OMAHA, Neb. | For the first time in school history, Mississippi State will play for the College World Series championship.
Hunter Renfroe‘s three-run homer in the fifth inning boosted the Bulldogs to a 4-1 win over Oregon State in the bracket title game at TD Ameritrade Park on Friday afternoon. MSU (51-18) has advanced to the best-of-three championship series, which begins on Monday at 7 p.m. State will play either UCLA (47-17), which knocked off No. 1 national seed North Carolina tonight, 4-1.
MSU has started 3-0 in the CWS for the first time ever, in this the team’s ninth Omaha appearance.
“Our kids just believe something good’s going to happen,” coach John Cohen said. “I know it sounds crazy, but our kids just think something good is going to happen. And, by the way, so do our coaches.”
Renfroe’s blast, his 16th of the year and first since May 4, gave MSU a 4-0 lead. It came with two outs, as did the back-to-back singles by Adam Frazier and Alex Detz that preceded Renfroe’s at-bat.
Oregon State pitcher Andrew Moore (14-2) said he was trying to bury a curveball to Renfroe on a 3-1 count, but he left it up in the zone. Renfroe drove it into a stiff breeze and into the MSU bullpen.
“I didn’t think it was going out right away,” Renfroe said. “I was running out of the box right away, going for a double. Kind of hit it on the end of the bat, really, but was able to get enough backspin to hit it out to left field.”
MSU’s pitching took it from there, with starter Kendall Graveman (8-5) turning in 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball. Ross Mitchell turned in 2 2/3 shutout innings, and then Jonathan Holder got the final two outs for his 21st save of the year. It was his 30th career save, setting a school record.
MSU, which won its first two games here by 5-4 scores thanks to a pair of eighth-inning rallies, played with a lead from the fourth inning on. Renfroe’s homer was more than enough cushion for one of the country’s best bullpens.
“Going into that ninth inning with a three-run lead felt like we were winning by 100,” first baseman Wes Rea said.
MSU had 11 hits, with four players getting two apiece, and each of the Bulldogs’ first seven hitters had at least one hit. C.T. Bradford had his first two hits of the CWS and drove in a run in the fourth with an infield single.
Both teams turned three double plays. The first one MSU turned came in the third inning, when Rea leaped a snagged a Max Gordon line drive and threw to second base to double off the runner. The Bulldogs turned a 6-4-3 DP in the seventh to escape a bit of a jam.
OSU got two men on with one out in the ninth when Mitchell gave way to Holder, who got a fly ball and a fielder’s choice to clinch the win.
This was MSU’s second win over the Beavers (52-13), having beaten them 5-4 in Saturday’s CWS opener.