The Oregon State Beavers beat the North Carolina Tar Heels of the ACC 3-2 Monday, June 26 to win the Pacific Northwest’s first College World Series. The Beavers (50-16) became the first team in CWS history to lose twice in Omaha and win the national championship. The Pac-10 champions went 6-0 in elimination games and beat Georgia, Miami, Rice twice and North Carolina twice to win it all. Former Aloha Knights first baseman Bill Rowe and reliever Kevin Gunderson and former Bend Elks centerfielder Tyler Graham played memorable roles in the Beavers championship game victory. Rowe scored the game-winner in the bottom of the eighth, Gunderson retired the two batters he faced to record his third CWS save and Graham caught the final out. Rowe, Gunderson, ex-Wenatchee outfielder Cole Gillespie, Shea McFeeley and Jonah Nickerson were named All-CWS and Nickerson was named Omaha’s Most Outstanding Player for his three clutch starts.
Rowe led the Beavers both offensively and defensively at Rosenblatt. Billy went 11 for 27 with 1 HR and 8 RBI and set two defensive CWS records. Rowe recorded the most putouts (87) in CWS history and broke the tournament’s record for most chances (95) without an error.
In post-season play, the left-handed hitter from Ashland, Oregon collected 18 RBI. For the season, Rowe hit .344 with 22 doubles, 6 HR and 56 RBI for the NCAA DI National Champions. Last summer, Bill played for the Aloha Knights where he earned a WCCBL Rawlings Gold Glove for his defensive play at first base and hit .286 with 10 doubles, 2 HR and 25 RBI.
In Monday night’s thriller, ex-Aloha lefty Kevin Gunderson recorded the biggest save in Beaver history. Called upon with one out in the top of the ninth and the tying run at second and winning run at first, Gunderson retired the Tar Heels on a fielder’s choice ground out to Rowe and flyout to Graham. Gunderson’s save gave him the national lead with 20 saves and he tied a CWS record by finishing his fifth game at Rosenblatt. Gunderson earned his second national championship ring as he was part of the Aloha Knights 2004 NBC World Series team where he didn’t allow a run in three relief appearances at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita, Kansas.
Tyler Graham put on a clinic in centerfield the entire CWS and got things started for the Beavers with a single, stolen base and great slide at home plate to score OSU’s first run in the national championship game. Graham starred for the 2004 Bend Elks where he hit .288 with a team leading 28 runs, 19 stole bases and 1.000 fielding percentage. Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year Chris Kunda was a teammate of Graham’s on that Elks team and hit .268 with 3 doubles, 1 HR and 22 RBI for Bend. At the CWS, Kunda showed the nation who plays the best second base in college baseball. Chris also set a CWS record with 36 assists.
The 2006 Beavers featured 14 student-athletes with experience playing on WCCBL clubs including starters junior leftfielder and Pac-10 Player of the Year Cole Gillespie (Wenatchee, 2004), senior centerfielder Tyler Graham (Bend Elks, 2004), senior first baseman Bill Rowe (Aloha Knights, 2005), senior second baseman and 2006 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year Chris Kunda (Bend Elks, 2004), sophomore setup man Eddie Kunz (Bellingham Bells, 2005) and junior closer and two-time All-Pac-10 selection Kevin Gunderson (Aloha Knights, 2004); and reserves junior catcher Erik Ammon (Aloha Knights, 2005), junior pitcher Greg Keim (Bend Elks, 2004), sophomore infielder Lonnie Lechelt (Kelowna Falcons, 2005), junior pitcher Jake McCormick (Bend Elks, 2005), sophomore catcher Casey Priseman (Bellingham Bells, 2004-2005), redshirt freshman pitcher Rob Summers (Kelowna Falcons, 2005), sophomore pitcher Daniel Turpen (Aloha Knights, 2005) and senior outfielder Geoff Wagner (Bend Elks, 2002-2005).
Gillespie, Gunderson, Graham and Kunda were all selected in the 2006 MLB draft. Gillespie in the 3rd round by Milwaukee, Gunderson in the 5th round by Atlanta, Graham in the 19th round by San Francisco and Kunda in the 19th round by the New York Yankees.