CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — KJ Harrison hit his second three-run homer in two games and Oregon State advanced to the College World Series with a 9-2 super regional victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday night.
It was the Beavers’ 21st straight win. Fans at Goss Stadium chanted “Oh-Ma-Ha” for the final out before the players dogpiled on the field at Goss Stadium.
The Beavers won the opener of the best-of-three series 8-4 on Friday, a day after reports surfaced that the team’s top pitcher pleaded guilty to a molestation charge as a teenager.
The Oregonian/OregonLive detailed the molestation case against left-hander Luke Heimlich when he was 15. Shortly before Friday’s game, Heimlich’s attorney said the junior had asked to be excused from playing.
Bryce Fehmel (5-2) started Saturday’s game for the Beavers (54-4), who won back-to-back World Series titles in 2006 and 2007. He pitched all nine innings, allowing the two runs on five hits with 10 strikeouts.
“We never dreamed he’d go nine, I don’t know how long it’s been since he’s had a start,” Oregon State coach Pat Casey said. “He was so good that I almost fell asleep. He just was fantastic. I went out to make a change, and the umpire said, ‘Gosh I hope you’re not taking that pitcher out.’ I said we were putting a center fielder in.”
Vanderbilt (36-24-1) started 6-foot-4 right-hander Kyle Wright (5-6), who could be the first-overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft on Monday.
Wright had bounced back from a slow start this season. His ERA was as high as 5.59 on April 1. But he yielded one earned run or fewer in six of his last eight starts, improving his ERA to 2.98 going into the start against the Beavers.
The Beavers went up 4-0 in the third on Steven Kwan’s RBI single and Harrison’s home run. Harrison also hit a three-run shot in the series opener.
Vandy closed the gap to 4-2 in the sixth on Jeren Kendall’s run-scoring single and an RBI groundout from Julian Infante.
Wright loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh inning then walked Harrison to make it 5-2 for Oregon State. His replacement, Zach King, gave up a single to Trevor Larnach and two more runs scored.
Cadyn Grenier added a two-run triple for the Beavers in the eighth.
“They just keep coming. Very inspired, very motivated right now,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said about the Beavers. “The makeup of their team is very good. They’ve got a lot of parts, and they’re tough to stop.”
Wright left after 6 2/3 innings, allowing seven runs and eight hits with eight strikeouts. Afterward he said he wasn’t thinking about the draft.
“I’m really not concerned about that right now. I just took a tough loss,” he said. “Right now I’m just trying to spend as much time with my teammates as I can.”
Heimlich, 21, pleaded guilty in 2012 to a single charge connected to the molestation of a 6-year-old girl in Washington state when he was 15. He completed a diversion program, served two years of probation and attended sex offender treatment for two years. He was also required to register as a sex offender.
On Friday, he released a statement through his attorney.
“I’m so proud of our team’s accomplishment and don’t want to be a distraction therefore I’ve respectfully requested to be excused from playing at this time,” the left-hander said in the statement.
I was unclear when, or if, Heimlich would return.
“He’s a team guy and in his statement he said that he didn’t want to be a distraction,” Casey said Friday night. “I can just tell you that he is a fine young man and every second that he’s been on this campus, on and off the field, he’s been a first-class individual, one that his family should be proud of, your community should be proud of, our team is proud of. I believe in Luke.”
Asked again about Heimlich on Saturday night, Casey would not say Saturday night whether he would pitch in Omaha.
The Beavers have advanced to the postseason 17 times. After they were snubbed for an invitation last year, the team responded with a dominant season.
Oregon State went 27-3 in Pac-12 play for the league title, surpassing Arizona State’s record of 26 league wins set in 1981. The team’s four losses in the regular season were the fewest since Texas was 53-4 going into the tournament in 1982.
Ranked No. 1 at the end of the regular season, the Beavers were the No. 1 national seed in the postseason.