They will be remembered as one of the most stubborn teams to ever show up in Omaha. A pack of survivors from Oregon State who faced match point at the College World Series six times, and never blinked. Not even when one more strike would have finished them off for good.
They will be remembered as the team with a single mission, created by the pain of 2017 — championship or bust.
They will be remembered for the freshman who turned in a pitching performance for the ages.
Unsinkable Oregon State finally reached its destination Thursday night, with a 5-0 win over Arkansas, and a title that can forever stand as a beacon of hope for teams in an Omaha hole.
“It’s been long, it’s been hard,” said Adley Rutschman, the catcher with a record 17 CWS hits, 13 RBIs and the Most Outstanding Player Award. “You watch it and you don’t really understand until you’re here playing how truly special and how hard it is. It’s easy to watch, and it’s hard to be out here doing it.”
The Beavers are national champions . . . despite losing the tournament opening game 12 days before, pushed into a corner not five hours after this College World Series began. Six elimination games they faced in 11 days, six they won.
“I guess we played pretty well with our backs against the wall,” said Kevin Abel, the pitcher who would make it all possible with an historic dominance. “It’s not where we wanted to be, but we got it done.”
They are champions . . . even after dangling over a cliff Wednesday night, down to their last strike against a Razorbacks team that had been 44-0 this season when leading after eight innings. Of the previous 128 CWS teams who trailed in the ninth inning, 126 had lost. But they didn’t.
They are champions . . . because nothing else would do, after they were sent home from here early last June. So focused were their eyes on one prize and one prize only, that they refused the obligatory celebration dogpile after the super regional or regional. “We thought one at the end of the year would be good enough for us,” Rutschman said.
“Last year left a salty taste in our mouth, and every single person on the team probably remembers that,” Trevor Larnach said. “Ever since then, we started breaking (the huddle) on `Finish,’ to finish the job. And we sure did finish.”
They are champions . . . even with a starting rotation that struggled nearly every minute, unless the pitcher was named Kevin Abel. Take away his two gems against Mississippi State and Arkansas, and the starters gave up 18 earned runs in 19 innings in Omaha. And still, that didn’t stop them. A .327 team batting average and CWS record 93 hits helped. Rutschman led a year after he went 1-for-15 here.