CORVALLIS — Kansas State arrived at the NCAA super regional in Goss Stadium with a gaudy .324 batting average after putting up 31 runs in three regional games.
The Wildcats left here with their bats sheathed and their season over, largely because of Oregon State's three starting pitchers.
DAY 1 SCHEDULE: Saturday, Game 1, Oregon State vs. Mississippi State, noon, ESPN2; Game 2, Indiana vs. Louisville, 5 p.m., ESPN.
"They shut us down pretty good, no question," Wildcats coach Brad Hill said. "They really held us down as far as starting pitching, as good as anybody all year long."
That's Oregon State. Even figuring in some standout defense and some timely power hitting over the three games of the super regional, the major reason for the Beavers advancing to the College World Series was the trio of starting pitchers: senior Matt Boyd, junior Ben Wetzler and freshman Andrew Moore.
Over the 24 innings that those three pitched, they held the Wildcats to 22 hits and seven earned runs, for a cumulative earned run average of 2.62, or less than half of what Kansas State had scored on average during the season.
As the Beavers (50-11) prepare for their opener in the College World Series against Mississippi State (48-18) on Saturday, there is little question the strength of the team is its starting pitching, with OSU's hopes for a national title largely riding on how the starters perform in the next week or two.
The games within their bracket are spaced out enough, provided the Beavers win, that they can get by with their three starters and not need a fourth. The concern will largely be whether the bullpen is needed very often, or too early, because clearly OSU has concerns in that area.
That, too, was obvious in the super regional.
In holding Kansas State to 13 total runs in three games, eight of those came in the eighth inning or later, when either OSU's starting pitchers were tiring, or they'd been replaced by relievers. OSU's most effective reliever, in fact, was Boyd in the series finale, when he came back two days after he'd thrown 123 pitches to record the final four outs on Monday.
"Unbelievable performance to bounce back that fast," Wetzler said in admiration of his teammate.
Boyd was a reliever for his previous two seasons at OSU, earning a starter spot this year and responding with a 10-3 record and a 2.13 earned run average, with the difficult assignment of usually going against the opponent's top pitcher in a series opener.
Moore, a year after graduating from North Eugene High School, is tied for the national lead in wins at 14-1 with a 1.36 earned run average, up from 1.22 before the super regional because he was touched for three earned runs in eight-plus innings against Kansas State. He went that long, a season-high 124 pitches, largely because the Beavers tried to stay out of their bullpen for as long as possible.
Wetzler didn't make his first start until March 30, with his first four appearances in relief as he eased into the season because of a sore back. But he's 9-1 with a 2.11 ERA, with wins in nine of his past 10 starts, and the other a no-decision.
The question will be, can those three keep it going? It's been a long season and Boyd has thrown 1222/3 innings and Moore is at 119.
And in their bracket of the College World Series, the Beavers are in with some swingers. Mississippi State is hitting .296 as a team and averaging six runs per game, with an offense led by outfielder Hunter Renfroe, who is hitting .362 with 15 homers in becoming the first-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres.
OSU's second opponent on Monday will be one of two conference champions, either Louisville of the Big East or Indiana of the Big Ten.
The Cardinals (51-12) are hitting .291 as a team, and averaging 6.3 runs, and the Hoosiers (48-14) hit .305 as a team and averaged almost seven runs.
Ah, but couldn't most of that have been said about the Wildcats, champions of the Big 12, before they arrived in Corvallis and had their bats quieted?
"You have to give credit to them," Kansas State outfielder Jared King said of the Beavers. "They have really good arms and a really good team."