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Highlights and moments from the 2018 College World Series

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NCAA Baseball: College World Series-North Carolina vs Oregon State Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The College World Series proper kicked off in Omaha, Neb. on Saturday, and opening day’s theatrics delivered in kind. Series favorite Oregon State dropped an upset to a sound North Carolina club, 8-6, then Mississippi State outlasted Washington in a 1-0 thriller that was one of the best college baseball game of all time.

FINAL ROUND GAME 1: Arkansas jumps out to a 4-1 lead after a four-run fifth inning.

Not only did Arkansas bring their big bats and base running with them, they brought some stellar defense. Look at this beautiful diving foul ball catch from first baseman Jared Gates.

Oregon State starter started well enough but he was chased in the top of the fifth after those four Arky runs. Only question from there was how many arms SOOIE would burn through to preserve the lead.

FINAL ROUND GAME 2: Arkansas draws first blood in the second, but Oregon State ain’t dead yet.

The Hogs continued their practice of working the bases, loading up the bases twice in the bottom of the second inning and plating a runner on a wild pitch. The first game’s score was just 4-1, so runs are at a premium in the championship series.

The Beavs countered in the top of the fourth with solo shot out to the left field bullpen from cleanup man Adley Rutschman, who absolutely destroyed this ball.

Arkansas managed to hold in the rest of the frame, and on to the bottom of the fourth they went.

In the top of the fifth, Oregon State loaded up the bases on starter Kacey Murphy, who’d been giving up long sailers for much of his outing. Cadyn Grenier came to the plate and laid down a perfect sac bunt to the third base side to plate a second OSU run, which drew the Beavs out to a 2-1 advantage.

In the bottom of the fifth, Arkansas again loaded the bases, then Luke Bonfield knocked a blooping fly ball to shallow left and OSU center fielder Preston Jones bobbled it on a sliding catch attempt. That tied the game.

Immediately after, Carson Shaddy singled bat another home and the OmaHogs were cooking, 3-2.

Arky preserved their lead in the next window, thanks largely to this spectacular play between pitcher Kole Ramage and third baseman Casey Martin. Just really smooth stuff.

On Sunday, Arkansas crushed a formidable Texas club, 11-5, after a THREE HOUR weather delay. Arky came out from the rain and immediately dropped six runs on the Horns, and it was over from there.

If that wasn’t enough, Saturday’s opening action was by no means less exciting. North Carolina upset bracket favorite Oregon State, and Mississippi State lasted long into the night to survive Washington.

Day 2: Florida upset!

Before we get to the Florida-Texas Tech matchup, please consider Florida’s alligator mascot, Albert, strutting into the park dressed like Lebron James in the NBA Finals — in a shorts suit.

Pretty good! Couple questions, though: 1) Albert failed to call LBJ out on carrying an alligator skin bag into the arena, so what’s up with that?; 2) is ALBERT carrying an alligator skin bag into the ballpark? What’s up with that.

Anyway, on to the game itself.

Florida and Texas Tech locked into a serious CWS bout in the night game of the Series’ second day, and high drama ensued. Luckily for Texas Tech, their left field is a no-go zone, since Grant Little was here out pulling off startling feats of fielding. Honestly this catch is incredible.

Florida and Texas Tech played a close one, and defense like this certainly pushed TTU to the win, 6-3. With that, the Gators headed to the losers’ bracket with Texas for an elimination game on Tuesday.

DAY 3: More foul weather.

Look at this time lapse video of decidedly apocalyptic weather rolling in over TD Ameritrade in Omaha.

Monday is the second straight day where the opening afternoon game’s been marred by inclement weather. Oregon State and North Carolina sat down for nearly three hours on Sunday before UNC prevailed, 8-6. This particular front rolled in as Oregon State and Washington were locked up with a 5-4 Huskies advantage on Monday in an elimination game. One imagines something like a long stoppage is psychologically taxing in that setting.

After a rain delay that lasted more than four hours, Oregon State came out the gates swinging. The Beavers rallied to score five runs between the sixth and seventh innings. Oregon State’s Kyle Nobach hit a three-run home run to put the Beavers up 9-5 and cleared out the dugout.

Oregon State’s Tyler Malone smoked a leadoff home run to right field to give the Beavers a 10-5 lead in the eighth inning. Oregon State scored six unanswered runs since the rain delay.

Oregon State continued their dominance at the plate to stymy the Huskies in the elimination game and eventually legged out an impressive 14-5 win. Maybe they needed to get a loss out of their system to set things right; anyway, they’re one of a handful of teams that have dropped an opening day loss only to go on to win the whole dang thing. The Beavs are cooking.

Due to the four-hour weather delay, Mississippi State and North Carolina’s winners’ bracket bout was postponed to Tuesday morning, so the Beavers will have to await the outcome of that game. There’ll be three games in Omaha on Tuesday, with Bracket 1 finishing off their answering match and Bracket 2 going through two full games, Texas and Florida in the losers’ bracket and Arkansas and Texas Tech in the winners’.

