OMAHA, Neb. — A Southeastern Conference team is heading to the College World Series finals for the sixth straight year.
For the first time, it’s Mississippi State.
Hunter Renfroe hit a three-run homer off the back wall of the left-field bullpen, and Kendall Graveman and two relievers held the Beavers in check in a 4-1 victory on Friday.
“I know it sounds crazy, but our kids just think something good is going to happen and, by the way, our coaches do, too,” Bulldogs coach John Cohen said. “I think these guys are on a little bit of a roll for sure.”
The Bulldogs (51-18) beat the Beavers (52-13) for the second time in the CWS and get two days off before starting the best-of-three championship round against UCLA, a 4-1 winner over North Carolina.
Renfroe’s homer came on an afternoon the wind was blowing in at a ballpark that surrenders few home runs. He had already seen teammate Wes Rea come up short with a fly to the left-center power alley that Michael Conforto caught against the wall on perhaps the best defensive play of the CWS.
Renfroe’s 16th homer of the season, and first since May 4, came on a 3-1 pitch from Andrew Moore (14-2) and put the Bulldogs up 4-0 in the fifth. It was only the third homer in 11 CWS games, and there was no doubt it was out, even though Renfroe didn’t initially see it that way.
“I was running hard out of the batter’s box and going for a double,” he said. “I kind of hit it off the end of the bat, but I was able to get enough backspin on it.”
Oregon State (52-13) went 2-2 in its first CWS appearance since winning back-to-back national titles in 2006-07.
“It’s very difficult when eight teams show up at Omaha, and seven of them lose their last game and feel like they had a poor season,” Beavers coach Pat Casey said. “We’re not hanging our head at all. Our guys are obviously disappointed, and I think they’re more disappointed in the fact that they won’t get a chance to play together as a team again.”
Graveman (7-5) worked the first 5.2 innings, allowing one run and four hits.
Ross Mitchell and Jonathan Holder finished, with Holder getting the last two outs for his 21st save of the season and school-record 30th of his career.
The eighth-round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays, Graveman also started the first game against the Beavers.
He allowed four runs in 4.2 innings that day and was let off the hook when Rea doubled in the winning runs in the eighth.
UCLA 4, NORTH CAROLINA 1: Pat Valaika’s two-run double gave UCLA some cushion, record-setting closer David Berg survived a rocky ninth inning and UCLA defeated top-seeded North Carolina to move to the championship round of the College World Series.
The Bruins (47-17) will begin the best-of-three finals Monday against Mississippi State, which eliminated Oregon State with a 4-1 win in the afternoon.
The Tar Heels (59-12) twice loaded the bases in the ninth against Berg but came away with only one run, with the game ending on Landon Lassiter’s flyout to center.
Grant Watson (9-3) allowed four hits in six innings. Carolina’s Kent Emanuel (11-5) gave up five singles in six innings.
UCLA opened the CWS with 2-1 victories over LSU and North Carolina State.
The Bruins, with eight total runs, matched 1976 Eastern Michigan for fewest by a team in the metal-bat era that won its first three CWS games.