2018 College World Series has already been delayed longer than past seven years combined

2018 College World Series has already been delayed longer than past seven years combined
Sarah Steffensen, left, and Madeline Gorchels wait in the second row of the bleachers for the start of the Texas Tech and Arkansas game. The first row of the bleachers had several inches of standing water in it. (World-Herald News Service)

In the top of the fourth inning, with one on and one out, the rain returned.

Arkansas and Texas Tech played on, but fans around TD Ameritrade Park sprung to action. They jumped from seats into the aisles, rushing to safety under the overhanging concourse. Others hastily threw on clear or blue ponchos; some flicked an umbrella as strike two was called.

Wet socks, white tarps and killing time have been plentiful at this year’s College World Series, the most rain-delayed CWS of the past 15 years.

Rain and lightning have delayed the first nine games 660 total minutes in five days. That is 11 hours total, an average of more than two hours per day. That far exceeds the yearly average since 2004, which is 159 delayed minutes for the entire series, or a little more than 2.5 hours per year.

This year’s CWS has had more halted play for wet or dangerous conditions than the past seven College World Series combined. Through Wednesday afternoon, Omaha had received more than 3 inches of rain since Sunday.

“It’s just something you’ve got to deal with, with the game of baseball,” Texas Tech pitcher Davis Martin said.

Seems like everyone has had to deal with it this week. The “fun” kicked off Sunday with Game 3 between Texas and Arkansas when rain and lightning delayed Game 2 hours, 49 minutes. Game 5 between Oregon State and Washington on Monday really messed up the schedule for the week, with a 4:31 delay. That marathon of rain pushed the North Carolina-Mississippi State winners bracket game from Monday night to Tuesday morning. Then, on Wednesday, a rescheduled Arkansas-Texas Tech game was delayed 3:30 because of morning showers.

Stuck in the locker rooms while Omaha gets a shower, teams have had to find ways to keep busy.

Oregon State and Texas Tech both spent time playing their favorite game, “Mafia.”

“You got a Mafia. You got a sheriff. And then you have a doctor,” explained Oregon State first baseman Tyler Malone. “So the mafia chooses who they want to kill or take out of the town. And the sheriffs try to determine who was in the mafia, and then the doctor tries to save and then there’s an open discussion. So it gets pretty heated. It’s pretty fun.”

During one weather delay this week, Oregon State freshman Joe Casey did a “30 bubble gum piece challenge” and stuffed 30 pieces of bubble gum in his mouth.

“Looked like a chipmunk,” designated hitter Kyle Nobach said.

Mississippi State and its police escort bussed to TD Ameritrade Park twice Monday afternoon, and twice the team returned to its hotel without playing.

While waiting around in the locker room before heading back, a game of “Hangman” broke out on the whiteboard inside the Bulldog locker room. One winning word put up by senior reliever Blake Smith was “O-M-E-H-A-W,” part of an inside joke among the players on how they pronounce the name of Nebraska’s largest city.

North Carolina, meanwhile, made one trip to the ballpark Monday evening before learning of its postponed game. Second baseman Zack Gahagan said the team came prepared with multiple gaming systems to continue a season-long battle of “Fortnite.”

Since 2004, five College World Series had no weather delays, including in 2017. The only year that comes close to the 2018 figure of 11 hours is 2010, when fans had to wait through nearly seven hours of delays. But even so, most of that came on one day, when play was delayed for six hours.

“We gotta take what we get with the weather,” Texas Tech second basemen Brian Klein said. “We’ve got to be ready to go if it’s 1 in the morning or if we’re playing at 10 a.m.”

Somewhat remarkably, the CWS remains on schedule. Just one game is scheduled for Thursday: Florida vs. Texas Tech.

But the forecast isn’t quite clear yet. Showers are on the radar for Thursday, too.

Oregon State eliminates North Carolina from College World Series with four-run eighth inning

Oregon State and North Carolina both saw how quickly a high-stakes game in Omaha could slip away.

But after trailing by three runs late, the Beavers clawed their way back from oblivion with a four-run rally during a climactic eighth inning.

The team added four more runs in the ninth, the bullpen held off the Tar Heels the rest of the way and Oregon State earned an 11-6 victory in a thrilling College World Series elimination game at TD Ameritrade Park on Wednesday night.

