The majority of Washington’s first-ever College World Series game was a pitcher’s duel. Neither team’s offense could break through against the other’s hurlers for almost nine innings. That is, until the Bulldogs’ Luke Alexander looped an Alex Hardy pitch over Kaiser Weiss’s head in right field, allowing Hunter Stovall to score and win the game for Mississippi State 1-0 over Washington.
With the loss, Washington will face Pac-12 rival Oregon State in a win-or-go-home game on Monday. The Huskies took only one game of their three-game series against the Beavers in late March.
Joe Demers did what he normally does for the Huskies and shut down the Bulldogs’ lineup. He got out of the first three innings without any significant threats, but State knocked on the door in the fourth inning. With two outs, Stovall singled to center field, and on the very next Demers pitch, Elijah MacNamee singled. This sent Stovall to third, creating State’s first run opportunity. But Washington’s ace got Justin Foscue to ground out two pitches later to end the inning.
Meanwhile, Ethan Small kept the Washington lineup in check, but the Huskies mounted a third-inning attack. Jonathan Schiffer and Mason Cerillo managed back-to-back one-out singles, and Braiden Ward got hit in the back by a pitch to load the bases. But the next hitter, Nick Kahle, grounded into a double play to put away the inning.
Both pitchers stayed the course for the next few frames until Demers was pulled for Hardy in the eighth after giving up a double to Jake Magnum. Demers pitched 7.1 innings, allowing seven hits and striking out two.
In the top of the ninth, Kahle and defensive stud Levi Jordan got on base via a pair of singles. However, newly inserted State pitcher Zach Neff forced Washington’s leading home run hitter Joe Wainhouse to strike out for the third time in the game. Wainhouse went 0-for-4.
Mississippi State would not be denied in the bottom of the ninth. A leadoff single by Stovall and a quick one-bagger by MacNamee put two runners on with no outs. Two batters later, Alexander came up to the plate against Hardy, and secured yet another walk-off win for the Bulldogs this postseason.
To beat Oregon State on Monday, Washington must do one simple thing: score runs. The Huskies’ four best hitters average-wise combined to go 3-for-15 against Bulldogs pitchers. This includes AJ Graffanino, who went 1-for-4, his only hit an inconsequential ground-rule double in the second inning. Players like Jordan and Cerillo must get on base early and often against the Beavers, who scored six runs in their opening round loss to North Carolina.
This may be a no-brainer (and it is), but the Huskies need their offensive performers to step up if they want to extend their stay in Omaha.