Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for the Hawgs Sports Network. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas and previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was the 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Ready and Abel: Beavers freshman zips through Hogs' lineup
Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman tackles pitcher Kevin Abel after recording the final out of the College World Series championship against Arkansas on Thursday, June 28, 2018, in Omaha, Neb.
OMAHA, Neb. — Oregon State freshman Kevin Abel’s job on Thursday was to give coach Pat Casey everything he had then hand the ball over to the next guy.
Abel was so effective against Arkansas that the next guy was never needed.
Abel and the Beavers downed Arkansas 5-0 at TD Ameritrade Park to complete a memorable comeback and claim their third College World Series title. Oregon State rode the wave of momentum and emotion from Wednesday night’s come-from-behind 5-3 win and never trailed in Game 3.
Oregon State cashed in for a pair of runs in the home first off of Arkansas starter Isaiah Campbell, who earned the win in the Razorbacks’ super regional clincher and again against Florida six days ago to place Arkansas in the championship round in Omaha.
The two runs were more than enough support for Abel, who threw 129 pitches, struck out 10 in a complete-game effort and shut out Arkansas for the first time in 2018.
It was the first time in Abel’s baseball career he’d thrown a full nine innings. Abel went 4-0 with a 0.86 ERA in 21 innings in Omaha. He struck out 23 and allowed only seven hits and made a strong case for Most Outstanding Player.
“Pitching is a tough deal,” said Beavers catcher Adley Rutschman, who was named MOP in the College World Series after driving in 13 runs in eight games and finishing with 17 hits in 30 official at-bats. “Kevin's always had unbelievable stuff. I think that just the strides he's made mentally are unbelievable.
“To see how he's progressed and the outing he had today was nothing short of amazing. I'm super proud of him. And I think he's going to do big things. It's just unbelievable, and I feel so fortunate to be able to catch him.”
The Razorbacks tallied just two hits against the freshman in the loss, both of which came in the third inning. When Abel recorded the final out of the game — a Luke Bonfield strikeout looking on a 3-2 pitch — he had retired the final 20 batters he faced. The final hit Arkansas mustered came on Casey Martin’s dribbler up the third base line in the third.
Martin’s infield single loaded the bases with one out. Three-hole hitter Heston Kjerstad and Bonfield were due up. Abel fanned Kjerstad on six pitches and Bonfield lined out to right. Abel then retired Arkansas in order in each of the final six innings. He faced more than four batters in an inning only once.
Casey, at best, said he thought Abel had 4-5 innings in him. He knew he should probably pull the right-hander who had thrown 23 pitches the night before.
“But how can I do that?” Casey said after the win. “He just kept coming in saying, ‘This is the easiest I've ever thrown.’ He said, ‘The ball is just coming out of my hand. I'm relaxed, loose and I have no stress.’
“He absolutely locked them up.”
And Arkansas had no answers. Bonfield remarked Abel was getting the shin-high strike from home plate umpire Joe Burleson - a hard pitch to hit when it’s coming in at 92-93 mph, Bonfield said.
The Razorbacks’ 10 strikeouts against Abel pushed their championship series total to 38. Martin added three more strikeouts to his total and saw just 13 pitches in four at-bats Thursday. Arkansas finished the game 2-for-29 at the plate and hit .147 over the three-game series.
“You couldn't predict what he was going to do,” Carson Shaddy said of Abel. “He had command of all three pitches, and you’ve got to credit him. He pitched lights out today. And, again, he just … he was on.”
Arkansas pitching coach Wes Johnson said pitchers coming off short rest — Abel threw 23 pitches and struck out the side in his one inning Wednesday night — can be even better in their next outing. He cited Kacey Murphy throwing twice in two days against Missouri State in last year’s Fayetteville Regional.
“(Abel’s) poise, his tempo, everything about him was real today,” Johnson said.
Hitting coach Nate Thompson thought his offense would naturally break through against Abel. The big hit never came. In three games against the Beavers, Arkansas left the bases loaded four times.
The same lineup that broke program records for home runs in a season made few loud outs.
“He did an exceptional job of locating his stuff and just being in parts of the zone and changing where he’s working,” Thompson said. “He has three plus pitches.
“I thought we’d get him out, but credit to him.”
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.