Cadyn Grenier, Trevor Larnach Fuel Oregon State Comeback In CWS Thriller

Image credit: Outfielder Trevor Larnach of the Oregon State Beavers reacts after hitting a two run home run to give the Beavers a 5-3 lead in the ninth inning against the Arkansas Razorbacks during game two of the College World Series Championship Series. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

OMAHA, Neb.—Cadyn Grenier spits in his orange batting gloves and rubs them together. He adjusts his silver-framed glasses, pushes his helmet into place and digs his cleats into the righthanded batter’s box.

I’m gonna get the job done. I’m gonna get a hit. I’m gonna find a way to get on base and tie this game.

That’s the only mentality on which Grenier can operate—he’s got to visualize it, see it, believe it. The man on third is a pinch-runner, Zach Clayton, who advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and moved 90 feet further on a Nick Madrigal grounder. So close, but so far. Fail, and the season’s over, Grenier’s college career is over, and Arkansas is the national champion. In a teeth-clenching, gut-wrenching, palm-sweating 4 hour and 7 minute nine-inning thriller, these next few minutes are the ones that truly matter. These few minutes are the game.

I’m gonna get the job done.

Strike one. A blistering fastball from Razorbacks lefthanded closer Matt Cronin.

Oregon State had so many opportunities to put this Wednesday night game away early, the second in a best-of-three College World Series finals. The Beavers had the bases loaded with one out and a one-run lead in the fifth inning—with their best two hitters due up at the plate. But Arkansas freshman righty Kole Ramage got Trevor Larnach whiffing at a darting, tumbling, 82 mph changeup below the zone, and coaxed a weak inning-ending grounder from Adley Rutschman.

An inning later, in the sixth, Jack Anderson popped up a bunt with runners on the corners, Ramage lunged off the mound, caught it, and fired to third for a soul-crushing, rally-squashing double play.

Back to the ninth. Ball one to Grenier—another Cronin fastball, eye level. An easy take.

It’s a 3-2 game now, and 25,580 spectators, mostly painted Razorback Red, are screaming at unearthly, ear-shattering decibels. They’re hoping to soon scream even louder. This is the moment they’ve been pining for, the first national championship in program history. This is the moment Oregon State has been dreading. The team that was supposed to win it all a year ago, when it lost just a mind-boggling four games in the regular season, the team with three first-rounders in the starting lineup, the team with the potential 2019 No. 1 overall pick playing catcher, the team with seemingly all the talent in the world—the best team to never win a title?

A 91 mph fastball on the outside corner, and this time Grenier swings, a vicious uppercut that sends the baseball shooting straight into the air—and with it, 25,000 sets of hands and 25,000 smartphones.

Oh, this ball is hanging up too long.

Grenier can do nothing but panic as he holds his bat in his hands and gingerly carries it with him down the first-base line.

It’s staying in play. They’re gonna catch it. Our season’s over.

Arkansas second baseman Carson Shaddy, first baseman Jared Gates and right fielder Eric Cole all make a mad sprint toward the stands in shallow right field as 25,000 thumbs hover over the picture buttons on their phones.

No one calls for the ball.

Shaddy clips Gates in the arm as he runs by him, Cole slows to a halt, avoiding a collision. And the baseball, stunningly, finds dirt between all three of them in foul territory—the championship-clinching out that could’ve been.

“You know, it’s a tough play,” Shaddy would say afterward, still visibly shell-shocked. “I was running and didn’t hear anybody call it. So I just kept running, trying to make the play and overran it. It’s a tough break.”

For Grenier—relief, a relief as overwhelming and sweeping as the despair he felt three seconds earlier. It doesn’t last long. He digs back into the box. He has two strikes on him.

I’ve got another life, and I’m going to attack this next pitch the same way I’ve been approaching the whole at-bat.

Another high fastball, for a ball. Then another, fouled back.

And I’m just going to battle.

Grenier readjusts his batting gloves, as his teammates lean anxiously over the dugout rail, clasping arms. Cronin sets and fires. Another fastball, but this time Grenier doesn’t miss. He rips a grounder through the 5-6 hole on the left side of the infield, Clayton races home, the Beavers spill out of the first-base dugout and onto the grass, Grenier slaps his first-base coach’s hand and yells an expletive. Tie game.

After this all ends, after this next ball hurdles over the right-field fence, after closer Jake Mulholland closes the door in the bottom half of the ninth and the Beavers walk into the post-game press conference 5-3 winners—Game 2 left-for-dead survivors—Grenier will play this cool. He’ll seem calm and confident. And Larnach will downplay this next swing, with the same even-keeled stoic responses he always gives.

“I actually top-spun it,” Larnach will say flatly, “I’m kind of famous for that at Oregon State.”

And Grenier will joke, “Must suck being able to top-spin balls out of the park.”

Later they’ll say that they always believed they would win, that they had no doubts, that their high character and sticktoitiveness got them here.

But this isn’t later. This is now, and this is the beauty of college baseball. This the beauty of Omaha. This is why you sit through the four-hour marathon—for the four seconds that change everything. For the M. Night Shyamalan twist.

Larnach, who struck out in that bases-loaded fifth, digs in against Cronin after Grenier’s Reset Button-pushing single. He takes two fastballs well out of the zone, and then he turns on the third—a straight fastball just begging to be clobbered on the inner third of the plate.

From first base, Grenier doesn’t pick up the ball’s trajectory. He only sees the top spin.

I’m thinking double. I’m scoring from first.

He puts his head down and runs harder than he’s ever run. As he burns past second, he glances toward third-base coach Andy Jenkins. Will he wave him around third? Will he throw up his hands?

Jenkins does neither.

Instead, Jenkins starts jumping, up and down, up and down. On the opposite basepath, Larnach slaps his chest repeatedly with his right hand. Near home plate, an orange, gray and black mob awaits, sizzling with primal energy.

And that’s when Grenier realizes he was right along:

He will get the job done.

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