Freshman Jorge Reyes led Oregon State to within one win of its second straight College World Series (CWS) title with another strong pitching performance and the Beavers beat North Carolina 11-4 in Game 1 on Saturday night.
Reyes pitched with the Moses Lake Pirates of the WCCBL last summer and will return to the Pirates after the CWS.
North Carolina, which won three straight elimination games to set up a rematch of last year’s championship series, needs to win twice more to keep Oregon State from becoming the first back-to-back national champion since LSU in 1996-97.
Reyes (7-3), allowed eight hits and three runs in 6 1/3 innings to win for the second time in the CWS and third time in the NCAA tournament. His grandparents traveled over 1,200 miles from Mexico to see Jorge pitch in Omaha.
The Tar Heels (57-15), who have come from behind to win five games in the NCAA tournament, couldn’t rally against Oregon State (48-18), which is 41-0 when leading after seven innings. And the pitching problems that plagued North Carolina early in the tournament appeared to return.
Oregon State and North Carolina are playing the first title-series rematch since Arizona State and Southern California met in 1973. A year ago, the Tar Heels won Game 1, then the Beavers won two straight for their first national championship.
The Beavers have won all four of their CWS games and 10 of their last 11 overall.
Reyes gave up a double to Reid Fronk on the first pitch of the game, but held the Tar Heels scoreless until the fifth.
By then the Beavers were up 3-0. After Fronk’s second double of the game cut it to 3-2, Oregon State scored once in the fifth, twice in the sixth and four times in the seventh to break open the game.
Reyes held North Carolina scoreless on three hits through four innings. Seth Williams and Garrett Gore had back-to-back two-out singles in the fifth before Fronk drove them in.
After Reyes walked Gore with one out in the seventh, Joe Paterson came on and went the rest of the way to earn his second save.
The Tar Heels’ pitching staff came into the finals having allowed just six runs and 16 hits the previous three games after allowing 19 in the first two in Omaha.
On Saturday, six pitchers combined to allow 12 hits and six walks and hit two batters. The Tar Heels’ pitching really unraveled in the Beavers’ four-run seventh.
Tyler Trice, the fourth of seven North Carolina pitchers, misplayed two bunts. He threw in the dirt after picking up Chris Hopkins’ and threw over first baseman Dustin Ackley on Joey Wong’s bunt, allowing two runs to score.
Matt Cox came on and walked two in a row to force in another run.
The Beavers got to starter Alex White in the second with two outs. He walked Scott Santschi before Jordan Lennerton hit his second homer of the CWS.
The Beavers made it 3-0 in the third, and they might have scored more if Mike Lissman’s base-running error hadn’t produced an easy double play. Wong scored from third on Mitch Canham’s sacrifice fly. But Lissman, on first, apparently didn’t realize there was only out, and he ran on contact. He already was around third when Josh Horton threw to first to double him off.
WCCBL alums second baseman Joey Wong and third baseman Lonnie Lechelt were OSU’s hitting stars as Wong collected two singles and two runs and Lechelt two doubles and two runs. Wong starred last summer with the Bend Elks and Lechelt played for the Kelowna Falcons in 2005. Both also continued to play great defense in the CWS.
OSU got here thanks to Daniel Turpen’s stellar eight-inning performance (and win) vs. UC Irvine. Turpen pitched for the Corvallis Knights in 2005.
With a victory Sunday or Monday, OSU can win its second consecutive national championship.