DAY 4: Everyone is forgetting how to play baseball.

Mississippi State and North Carolina had to make up their winners’ bracket game on Tuesday morning after rain botched Monday’s twofer. CLANGA pulled yet another win out of their hat, much on the strength of an eighth inning rally that loaded the bases three times and crossed four runs. Oh, and also, North Carolina committed three errors in that frame alone. THREE ERRORS.

Not to be outdone, Florida’s base runners in the afternoon tilt with Texas completely lost their minds on this double steal-double pickle situation.

There’s not much more to say about that play other than ... it’s extremely baseball.

But this matchup of perennial heavyweights had more than just wild base running shenanigans. The Gators took Texas into the top of the sixth inning with just a 1-0 lead, and the Longhorns had already built up a handful of threats that never pushed through.

Then, Florida scored four runs in the frame to burst things wide open, helped along by a three-run bomb from No. 5 overall MLB draft pick Jonathan India.

That was fortuitous for the Gators, and starting pitcher Jackson Kowar responded well by finding his groove through the middle innings and shutting down Texas’ dangerous bats. He in fact threw a career-high 13 strikeouts, utterly silencing the likes of Kody Clemens and company.

Florida won, 6-1, to survive the losers’ bracket and move on to the winner of Tuesday night’s big bout between Arkansas and Texas Tech.

DAY 5: More weather delay, but Arkansas is here to play.

Arkansas and Texas Tech were postponed into Wednesday, because Mississippi State and Washington were postponed into Tuesday, which makes sense when you work that sentence backward and watch enough college baseball. Anyway.

Arkansas and Texas Tech were delayed on Wednesday by FOUR AND A HALF HOURS after their Tuesday postponement, but that didn’t stop the Razorbacks from jumping on top of TTU early, to notch two runs early in the first inning. It also helped that the Pigs had left fielder Heston Kjerstad, who can catch some fly balls.

Arkansas’ big bats came out to play, and their pitching fed off that energy to propel the Hogs to a 7-4 win. These guys should play with anyone in the country right now, and they’d probably beat ‘em.

In the nightcap on Wednesday, North Carolina led Oregon State 6-3 in the eighth inning. But the Beavers loaded the bases with one out in the eighth inning, then catcher Adley Rutschman unloaded them with a game-tying double. The Oregon State dugout, unsurprisingly, was PUMPED.

One intentional walk and two unintentional walks brought home Rutschman with the go-ahead run, and Oregon State was able to tack in the ninth for an 11-6 win to eliminate UNC. Rutschman had three hits on the night, a home run and two doubles, drove in four and scored twice.

The Beavers will face Mississippi State on Friday, and will need to beat the Bulldogs twice to advance to the College World Series finals.

DAY 6: Texas Tech’s left fielder can’t stop making HUGE plays.

Grant Little performed similar theatrics back on day two of the CWS, and he returned for more in an elimination game with Florida on Thursday night.

Just great stuff from a second-round pick to the Padres. The early goings of this one were a classic pitchers’ duel, and they stayed locked at 4-4 into the fourth inning.

Florida opened things up in the middle innings, spurred on by this ridiculous catch and throw from left fielder Austin Langworthy. LOOK AT THIS DANG PLAY.

Beautiful piece of fielding, that, and it kickstarted Florida’s offense, helped along by big bat boy JJ Schwarz’s two-run bomb two frames from then.

Florida led, 5-0, headed into the seventh inning, where Texas Tech put three on the Gators to cut the lead to 5-3. Florida answered in the top of the eighth with three of their own and to the bottom of the eighth they went, 8-3.

Hero of the early proceedings Grant Little missed on a bad fielding play in left to plate a runner, then Austin Langworthy sent that one to direct center to score another.

DAY 7: Oregon State and Mississippi State start things off in wild fashion.

Specifically, check out this 1-2-5-4 double play the Bulldogs pulled on a Beaver chopper back to pitcher Jacob Billingsley.

Pitcher to catcher to third to second. No sweat.

Despite that stellar infield play, Oregon State got up on CLANGA through the middle innings, pouring on five runs in the second and four in the seventh to take an 11-2 lead into the eighth. Brandon Eisert was nigh unhittable on the bump as the Bulldog bats went right to sleep.

Oregon State ended the affair up, 12-2, and thus forced a deciding rubber match for Saturday.

In the evening bout, Florida ace Brady Singer faced off with Arkansas ace Isaiah Campbell, and the latter put on a show. He went hitless through four innings before a brief Gator rally plated two runs, but Arkansas stood firmly in control after this giant home run to right field.

Feels good to hit one over and you know it’s gone the second it leaves the bat.

Arkansas looks strong enough to take this whole dang tournament. The Razorbacks utterly dominated a Florida club on Friday night that won this whole thing just last year. Here’s the final strikeout.

That was the story of the night, as Florida’s batters failed to make contact over and over again. Arkansas is formidable and focused, and whomever they face from the other side of this CWS bracket should be quite worried.