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 Rosenblatt Stadium.
"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 fine.
"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 great."
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 scoreless streak.
"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 days' rest."