes slashed a double past third baseman Dustin DeMuth, who was crashing toward the plate in anticipation of the bunt. Jake Rodriguez then scored Keyes with a sacrifice fly to right. Indiana right fielder Casey Smith made it a close play with a strong throw to the plate, but the throw was to the first-base side of home, allowing Keyes to slide in before the tag.
“I didn’t know if it was going to get deep enough or take him far enough left that I would be able to tag,” Keyes said. “But (third base coach Andy Jenkins) is over there, and he’s saying, ‘Yes, yes, yes,’ and making sure that I was going to get there.”
Keyes’ explanation cased Pat Casey to smile. “I enjoy watching Kavin run,” Casey joked.
“Good thing we had the fastest guy at third base,” Keyes quipped.
“That would be Andy Jenkins,” Casey retorted.
It wasn’t the only jovial exchange during Oregon State’s postgame press conference. Casey was in particularly good spirits after watching Boyd—whom he has called one of his favorite players of all-time—turn in his masterpiece.
“When you coach young men—and it’s difficult enough, but he’s a no-maintenance guy,” Casey said of Boyd. “He takes care of everything. He goes to school, does well in school, trains. He’s the guy you never have to worry about. He’s just easy to coach; he’s just a great kid . . . And he’s just—he’s a really fun kid to coach and he’s a great man.”
At the other end of the podium, Boyd grinned, and it got wider and wider the longer Casey talked. He leaned forward and said, “Thanks, Coach!”
“You’re welcome, Matt,” Casey said. “Especially when he throws shutouts—then he’s a really good guy.”