OMAHA—A controversial call that took a run off the board for Oregon State led to its demise on Tuesday night, as the Beavers fell to Arkansas 4-1 in the first game of the College World Series finals.
The loss forces Oregon State into must-win territory tomorrow.
Leading 1-0 in the fourth, the Beavers had runners on first and third with nobody out. Designated hitter Tyler Malone grounded a ball to first, the Razorback first baseman went to second for the force, Malone was able to beat the throw back to first and Trevor Larnach came into score.
The run was waived off and two outs were awarded to Arkansas, however, as the second base umpire ruled that Adley Rutschman interfered with the return throw to first.
The letter of the NCAA law states that the runner must slide when approaching a bag with a force in play, though the umpire’s mid-game explanation to Oregon State head coach Pat Casey conveyed a different message—one that viewed Rutschman as having altered the throwing motion of the Arkansas shortstop.
The controversial call zapped all momentum from the Beavers, and the Razorbacks answered with a four runs in the fifth.
Oregon State starter Luke Heimlich, who was cruising through four innings, lost command of the strike zone and hit a batter with the bases loaded. A crucial error from Nick Madrigal and a walk from Christian Chamberlain led to two more runs.
Despite Chamberlain striking out 11 batters the rest of the way, the Oregon State offense was lifeless and wasn’t able to push anything else across against the trio of Blaine Knight, Barrett Loseke and Matt Cronin.
The two teams will square off again tomorrow at 4 p.m. PT, with the Razorbacks a win away from their first NCAA baseball championship in school history.