So much for pitching and defense ruling the 67th College World Series with an iron fist.
At least for one game.
Mississippi State and Oregon State combined for 18 hits and 27 baserunners in Saturday's opener. It wasn't decided until a blast to the right-field wall had the TD Ameritrade Park crowd of 24,473 standing to see if it would be a game-winning three-run homer.
When the ball was snagged on the warning track, MSU emerged with a 5-4 victory over the No. 3 national seed, moving to the winners portion of Bracket One regardless of style points.
“We can do some pretty dumb things and still find a way to win because of the competitive nature of our kids,” Bulldogs coach John Cohen said.
“But we're really proud. We know we're fortunate to win the game. That ball's pretty well hit, and we benefited.”
Mississippi State (49-18) overcame two errors and a failed diving stab at a fly ball to rally twice and claim a 5-4 lead in the eighth inning. First baseman Wes Rea's two-out, two-run double put the Bulldogs in front.
Oregon State (50-12), which stranded two runners in the bottom of the eighth, put two men on in the ninth with one out.
MSU reliever Jonathan Holder struck out Beavers right fielder Dylan Davis for the second out, setting up a showdown with first baseman Danny Hayes.
On a 2-2 count, the left-handed Hayes hammered a drive toward the right-field bullpen. But the ball was caught three steps onto the warning track, giving Holder his 19th save of the season.
“I think everybody might have had a shaky feeling there,” Holder said in recounting the at-bat. “I left a curveball hanging there, and he hit it pretty good.”
But not quite good enough as Holder and fellow reliever Ross Mitchell (13-0) combined for 4 1⁄3 innings of shutout relief to give Mississippi State time to rally.
“We knew it was going to take a village of pitchers to get this done,” Cohen said. “That's kind of how we've done it.”
No one in MSU's village figured out how to stop Oregon State left fielder Michael Conforto.
The Pac-12 player of the year doubled in a run in the first and eventually scored. Then he singled in the third, doubled in the fifth to push along a run, singled in the seventh and walked in the eighth.
For good measure, Conforto also made a sliding catch in left field and threw a runner out at the plate to end Mississippi State's three-run second inning.
But 10 runners left on base had OSU coach Pat Casey rubbing his head.
“When we get 10 hits, we've got to be better,” he said. “We didn't execute in certain situations. Like always, little things win and lose games.”
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