CWS Top Teams Bracket, Semifinals: 2017 Oregon State vs. 2018 Oregon StateFeatured
Today would have potentially been the final day of the college baseball season. Since we don’t have live baseball to watch, we’re taking a look back at the greatest CWS teams of the modern 64-team NCAA tournament era. In conjunction with NCAA.com, we’ve made our picks for the 32 best Omaha teams since 1999 and seeded them into a bracket.
Now it’s your turn. Each day, we’ll present a few matchups for fans to vote on, as we work our way through the bracket to determine the greatest College World Series team of the super regional era.
2017 Oregon State Beavers (56-6 overall; CWS semifinalist)
No. 19 seed
The only team in our field that didn’t reach the CWS Finals, the ’17 Beavers had a shot to go down as the greatest team in history, but they ran out of gas in Omaha’s final four. OSU posted a historic regular season, going 27-3 in the Pac-12 to win the regular season by six games to earn the No. 1 national seed. Then the Beavers obliterated their opposition in regionals and supers, outscoring their opponents 27-3 in an undefeated waltz through regionals, then crushing Vanderbilt by an aggregate 17-6 in a super regional sweep. That propelled OSU to Omaha with an eye-popping 54-4 overall record.
But ace Luke Heimlich — who went 11-1, 0.76 as a junior that season — did not play for the Beavs in the super regional or the College World Series after it came to light that he had pled guilty to a sexual assault as a juvenile, engulfing Oregon State in controversy. The Beavers rallied around each other and won their first two games in Omaha against Cal State Fullerton and LSU, but then their bats went quiet, and they fell in back-to-back games to LSU, 3-1 and 6-1. So these undermanned Beavers fell short of their ultimate goal, but this team was simply stacked to the gills with talent. The lineup featured four future first-round picks in Nick Madrigal, Cadyn Grenier, Trevor Larnach and 2019 Golden Spikes Award winner and No. 1 overall pick Adley Rutschman, plus third-rounder KJ Harrison and fifth-rounder Steven Kwan. Even without injured first-round pick Drew Rasmussen, the pitching staff dominated behind Heimlich, third-rounder Jake Thompson and consummate winner Bryce Fehmel.
2018 Oregon State Beavers (55-12 overall; CWS champion)
No. 7 seed
Just a year after having an incredible season with single-digit losses and not winning a national title, partly because of some unexpected off the field drama, the Beavers were back at it in 2018. OSU put together a strong regular season with a 20-9 record in Pac 12 play before earning the No. 3 national seed. The Beavers were on the warpath in the NCAA tournament, getting even with nemesis LSU in the Corvallis Regional by outscoring the Tigers a whopping 26-1 in two games. OSU took care of business in Super Regional action, too, by sweeping Max Meyer and Minnesota to make back-to-back trips to Omaha.
Once in Omaha, the Beavers actually had to come out of the loser’s bracket, dropping an 8-6 decision to North Carolina in their first game. OSU proceeded to pummel Pac 12 rival Washington, 14-5, before beating the Tar Heels 11-6 and double dipping Mississippi State 12-2 and 5-2 to advance to the CWS Finals against Arkansas. OSU then dropped the first game of the series to the Razorbacks, before beating the Razorbacks 5-3 in the second game. Arkansas was an out away from winning the national title before a foul ball dropped between a pair of Hogs defenders. The rest was history as Trevor Larnach hit a laser beam of a home run to win the game and the Beavers won 5-0 the next night behind the arm of then freshman righthander Kevin Abel to win the program’s second national title.
Oregon State dominated some of the CWS’s most important categories that year. For instance, OSU hit .327 as a team in 2018, with the next closest team being Texas Tech with a .275 average. Meanwhile, the Beavs led all teams with a 3.38 ERA. Florida was second with a 3.50 ERA. Abel was the CWS MVP for obvious reasons. In addition to his complete game against Arkansas, he made four appearances in the tourney and had an 0.86 ERA in 21 innings, along with 23 strikeouts and seven walks. Meanwhile, Larnach hit .417 and eventual No. 1 overall pick, catcher Adley Rutschman, had an incredible run in Omaha with a .567 average, three doubles, two home runs and 13 RBIs, along with a .649 OBP.
It was a historic year for the Beavs, and it was one that would allow legendary coach Pat Casey to ride off into the sunset a champion.
How They Match Up: It’s the Beavers versus, well, the Beavers. The 2017 OSU squad will forever go down as one of the greatest teams in college baseball history not to win the national title. Meanwhile, the 2018 club finished the job with a series win over Arkansas. The 2017 club was more consistent throughout the season, but the star power also was through the roof with the ’18 club. This is a tough battle to pick, and it’s up to Beavs fans to decide this one!
The 2017 club was more consistent throughout the season, but the star power also was through the roof with the ’18 club. This is a tough battle to pick, and it’s up to Beavs fans to decide this one!
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 24, 2020