8 things to know about Oregon State series

By: Matt Jones
Published: Saturday, June 23, 2018
Oregon State players celebrate after the final out against North Carolina in an NCAA College World Series baseball elimination game in Omaha, Neb., Wednesday, June 20, 2018. Oregon State won 11-6. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Oregon State players celebrate after the final out against North Carolina in an NCAA College World Series baseball elimination game in Omaha, Neb., Wednesday, June 20, 2018. Oregon State won 11-6. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

— In order to win its first national championship, Arkansas will have to twice beat the team that has the most wins in college baseball over the past two years.

Oregon State defeated Mississippi State 5-2 on Saturday to advance to the final round of the College World Series. The Razorbacks and Beavers are scheduled to play the first of their best-of-three-game series Monday at 6 p.m.

The Beavers (53-11-1) enter the championship series on a four-game winning streak. Oregon State battled through the loser's bracket in Omaha after an opening-game loss to North Carolina last Saturday, defeating Washington, North Carolina and Mississippi State twice by a combined score of 42-15.

Oregon State has won 109 games over the past two seasons. The Beavers began 53-4 last season, but lost consecutive games to LSU in Omaha to go from the driver's seat to elimination in the span of 24 hours.

Oregon State began this season ranked No. 2 by coaches and ascended to No. 1 for multiple weeks before consecutive series losses to Utah and Arizona in late March and early April.

The Beavers were the No. 3 seed in this year's NCAA Tournament after a 20-4 finish to the regular season. Oregon State won its home regional with a 3-0 record against Northwestern State and LSU, and swept a home super regional against Minnesota.

Here are eight more things to know about this year's championship matchup:

Strong Hitting

Oregon State ranks in the top 10 nationally of several offensive categories.

The Beavers are second in doubles (148) and on-base percentage (.422); third in team batting average (.324); and fourth in runs scored (502) and slugging percentage (.496).

Oregon State sophomore catcher Andy Rutschman is batting .393 with 79 RBI, which ranks 10th and fourth in college baseball.

Strong Pitching

Oregon State has the lowest team ERA, 3.37, of any team Arkansas has faced this season.

The Beavers' No. 1 starter, senior left-hander Luke Heimlich, is 16-2 with a 2.80 ERA in 19 starts, and No. 2 starter, junior right-hander Bryce Fehmel, is 10-1 with a 3.16 ERA in 19 starts.

Oregon State has two relief pitchers with an ERA lower than either starter. Sophomore left-hander Jake Mulholland has a 2.25 ERA in 30 appearances and sophomore left-hander Brandon Eisert has a 2.42 ERA in 26 appearances.

The Beavers' pitchers are bolstered by strong defensive play. Oregon State fields at a .979 clip, which is tied for ninth-best nationally.

First Rounders

Two Oregon State players were selected in the first round of the MLB Draft earlier this month, and a third was taken in the compensatory - or sandwich - round between the first and second rounds.

Junior second baseman Nick Madrigal was the fourth overall selection of the draft by the Chicago White Sox as a shortstop, and outfielder Trevor Larnach was the 26th overall selection by the Minnesota Twins. Shortstop Caden Grenier was drafted 37th overall by the Baltimore Orioles.

Oregon State had six players drafted - all in the top 10 rounds.

Luke Heimlich

Oregon State's No. 1 starter was voted first-team All-America by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, but went undrafted for a second consecutive year because of past legal troubles.

The Oregonian reported last June that Heimlich pleaded guilty to one count of felony molestation as a juvenile in 2012. Heimlich was 15 years old at the time and the reported victim was 6.

Amid backlash from the report, Heimlich voluntarily sat out the Beavers' super regional and the College World Series last season, stating that he did not want to become a distraction to his teammates. He finished the season with an 11-1 record and 0.76 ERA.

In recent interviews with the New York Times and Sports Illustrated, Heimlich has maintained his innocence in the case and said he entered a guilty plea based on legal counsel.

The Kansas City Star reported Friday that the Kansas City Royals are exploring the possibility of signing Heimlich as a free agent.

Common Opponents

The Razorbacks and Beavers have played six common opponents this season - Mississippi State, Arizona, Southern Cal, Missouri State, San Diego and LSU.

Oregon State was 11-3 against those teams; Arkansas was 5-8.

Past Champions

Oregon State is a two-time national champion under 24th-year head coach Pat Casey.

The Beavers won back-to-back championships over North Carolina in 2006 and 2007. Casey has taken the Beavers to six College World Series since 2005.

Arkansas is 0-1 all-time in the baseball national championship but have never played in the best-of-three format. The Razorbacks lost 2-1 to Cal State Fullerton in the 1979 championship game.

Sixteenth-year Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn has taken the Razorbacks to the College World Series five times since 2004. Van Horn also had two CWS appearances at Nebraska in 2001 and 2002.

South vs. West Coast

Since the College World Series implemented a best-of-three format for its final round in 2003, Southern schools have struggled against teams from the West Coast. In such matchups, West Coast teams have won six series and lost three.

The Pac-12 is 2-1 against the SEC in national final matchups under the best-of-three format. South Carolina defeated UCLA in 2010; Arizona defeated South Carolina in 2012; and UCLA defeated Mississippi State in 2013.

Oregon State is 4-0 this season against SEC teams, with two postseason wins over both LSU and Mississippi State. Arkansas is 3-1 against Pac-12 teams, with a win in its only matchup against Arizona and a 2-1 record against Southern Cal.

Series History

Arkansas is 2-1 all-time against Oregon State, but the teams have not played since 1995 - Pat Casey's first year as the head coach of the Beavers. The Razorbacks won that matchup 5-4 in San Jose, Calif.

The teams have played twice in the postseason, with the teams splitting a pair of games at the Stillwater (Okla.) Regional in 1986.


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