The performance garnered the full approval of Oregon State coach Pat Casey.

“They were resilient,” he said. “They were tough. They fought. They scrapped.

“I ask guys all the time to be as competitive as they can possibly be, and they were. It was a great comeback.”

Oregon State (51-11-1) will face Mississippi State (39-27) at 2 p.m. Friday to keep its run going.

The Tar Heels and Beavers opened the CWS with a topsy -turvy, 4½ hour marathon Saturday. Four days later, it took them 3 hours, 56 minutes to decide who would move on and who would go home in front of a dedicated crowd of 21,568.

This game’s go-ahead run came on a bases-loaded walk by Oregon State’s Jack Anderson in the top of the eighth, capping a nightmarish, seemingly never-ending stretch for the Tar Heels.

UNC’s prospects of moving on seemed bright when the inning began. North Carolina freshman left-hander Caden O’Brien had retired the side in the seventh but was pulled — to loud cheers from the Tar Heels’ fans — after giving up a leadoff single to Oregon State’s Zak Taylor in the eighth.

After taking over for starter Cooper Criswell in the third inning, O’Brien allowed one run, two hits and no walks while striking out five in 4⅓ innings of work.

But with freshman right-hander Joey Lancellotti on the mound, things started to spiral out of control for the Tar Heels.

Oregon State star second baseman Nick Madrigal singled up the middle to put two on.

“Sometimes it just takes one hit to break it open,” Madrigal said. “And that’s the way baseball works.”

Cadyn Grenier then worked an 11-pitch at-bat for a walk to load the bases, and the Tar Heels went back to their bullpen . With North Carolina senior Brett Daniels on the mound and a cloud of mist rolling into the stadium, Oregon State slugger Trevor Larnach stepped up to the plate and went down swinging.

But Adley Rutschman didn’t.

The sophomore clean-up hitter smashed a bases-clearing double to the center-field warning track to tie the game at 6-6. A strikeout and an intentional walk later, senior Michael Gretler drew another walk to load the bases again to set up Anderson’s go-ahead RBI walk.

The Beavers, who scored 10 unanswered runs in a 14-5, comeback rout over Washington on Monday, poured it on in the ninth.

Larnach drove in a run. Monday’s breakout player, sophomore Tyler Malone, hit a two-run home run and Anderson batted in one more for good measure.

Sophomore lefty Jake Mulholland sealed the win for the Beavers after allowing one hit and no runs in the final three innings.

“I thought Mully probably was the difference in the game for us,” Casey said. “He came in at the right time and did the right things.”

Though they needed an emphatic comeback to seal their fate, the Beavers didn’t wait long to get down to business Wednesday. After Madrigal’s leadoff groundout, Grenier blasted a one-out solo shot to left-center. Two batters later, Rutschman followed suit, sending a 2-2 pitch near the same bleacher area past the left-field wall.

In the third, the Beavers tacked on another run and chased Tar Heels starting pitcher Criswell after just two-thirds of an inning. The junior right-hander struck out four and didn’t give up any walks, but he couldn’t stop Oregon State from coming up with big hits.

After Grenier singled with two outs, Larnach lined an RBI double to left field to make it 3-0.

In the bottom half, Criswell’s counterpart, Oregon State ace Luke Heimlich, saw a promising outing go sideways when North Carolina loaded the bases with no outs.

A pair of singles led to a Heimlich error on a bunt down the first base line.

North Carolina junior Cody Roberts then drove in the Tar Heels’ first run of the game, setting up junior Brandon Riley to bounce a two-run double down the right-field line and tie it up at 3-3.

Two innings later, North Carolina sophomore Ike Freeman delivered the go-ahead RBI single. An inning after that, leadoff hitter Kyle Datres hammered a two-run bomb off the left-field foul pole to give the Tar Heels a 6-3 advantage.

But it wasn’t enough. The Tar Heels closed the season at 44-20.

“We wanted to get these guys back to Omaha, and we made it,” North Carolina senior Zack Gahagan said. “These guys are unbelievable in the locker room, and a great group to be around.”

Arkansas handles Texas Tech to move within one win of CWS championship series

When a collision in the outfield led to a pair of Arkansas runs, Dave Van Horn figured the Razorbacks found some good fortune.

