Well that's a hell of way to start the 2013 College World Series. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and Mississippi State up by one run, Oregon State's Danny Hayes sent a towering shot to right field that died just two steps short of the wall to give the Bulldogs a 5-4 victory in the first game in Omaha.
This ball was really close to a walk-off three-run shot.
Home runs have been notoriously hard to come by in the CWS since the tournament moved to its new home in TD Ameritrade Park in 2011. It actually has the same dimensions as the old Rosenblatt, but not the same hilltop location and prevailing winds as the old stadium. That ball would have been a no-doubter a few years ago.
Anyway, back to the rest of the game. Mississippi trailed for most of the latter half, but took the lead with a two-run eighth inning. With two outs in the top of the frame, Wes Rea powered a double deep into the right center gap to score two. The scoring play came just three batters after Oregon State elected to pull starter Andrew Moore in favor of Matt Boyd. Boyd inherited one baserunner and one out, and allowed a single and recorded a strikeout before Rea came to the plate.
It wasn't necessarily a bad outing for Moore, but wasn't exactly what we've become accustomed to from watching the freshman phenom, who holds a 1.57 ERA and 14-1 record on the season. He overcame a rough second inning in which he allowed three runs to finish with four runs allowed off of six hits over 7⅓.
After the first two innings, it looked like we were in store for a lot more than nine runs. Oregon State started it off in the bottom of the first with RBI hits from Michael Conforto and Hayes to take an early 2-0 lead. The Bulldogs answered back immediately, though, plating three in the top of the second. After a hit-by-pitch, double and a walk loaded the bases with no outs, back-to-back singles made it 3-2. Mississippi State looked ready to add another with a sac fly, but the left fielder Conforto threw a rope to the plate to gun down the potential run.
It was a brilliant performance from Conforto, an All-American and the 2013 Pac-12 Player of the Year. Along with the throw-out, he went 4-for-4 with one RBI, and would have had a second had his lick to the warning track in dead center in the fifth not bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double.
To absolutely no one's surprise, Mississippi State turned to its bullpen early in the game. This team has made a living off of heavy innings from its pen all year, and kept the trend going when they pulled starter Kendall Graveman (4⅔ IP, 6 H, 4 R) for Ross Mitchell in the fifth. It turned out to be a good move, as Mitchell worked a scoreless 2⅔ to pick up his 13th win of season. Mitchell then handed the ball off to lock-down closer and Kenny Powers clone Jonathan Holder (seriously, the resemblance is uncanny), who got the Bulldogs out of a one-out, two-on jam with two quick outs.
Things got interesting in the bottom of the ninth for Holder. A leadoff single started the Beavers off, and after a foul-out on a failed bunt, a walk put men on first and second with just one away. Holder then fanned Dylan Davis for a massive strikeout to bring up Hayes, whose deep shot died harmlessly on the warning track.