Wes Rea had a big day at the plate, going 2 for 4 with a double in the fourth for Mississippi State. However, Rea could have done much more damage without the defensive play of Oregon State left fielder Michael Conforto.
In the second inning, Rea hit a shot to deep left-center, but Conforto was able to make an acrobatic catch while crashing into the wall.
“We've been talking all year about how good of a defender (Conforto) is, and it gets overlooked,” Oregon State coach Pat Casey said. “He gets great jumps on the ball, and, yes, it was an inspiration to our club. We were fired up.”
Conforto wasn't done.
After Rea's double in the fourth, he moved over to third on a C.T. Bradford single. With one out, Trey Porter flied out to Conforto in left field, and Rea tagged up and attempted to score. A high strike to home plate from Conforto was able to get Rea for a double play to end the inning.
The outfield assist from Conforto was his second of the College World Series. The first came in Oregon State's opening game last Saturday, also against Mississippi State. Conforto is the first player since LSU's Jared Mitchell in 2009 to record two outfield assists in the CWS. Mitchell was named the Series' most outstanding player as LSU won the championship.
“He definitely showed up today and showed you he could do it on both sides,” Rea said. “The dude is an unbelievable player.”
Conforto's day at the plate ended with a line drive to Rea to start the ninth inning. He finished 0 for 4 on the day after going 4 for 4 in the teams' first matchup.
Interference call fires up Oregon State coach Casey
With one out in the seventh inning, Oregon State's Ryan Barnes grounded into a controversial double play.
Shortstop Adam Frazier fielded the ball and threw to second baseman Brett Pirtle to force out a sliding Kavin Keyes. But Keyes' slide into second was determined to be out of the base path while the throw to first was made, and though Barnes appeared to beat the throw, he was called out on interference.
After the play, Casey came out to talk to second-base umpire Steve Mattingly.
“I can tell you the guy at first base is safe,” Casey said. “If Kav is out of the line, he couldn't have been out of the line more than a fraction. It didn't affect the play. The guy made a clean throw to first.”
According to Casey, it was the first time he went out into the field to argue a call this year.
“It got to me a little bit right there when I see a guy being called out,” he said. “I haven't seen the replay, but I think the guy missed the call at first base.”
The double play was one of three for the Bulldogs. The Beavers also had three.
UCLA batters improve despite scoring struggles
UCLA saw several chances for breakout innings fizzle.
The first opportunity came in the second inning, after a Cody Regis single gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead. With two outs, Brenton Allen walked to load the bases. But Brian Carroll struck out to end the inning.
Their next chance came in the sixth inning in a very similar situation. An error by UNC first baseman Cody Stubbs helped score a run. Two hits and a walk then loaded the bases with two outs again, with Allen coming up to the plate. Like Carroll in the second, Allen struck out swinging.
Even with some of the struggles the Bruins faced with runners in scoring position, it was still their best day at the plate in the College World Series so far.
“It's about taking advantage of your opportunities and not giving them any opportunity, just making sure all the little details are taken care of, and if there's something to be taken, take it,” designated hitter Kevin Williams said. “Every little thing matters, and every little thing is magnified.”
Their total of six hits was their best in three games, five walks helped keep men on base throughout and Pat Valaika's well-timed two-run double in the seventh was the team's second extra-base hit of the CWS.
UNC's Emanuel solid against Bruins' lineup
UNC starting pitcher Kent Emanuel faced a challenge that both LSU's Aaron Nola and N.C. State's Logan Jernigan had: trying to outduel the unbreakable force that is the UCLA rotation.
Emanuel was able to work around the UCLA lineup fairly well, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits with seven strikeouts. It was much better than his initial CWS outing, where he lasted only 2 23 innings against North Carolina State.
However, Emanuel struggled to keep his pitch count down. In his six innings, he threw 112 pitches, 43 more than opposing pitcher Grant Watson in the same amount of time.
“In terms of the runs, I mean looking back at it, none of (the runs) were really off the barrel,” Emanuel said. “Maybe an inch more outside or inch more down, some of those pitches might've been a swing and miss, but I can't be too upset about it. … It's just baseball.”
Tar Heels show some spark in ninth inning
The Tar Heels offense that had been shut out for eight innings showed signs of life in the ninth.
Back-to-back singles by Cody Stubbs and Skye Bolt gave UNC its first runner past second base for the entire game. A walk by Michael Russell loaded the bases, and a fielder's choice scored a run.
UNC kept battling even after Parks Jordan struck out to put the Tar Heels one out from elimination, as Chaz Frank walked to load the bases again.
Pitcher-of-the-year finalist David Berg would finally close the door on UNC, getting Landon Lassiter to line out to center field.