OMAHA -- Oregon State needed to just about empty the bullpen to get all the way to tonight's winner-take-all College World Series game against Arkansas and the obvious question is, "Who will pitch tonight?"
OSU pitching coach Nate Yeskie was asked that question amid the din of the Beaver locker room after Wednesday night's miraculous 5-3 comeback win over the Razorbacks. And while the starting pitcher is important, it hasn't been about the OSU starting pitching here. It's been about the relief corps.
"We're going to let this one sink in a little bit and then we will look at our options before we make a decision," Yeskie said. "Try to look at things objectively. I don't think any one person is going to do it by himself. We haven't been particularly good on the front end but the guys on the back end have picked us up. Particularly the 'gap' guys. We have confidence in all of our guys. They are all capable of getting outs. They can all make pitches."
The Beavers are probably going to have to use a lot of arms to get through the deep Arkansas lineup in the title game. Only the two pitchers -- Brandon Eisert and Bryce Fehmel -- who were used extensively in Game 2 will be spared from bullpen duty, most likely. Head coach Pat Casey was asked which of his pitchers would NOT be available.
"Probably Eisert and probably Fehmel," Casey said. "Fehmel threw 50 pitches, I guess. I don't know. Eisert threw more than that. And if you threw a guy out there that had thrown -- depends on the kid, too. If a kid says, 'Hey, I'm sore, I'm whatever...' I think it's all hands on deck right now for anybody that... I watched the World Series and I see Randy Johnson going down (to the bullpen) after two-day start to close, to win a championship. People do things. Now, we're never going to put someone in a position that is detrimental to them, that's for sure."
There has been some chatter about trying to get a few more innings out of Kevin Abel, the OSU freshman who has already tied a CWS record with three wins. He has been the most effective OSU starter by far. Christian Chamberlain provided terrific pitching in relief during Game 1 and Yeskie said he added more than just what the box score showed.
"He walked some guys and punched out some guys," Yeskie said. "But he also gave us some insight on how we'd like to attack certain hitters. But at the end of the day, you've got to make pitches."
The Beavers got to the championship game in one of the most dramatic finishes I've seen in many decades of watching and covering baseball -- and just about every other sport.
Down to the last out and to the last strike --- and to gain new life from a pop fly that dropped untouched but should have been caught to end the game and the season -- and come back to win? Well, when it happened, Jack Buck's excited voice rattled around in my head so forcefully that I spoke it out loud in the same stunned manner the legendary sportscaster used when describing Kirk Gibson's game-winning homer in the World Series off Dennis Eckersley in 1988:
"...And I don't believe... what I just saw!" ... And the man sitting beside me quickly added another famous Buck line, "... And we'll see you tomorrow!"
Yes, the Beavers got a huge break when that popup fell harmlessly to the ground. But the point is, they took advantage of it. They got that two-out, two-strike single from Cadyn Grenier. They got that laser-beam home run from Trevor Larnach. They got that save from Jake Mulholland.
And they lived to play another day.
I can't wait.