Ben Wetzler (9-1) struck out five, walked five and allowed three earned runs over 7 2-3 innings, and opening-game starter Matt Boyd held off the Wildcats to earn his first save of the season and send the Beavers to Omaha for the first time since 2007, when Oregon State won its second consecutive national title.
“We’ve got an incredible team with incredible guys. Guys who know how to fight, guys who know how to put extra runs on when you’re already up,” Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto said. “I think we’ve got the full package if we do all the things right.”
Oregon State (50-11) jumped ahead in the second inning when Hayes followed a leadoff walk by Dylan Davis with a two-run home run to right-center.
“I got lucky with two strikes that he threw one right down the middle, it was a fastball,” Hayes said. “I was a little antsy my first at-bat. I probably swung at a ball that was literally over my head. But it was a great pitch to hit and I’m glad I hit it.”
The Beavers took a 3-0 lead in the fourth when Kavin Kayes knocked an RBI double off the fence in right-center to score Ryan Barnes from first base. That was all for Kansas State starter Jake Matthys (9-2), who struck out five and allowed three runs on three hits in his first career start.
“Their starting pitching just really held us down and we could never get any momentum until late in the game,” Wildcats coach Brad Hill said.
Oregon State added another run in the fifth when Kansas State shortstop Austin Fisher couldn’t handle a slow roller with two outs, allowing Beavers catcher Jake Rodriguez to score from third.
Kansas State (45-19) threatened with back-to-back singles to lead off both the sixth and seventh innings. After Ross Kivett and Tanner Witt led off the sixth with hits and a double play moved Kivett to third, Jared King hit an RBI single to put the Wildcats on the board.
Kansas State pulled within a run in the eighth when Blair DeBord hit a two-run double into the left field corner to score King and Fisher. The Beavers turned to Boyd, a one-time reliever-turned-starter, who threw 123 pitches on Saturday. With the tying run on second, R.J. Santigate singled to left, Conforto threw out DeBord at home to preserve the lead.
“This ride came up just one game short. Give credit to Oregon State. Good team. They’ve got some great arms,” Kivett said.
Oregon State will open the College World Series against Mississippi State on Saturday at 3 p.m. EDT.