Oregon State Beavers’ Omaha dreams fade in loss to Auburn Tigers at Corvallis Super Regional: ‘This loss will forever hurt’

Corvallis – That way, it’s over.

The season that seemed predestined for the Omaha and National Championship chase Monday night vanished amid a dark blue and burnt orange poodle, with the dominant bulls playing and the stuttering side of Sonny D sealing its fate.

The Auburn Tigers defeated the Oregon State Beavers 4-3 in an entertaining, nibbling game 3 of the Corvallis Super Regional, celebrating the turmoil in a mountain on the field at Goss Stadium.

The 14th-seeded Tigers (42-20) advanced to the College World Series, while the third-seeded Beavers (48-18) suffered a heartbreaking end to a season of high expectations.

“This loss will forever be painful,” said Ohio State University coach Mitch Kanham.

Oregon, which has long said anything less than a trip to Omaha would be a fiasco, entered the series as the favorite, boasting a deep team, uncompromising squad and solid defense. But in the end, the Underdogs, riding a “bad news” rally cry, proved themselves more consistent and more manageable, out-performing OSU by two combined sets in the top three round-trip series.

In the decisive match, the Beavers beat Auburn 8-3 and enjoyed the electric throw. But the Tigers were simply better, making the most of their limited scoring opportunities and outperforming Oregon in the clutch.

It started at the top of the third inning, when hitter No. 2 Cole Foster worked a full outing and Sonny DiChiara—the big hitter and fun to watch nicknamed “Sonny D”—followed with a home run to the left, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead. Later, in the sixth inning, Dichiara equalized once and was followed by Bobby Pierce with two goals to the right corner of the field, to constitute another opportunity to score. They both went to sign up.

DiChiara came home when Beavers second base officer Travis Bazana sidelined guard Brooks Carlson and threw late to the start, then Pierce scored when he slid his head first at the plate at a safety pressure from Brody Moore, barely overcoming a captain’s bluffing throw OSU First Team Garret Forrester. The pair of runs gave the Tigers a 4-1 lead, sending silence to over 4,174 fans at Goose Stadium.

“If we hadn’t scratched and scratched and had scored those hits there, we’d be here for an interview first,” said Auburn coach Butch Thompson, noting that the losing team do post-match interviews first.

The Beavers, who scored a home-and-away win to reach the Pac-12 Championship Tournament and survived two playoffs to make it into Monday night, fought appropriately. 9 hitter Kyle Derende opened the bottom of seventh with a single left field and Justin Boyd — who played exceptionally throughout the greater regional — crushed Homer from two runs into the trees in left field, making the Beavers within 4-3.

As soon as the ball left Boyd’s racket, he pointed to the sky, and the crowd erupted and the beavers’ lair celebrated in a sea of ​​momentum. Looks like Oregon was poised for another win.

Two strokes later, Forrester worked a four-step walk and Jacob Melton followed with one hit to the right, placing a pair of Beavers at the base with one strike out. Thompson had seen enough and went as close as he could, sending Blake Burkhalter – finalist for Stopper of the Year – into the game early. The right-hander finished off the threat in stunning fashion, hitting Bazana and Jake Ducart in 10 pitches.

“Just win the moment,” Thompson said, explaining why he went to Burkhalter so early. “We thought this was a ball game there. When Boyd got home, I was like, ‘Okay, we’re going to have to hook him up now.'”

The beavers’ inability to drive in the primary runners, to score a hit in any key position, ended up falling behind them. Oregon only hit 3-for-15 with the runners on base, including a killer 0-for-10 with the runners in the scoring center. Bazzana, in particular, had a night to forget, as he finished 0 for 4 while leaving six riders at the base—including four in the scoring position. He left runners stuck at third base in the third inning and at second base in the first, fifth, and seventh rounds.

However, on their way to the ninth, the Beavers only escaped once from forcing overtime and the top of the rankings were coming for the bat. But Burcalter – who scored five in 2 and 3 runs – was so in control, hitting Boyd, spurring an escape from Wade Mickler and stressing Forster to finish the match.

The tigers stormed the field, forming a huge hound near the hill while the Oregon players watched in disbelief from the house railing. Milton, who had been waiting in the onboard circuit for one final bat at Gus, stared at the scene for more than a minute, clutching his racquet to his shoulder, engrossed in the heartbreaking spectacle.

And just like that, the dominating season full of World College Series dreams came to an end.

“It was definitely tough,” said junior bowler Jaren Hunter, who only allowed one hit and got twice in five powerful rounds. “We dream about Omaha, we dream about winning a national championship, and when you see it finish it’s really hard. And then it gets even more difficult when you say goodbye to all the guys that were in your corner, and they’ve been together for (years). Just saying goodbye to them is hard because I know I will never fit in with them again.”

In the end, the team that was created to win it all failed. In the end, fans had to grudgingly accept that it ended early. In the end, all that’s left are characters, memories, determination and the heart of a team that was easy to come by and enjoy watching.

And a lot of that heart leaves.

Meckler, the inspiring underdog. Cooper Hegerby, Bulldog Champion. Milton, the rehabilitated five-pointer. Boyd, the smooth star. Mitchell Fairburg, mainstay. It’s just a handful of this year’s team’s starting pieces that will likely play at Goose Stadium for the last time.

It’s hard to say goodbye to your family,” Boyd said. “We’ve become very close over (the years) here…but we are friends and family forever, so it’s not goodbye. We’ve put our backs against the wall in the past three weeks. We’ve shown an incredible amount of grit and shown what we’re made of, showing how we can unite regardless regardless of the situation.”

After the match, the Beavers gathered in the dugout for one final conversation, during which Canham told his players how proud he was of them and how much he loved them.

There was hugs and handshakes, love and tears, a sense of loss. When it was over, Verborg, who had been on the program for six years and who excelled at surgeries and rehabilitation to emerge as a captain in the stadium staff, took one last lap around the field. He walked toward the fans in the stands above both dugouts clapping and waving, giving thanks at last – to them and a special season that wasn’t long.

“We appreciate this club,” Canham said. “And that’s the biggest and most painful part. Here in a couple of days everyone will go different ways and we’ll lose each other. It’s hard for the family to split like this. For those guys who come forward and never get to wear a beaver costume again, we’ll miss them. From where we started, to the last Point, these guys are fighters and they care. And I love every single one of them. And I always will be.”

– Joe Freeman | jfreeman@oregonian.com | 503-294-5183 | Tweet embed | Subscribe to newsletters and podcasts from The Oregonian / OregonLive to get the latest news and top stories

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