OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — With a wave of his cap to the LSU fans, Alex Lange disappeared into the dugout after what very well could have been his last outing as a collegian.
It was one of his best, and most timely.
The Chicago Cubs’ first-round draft pick limited top-seeded Oregon State to two hits over 7 1/3 innings in a performance Friday that carried the Tigers to a 3-1 victory and ended the Beavers’ 23-game winning streak.
It also set up a winner-take-all Bracket 1 final at the College World Series on Saturday, with the winner going to the best-of-three finals beginning Monday.
Lange (10-5) won a CWS elimination game for the second time in his career, and he said his experience pitching so many important games at home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, prepared him.
“I had a sense of calmness about me this morning when I woke up, and getting to the yard. I was expecting to be amped up and juiced up,” Lange said. “I was calm and relaxed. I think that goes back to pitching in Alex Box Stadium in front of 12,000 people every Friday night. It wasn’t a big shocker or big difference. This is why I came to LSU, to play in these big games. And keeping your team in the ballgame and keeping the season alive is pretty awesome.”
The Tigers (51-18) avenged a 13-1 loss to the Beavers (56-5) on Monday and became the first team to knock them off since Southern California on April 29.
They did all of their scoring against national wins leader Jake Thompson (14-1). Max Engelbrekt relieved in the seventh after Josh Smith hit Thompson’s first pitch of the inning into the right-field seats for a two-run lead.
Oregon State was still stinging after the game from a call in the third inning when, with runners on first and second, Steven Kwan sliced a ball down the left-field line that bounced off the wall and was ruled foul. TV replays indicated it was a fair ball.
Oregon State coach Pat Casey said by the time someone on his staff told him to ask for a video review, the next pitch had been thrown, closing his window of opportunity.
NCAA national coordinator of umpires George Drouches said through an NCAA spokesman that crew chief Danny Collins should have called for a video review. Collins, who was working third base, made the original foul call. Kwan ended up popping out to shortstop before Lange walked two straight to force in a run.
Had the ball been ruled fair, Casey said, “I do believe that it certainly would have changed that inning, that’s for sure.”
For Lange, there was a moment of anxiety.
“I’m looking, and you’re talking to it, kind of like a golfer talks to a ball,” he said. “I was like, ‘Get foul, get foul.’ Then they called it foul, and I thought it was foul. But what I heard in the dugout, it might have been fair. So I’m just glad they called it foul. Obviously, that’s a pretty big situation.”
Lange ran into trouble in the third when he walked three batters and gave up a double. Only one more batter advanced past first against him, and he retired eight in a row before he turned the game over to closer Zack Hess with one out in the eighth. Hess retired the last five batters, four by strikeout, for his fourth save.
LSU opened the second inning with a double and two singles and led 2-0 when Beau Jordan’s safety-squeeze bunt scored Zach Watson.
The Beavers’ two hits were their fewest since they had four in their season opener against Indiana.
“We believe in ourselves, and we’re still 56-5 or whatever we are,” Casey said. “We need to put that behind us and get ready to play tomorrow.”
Watson had three hits for the second straight game, the first player to do that in the CWS since Florida’s Richie Martin in 2015. Watson is 8 for his last 12 after going 0 for 4 against Florida State last Saturday.
Oregon State will start Tampa Bay Rays’ first-round draft pick Drew Rasmussen (3-0) against Caleb Gilbert (6-1). Rasmussen returned from Tommy John surgery in April. Gilbert has been used mostly in relief but is being pressed into the starter’s role because of a forearm injury to Eric Walker.
Something for LSU fans to chew on before the winner-take-all bracket final: Since losing five straight games from May 6-13, 2016, Oregon State is 62-6 and has not lost consecutive games.