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Oregon State Offense Erupts At College World Series After Rain Delay

Nick-Madrigal-2016-bm

OMAHA, Neb.—Oregon State needed to reset. Badly.

The Beavers looked different—certainly different from the team that has won more than 100 games over the past two seasons. For the second straight College World Series game, head coach Pat Casey saw a team that prides itself on its athleticism and defense scuffle in the field; he saw his hitters try to get too big at the plate. And he saw the Beavers fall behind, by three runs, to Pac-12 Conference rival Washington in Monday’s elimination game.

And then, when the Beavers finally seemed to gain some offensive traction and loaded the bases—lightning struck. The grounds crew rolled the tarp onto the TD Ameritrade Park field, and the Beavers and Huskies sat idle for four and a half hours.

The scenario played out almost exactly as it did for Arkansas and Texas the day before. Just like that Sunday game, the rain came with the bases loaded in the sixth inning, and just as it did for Arkansas, the delay awakened a sleeping beast.

The Beavers emerged from the delay reinvigorated, renewed. Sophomore first baseman Tyler Malone drew a bases-loaded walk to immediately take the lead. In the next two innings, Oregon State scored nine runs combined. And a game that appeared headed for a photo finish morphed into a 14-5 Oregon State beatdown.

What changed?

“We just needed something to get us going, to get us excited,” Casey said. “I think a couple of those guys in the middle were trying to do it all at one time instead of doing what we do. And we got some baserunners, we got some energy, and we were off to the races.”

Much like it did for Arkansas the day before, that energy and that looseness arose from a much-needed, rain-induced timeout. For four and a half hours, the Beavers went from playing for their postseason lives to playing the popular clubhouse game “Mafia” and blasting music.

“Also, (freshman outfielder) Joe Casey did a 30 bubble gum piece challenge and stuffed 30 pieces of bubble gum in his mouth,” Malone excitedly said in the post-game press conference, raising his hands to both sides of his cheeks to demonstrate just much gum Casey forced into his mouth.

“He looked like a chipmunk. We kept it pretty loose.”

As silly as that might sound, for a team of 18- to 22-year-olds, that sort of youthful expression can provide an imperative mental breather and add some levity to an intense, pressure-filled atmosphere. It’s an effect that can’t exactly be quantified—other than the 10 runs Oregon State put up after the delay.

The Beavers had their way with the Washington bullpen after starter Jordan Jones had flummoxed them through the first four innings. In the seventh, senior designated hitter Kyle Nobach launched a three-run bomb over the right-field fence to extend the lead to 9-5, sending the Beavers spilling out of their dugout and swarming around home plate.

That homer would prove to be an appetizer, as the Beavers batted around in the next inning, scoring five runs on six hits to put the game well out of reach.

With the win, the Beavers advance through the losers' bracket and will take on the loser of Tuesday morning’s North Carolina and Mississippi State game. The Huskies, meanwhile, went 0-2 in their first CWS appearance.

While the Beavers devoted some time for fun both during and after the win, they also haven’t deviated from their mission—not in the slightest. During that same rain delay, All-American second baseman Nick Madrigal gathered the team and reminded them of the importance of winning for the team’s upperclassmen, to extend their college careers a little bit longer.

“That's motivating for us,” said Nobach, a senior who went undrafted. “We don't want to go home. There's some guys in that locker room that will never play a baseball game again. That's including myself and Jack (Anderson), and so that's what motivates us. And that's what his message was, just to strictly compete.”

It took eight and a half hours, but eventually, the Beavers found themselves.

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