THE GAME AT A GLANCE
Turning Point: Mitch Canham drove in the game’s first run with a sac fly in the second inning, and John Wallace’s RBI ground out in the fifth inning capped the scoring. That was all Oregon State needed in the eyes of first baseman Bill Rowe. “One thing I noticed when I looked into their dugout last night and tonight, they didn’t look like they could come back and beat us,” he said. “I felt as long as we could score first, with our pitching and defense, they couldn’t come back and beat us.”
The Hero: Junior righthander Jonah Nickerson started and won his second elimination game for Oregon State on two days’ rest. He didn’t show any signs of fatigue, holding Rice to two hits over 7 2/3 innings.
You May Not Have Noticed: Oregon State won the game while notching just three hits. Rice’s Eddie Degerman allowed all three hits and both Rice runs in 4 2/3 innings while taking the loss. He allowed only one hit and three earned runs Saturday in a no decision against Georgia. Degerman’s CWS totals of five runs allowed on four hits in 11 innings don’t quite seem to add up to his 0-1 record.
OMAHA–The theory goes that a team that wins
its first two College World Series games gains a big advantage by
limiting the number of games it plays and keeping its pitching staff
fresher and sharper.
Someone forgot to tell that to Oregon
The Beavers won their fourth straight elimination game
Thursday night behind their fourth straight dominant starting
pitching performance. Jonah Nickerson, who started the win streak
with seven strong innings Monday against Georgia, returned on two
days’ rest to help Oregon State shut out Rice for the second straight
game as it earned a 2-0 win in front of 19,161 spectators at
“You just saw one of the gutsiest
performances by any person I’ve seen in the game of baseball,”
Oregon State coach Pat Casey said. “Our guys scrapped to find a
way to score against the unbelievable pitching Rice had.”
Oregon State (48-15) advanced to the
CWS championship series, where it will face North Carolina in a
best-of-3 series that begins Saturday. The Beavers hardly resembled
the team that lost 11-1 to Miami in their CWS opener, well except for
the fact that they turned out just three hits against Rice starter
Eddie Degerman (13-2).
Nickerson still out-pitched Degerman.
He held Rice to two hits over 7 2/3 innings and struck out nine
batters. He told the Oregon State coaching staff he was ready to
pitch Wednesday in the first game against Rice, but they wouldn’t
even let him throw in the bullpen. Casey and pitching coach Dan
Spencer discussed using Nickerson for this game Wednesday night and
settled on it this morning.
“My arm felt fine,” said
Nickerson, who has thrown 223 pitches over 14 2/3 innings since
Monday. “I thought I could have started yesterday. I felt like
it was a normal start except I had no legs under me, but my arm felt
“You don’t really expect to throw
on two days’ rest, but I took care of my arm. Everything I’ve done
all year to care for my arm has paid off.”
Casey nor Nickerson expected the
righthander to go more than five innings, but he used Rice’s
aggressiveness against them, getting two-pitch outs to get deep into
the game. Nickerson (13-4) worked hitters backwards more than he
usually does, throwing more breaking pitches early in counts because
he didn’t have as much velocity on his fastball without his legs
fully under him.
Nickerson’s performance was just
another dominant outing from a starting staff that has combined to
allow three runs on 15 hits over 27 2/3 innings the last four games
for a 0.98 ERA. Nickerson worked two of those games, and actually
threw better in his second start after allowing two runs on four hits
over seven innings against Georgia.
“Even the best of teams go cold
sometime,” Rice coach Wayne Graham said. “I’ve almost
always seen the best of teams go cold when the opposing pitching is
Closer Kevin Gunderson recorded the
final four outs to earn his 19th save of the year. That tied Kansas’
Don Czyz for the national lead. His teammates were so confident in
Gunderson that the rest of the pitchers left the bullpen for the
dugout when he entered the game.
Gunderson finished off the victory to
eliminate Rice (57-13), which didn’t lose a three-game series all
season but finished the year with consecutive losses and a CWS-record 23-inning
“They were the No. 2 national seed
and ranked No. 1 for most of the year,” Gunderson said. “I
think that’s a tribute to our pitching staff. We didn’t do anything
special. We just hit our spots and Jonah was awesome, pitching on two