Alex McLeman looks back over the incredible College World Series finale, how the Beavers captured their third title over an eleven year stretch and the main talking points from the frantic end of season finale.
Oregon State, the team I picked to finish runner-up at the College World Series finale which kinda, sorta means I was semi-right in my overall prediction, won it all last week in what was an anticlimactic game-three against Arkansas.
The Razorbacks had been one out away from lifting the title in game-two the previous day, but a fielding error on a foul ball which yielded one run followed by a two-run shot from Trevor Larnach ensured there would be a game three to decide the national title.
The final match proved to be so one-sided that watching a Mexican wave repeatedly drift across TD Ameritrade Stadium and listening to the discussions on the futures of some of the players moving on to the professional ranks following the game became more interesting that the actual contest itself. Oregon State freshman – for those not in the know a freshman is a kid who is in his first year of college baseball – pitcher Kevin Able threw a dominant nine-inning shutout as the Beavers won 5-0 to take game three and win their third national title in school history. It was a victory not many had predicted given just how dominant the Diamond Hogs had looked in their previous outings and how shaky the Beavers had been.
There wasn’t any doubt who won the game, Able proved he was the present and the future for the Beavers for, at the very least, the next two seasons. His performance was nothing short of outstanding, but questions why head coach, Pat Casey, allowed him to throw 129 pitches in game-three after closing game-two with 23 the previous day and another 95 against Mississippi State three-days before that, have bubbled up. This kind of over-usage is borderline pitcher cruelty, even if the national title is on the line. We have seen countless examples of young kinds throwing too many pitches at an early age and by the time they hit big time college baseball, minor league ball or even the show what was once their most impervious baseball aspect becomes their torment. Pitchers such as Walker Buehler, Brady Akin, Lucas Giolito, Erick Fedde and Jeff Hoffman and others all suffered from overuse, and were forced to undergo Tommy John surgery, in the early stages of their careers and they’ve never really been able to maintain consistent success, if any, since.
The Beavers won it all, and that is what people will point to. That is what Casey points to and what Able will point to when people ask was it all worth it when he inevitably undergoes some level of corrective arm/elbow surgery, but sometimes the adult in the room has to be able to stand up and save the pitcher from himself or the coach from potentially destroying the career of someone whose career hasn’t even started yet.
What it means…..
The win vindicates Oregon State coach Casey who had been criticised, and was seemingly under-pressure from those in Corvallis, for not winning after years of teams loaded with future MLB talent.
It gives Chicago White Sox fourth overall pick, Nick Madrigal, a shiny national title ring heading into minor league ball before his eventual promotion to the big leagues next season.
The performance of Able, who has another year left of College eligibility before he can enter the draft, should spark fear into those in the PAC-12 and around college baseball as he looks to be utterly unhittable. If is isn’t sidelined due to his overusage.
The win helps heal the wounds the Beavers suffered in last season’s late collapse against LSU in the semi-final round.
And… Luke Heimlich, the pariah pitcher with ace like stuff who sends shivers down all 30 MLB GM’s spines and is about as divisive as Donald Trump, leaves college with a national title and a future about as muddy as a pitchers mound after 16 innings and five rain delays. His past is well documented and is not something I am about to go over, just Google his name or read Sports Illustrated’s deep dive on him and his past to find out. He was a heralded prospect that had scouts salivating. His past, however, is unavoidable and the reason why he has not been selected in the previous two MLB drafts. This could very well be the end of his career. (Ed’s Note – Heimlich entered a guilty plea to charges of sexual assault on a very young minor who was left in his charge, Google it if you must but felt important for us to not tip-toe around this.)
College baseball is finished for another year. The season doesn’t get going until 12 February ‘19 and until then players are headed to independent leagues across the country to continue their development and showcase their talent to scouts.
It’s only 210 days until the race to Omaha begins again. Let the countdown begin.