But just about everything else that happened for the Hogs on Wednesday afternoon — from a pair of home runs to a dominant pitching performance — was earned as they took another step toward their first College World Series title.

Sophomore outfielder Dominic Fletcher was 4 for 4 and drove in four runs for Arkansas, which also received 14 combined strikeouts from starter Kacey Murphy and two relievers in a 7-4 victory over Texas Tech on Wednesday that puts the No. 5 national seed within a win of the championship series.

“We had a couple of things go on our way,” said Van Horn, the Arkansas coach. “Then we swung the bats pretty well after that and got a couple of big hits with two outs, couple of home runs to keep adding to that lead, and just pretty good job up and down our lineup.”

The Razorbacks (46-19) advance to Friday’s 7 p.m. game against either No. 1 seed Florida or No. 9 Tech (45-19), who will play an elimination game Thursday evening at 7.

Arkansas scored twice in the top of the first inning Wednesday when — with runners at second and third and two outs — Tech center fielder Cody Farhat and right fielder Gabe Holt collided chasing down a fly ball from Fletcher that fell between them. The Hogs added on in the second with a solo shot from former Iowa Western standout Jared Gates — the senior nicknamed “Mr. June” entered the game 9 for 25 (.360) with four walks in the NCAA tournament — and a Fletcher homer on a 1-2 fastball two innings later.

“I really didn’t know what I was expecting,” Gates said of his at-bat. “Then (Tech starter Davis Martin) threw a change-up, and I honestly capped it. I don’t know how it got out. But I’m glad it did.”

Fletcher’s bomb cleared the right-field bullpen — “It’s about as far as I can hit one, probably as far as I’ve ever hit one,” he said — and gave the SEC reps a 4-0 lead in top of the fourth. Nine-hole hitter Jax Biggers added an RBI single later in the frame.

Texas Tech coach Tim Tadlock said he and his staff opted to start the junior Martin over their regular Saturday hurler, sophomore Caleb Kilian, because of the former’s experience in big games and ability to stay around the strike zone. But Arkansas pounded the righty — taken in the 14th round of the MLB draft by the White Sox earlier this month — for five runs and six hits across just 32⁄3 innings.

“I think both home runs were mistakes,” Martin said. “The single to Biggers in the fourth was also a mistake. And you’re kind of walking a tight line. You’ve got to hit your spots, gotta get ahead early in the counts and try to keep them off balance. But those times they did get a hold of some stuff, they were mistakes, and you’ve just got to give them credit.”

The offense that some fans call the “Sooieville Sluggers” continued on its tear, putting at least one man on base in seven innings. It added two runs in the eighth on RBI singles from Fletcher and Carson Shaddy.

Barrett Loseke notched the win in relief, fanning five batters in three scoreless, two-hit innings. Murphy (4⅔ frames, seven strikeouts) and Matt Cronin (1⅓ innings, two strikeouts) also threw effectively despite Brian Klein’s two-run double in the fifth and Farhat’s two-RBI single in the ninth.

Tech entered the day ranked third nationally in scoring (8.2 runs per game) but finished 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position. Van Horn said it helped to draw on the experience of beating the Red Raiders 5-1 in an April midweek game.

“I just thought Murphy came out and gave us a great start and gave us a lot of confidence and gave us a chance to build up a lead,” Van Horn said. “Anytime you play with a lead, the other team, it’s not as easy. Sometimes they try to do too much. And other than that, definitely the first game helped us pitch against them today.”

Murphy, a left-handed junior, avoided damage in the first inning despite the first two Red Raiders reaching on a single and throwing error. He issued a leadoff walk in the second but benefited from his defense as left fielder Heston Kjerstad robbed Farhat of extra bases with a crashing grab at the wall and catcher Grant Koch threw out a would-be base stealer.

The start of the winners bracket game had been set to begin at 11 a.m. but was delayed 3 hours, 30 minutes by rainy conditions after originally being scheduled to go Tuesday night.

Van Horn said any big celebrations at this point are premature. After all, the Hogs began 2-0 at the CWS in 2012 and still fell short of the best-of-three final series.

“We haven’t really done anything yet,” Van Horn said. “We’re 2-0. It’s a great feeling. What it gets us is a day off so you can rest some guys. … It doesn’t really matter yet. You’ve still got work to do.”

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