Underdog Oregon State wins College World Series

Updated: June 27, 2006, 12:40 PM ET
Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. -- Oregon State was an underdog the moment it took the field at the College World Series.

Pat Forde's take
Pat Forde
Behind a trio of Herculean pitching performances, Oregon State won its first NCAA baseball title. For a school that was never supposed to be able to compete with the warm-weather competition, this was a historic breakthrough.

• For more of Pat Forde's analysis, click here.

The Beavers didn't come from the right part of the country. They didn't have enough pitching. They couldn't keep fighting off elimination.

Bill Rowe had a parting message for those who doubted Oregon State:

"This is how the ring looks," the senior first baseman said.

Rowe scored the go-ahead run on second baseman Bryan Steed's throwing error in the bottom of the eighth inning, and Oregon State held on to beat North Carolina 3-2 for its first College World Series title Monday night.

The Beavers (50-16) became the first team in CWS history to lose twice in Omaha and win the national championship. Oregon State also is the first truly Northern-based school to win the series since Ohio State in 1966.

"I think we came here and a lot of people out there picked us to lose every single game, so thank you for doing that," closer Kevin Gunderson said. "It gave us a lot of motivation to go out there and prove those people wrong."

Bill Rowe
AP Photo/Ted KirkOregon State's Bill Rowe crosses the plate with the go-ahead run Monday night.

With the score 2-2 in the eighth, Rowe drew a two-out walk and Tyler Graham blooped a single into left. Tar Heels ace Andrew Miller, the No. 6 overall pick in the major league draft by Detroit, came on in relief of Daniel Bard and got pinch-hitter Ryan Gipson to one-hop a grounder to Steed.

The second baseman, who came in as a defensive replacement in the fifth, threw wide and past first baseman Tim Federowicz for the Tar Heels' fourth error of the game as Rowe came home with the go-ahead run.

"There was two outs, so I was just thinking about getting to third and I knew it was going to take either a bad hop or a bad throw to score me on that," Rowe said. "I turned third, looked and saw the ball going toward the dugout, took two hard steps and realized I was going to be able to coast into home."

The Beavers stormed out of their dugout and mobbed Rowe as the Tar Heels (54-15) grew silent on the other side of the field.

"I probably got rid of it too quick," Steed said. "It was a little bit up the line. Didn't make the play."

North Carolina put two runners on against Dallas Buck (13-3) with one out in the ninth, but Gunderson got Josh Horton to hit into a fielder's choice, and -- with the tying run on third -- got slugger Chad Flack to fly out to center to end it.

Tough under pressure
How Oregon State pitcher Jonah Nickerson, the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series, fared while pitching in three elimination games in eight days at the College World Series
Date/Opponent IP H R Pitches
June 19 vs. Georgia* 7 4 2 114
June 22 vs. Rice* 7 2/3 2 0 109
June 26 vs. UNC 6 2/3 6 2 100
* earned victory

Gunderson, who won Game 2 by pitching a season-high 5 1/3 relief innings, threw his glove and hat in the air, and waited as his teammates ran to the mound and piled on each other in celebration.

The victory concluded a remarkable run for the Beavers, who lost their first game in the tournament 11-1 to Miami but reached the championship series with four straight wins. After losing Game 1 to North Carolina, Oregon State pulled out two victories.

"This week in Omaha, the heart and character and fight that this team has -- to come through the losers' bracket after getting spanked pretty good last Saturday and beat four great teams in the World Series," Gunderson said. "This team is made up of guys mostly from the Northwest, and I think we proved a lot of people wrong."

The Tar Heels had a chance in the eighth when they loaded the bases with one out, but Buck -- making his first relief appearance of the season -- struck out Seth Williams. Buck got ahead in the count on Benji Johnson, when Horton sprinted home from third to try to steal a run, but Johnson swung through a pitch out of the strike zone to end the inning.

Can't oust 'em
Oregon State became the first team in College World Series history to face six elimination games, winning all of them to earn its first NCAA baseball title. The Beavers' road to the title:

Saturday, June 17
Miami 11, Oregon State 1
Monday, June 19
Oregon State 5, Georgia 3*
Tuesday, June 20
Oregon State 8, Miami 1*
Wednesday, June 21
Oregon State 5, Rice 0*
Thursday, June 22
Oregon State 2, Rice 0*
Championship Series
Saturday, June 24
UNC 4, Oregon State 3
Sunday, June 25
Oregon State 11, UNC 7*
Monday, June 26
Oregon State 3, UNC 2*

* elimination game

"We just took a gamble," North Carolina coach Mike Fox said. "We should have done it the pitch before. Just kind of crazy baseball. Two strikes, I told Josh, 'Duck your head and say a prayer.' If we take that pitch, then we probably have it stolen."

Oregon State scored twice against Bard (9-4) in the fourth, helped by two errors on one play by the pitcher.

After Graham hit a leadoff single and stole second, John Wallace bunted to the right side of the mound. Bard dashed over and barehanded the ball, but dropped it for an error. He picked it up and threw to first, but the throw sailed past Federowicz. Second baseman Garrett Gore backed up the errant toss and threw home, but Graham slid headfirst ahead of Johnson's tag, and the Beavers stormed out of the dugout to greet him.

After Chris Kunda sacrificed Wallace to second, Shea McFeely's single to center made it 2-0.

North Carolina came right back with two runs in the fifth against Jonah Nickerson, making his third start in eight days for the Beavers.

Jay Cox reached on shortstop Darwin Barney's throwing error and scored one out later on Seth Williams' double to right-center that rolled all the way to the wall. Johnson followed with a single to put runners on first and third, and Mike Cavasinni lined a single over third baseman McFeely one out later to make it 2-2.

"They were tough," said Fox, fighting back tears. "Obviously, it's a huge disappointment for us. To get this close and not win it certainly is disappointing."

Nickerson, the right-hander selected the series' Most Outstanding Player, allowed two unearned runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings. He came out after his 100th pitch -- getting Steed to ground out -- and received a standing ovation from the 18,565 at Rosenblatt Stadium, even from North Carolina fans.

"It feels great to finally get some respect," Nickerson said. "I'm speechless right now."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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