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BEAVERS NOTEBOOK: Conforto shows off his best

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Michael Conforto (second from right) had a near-perfect day Saturday in Oregon State's 5-4 College World Series loss to Mississippi State.OMAHA, Neb. -- Michael Conforto misplayed the first ball hit in Saturday's opening game of the College World Series -- Adam Frazier's opposite-field ball that turned into a double.

After that, Conforto was the best player on the field at TD Ameritrade Park.

And certainly, as Mississippi State coach John Cohen suggested, "the best hitter in the planet."

Oregon State's sophomore left fielder became the first player in school history to go 4 for 4 in a CWS game in the Beavers' 5-4 loss to Mississippi State.

Conforto doubled in the first inning, singled in the third, doubled in the fifth and singled in the seventh.

By the time the Pac-12 player of the year came to bat in the ninth inning as the potential game-winning run, the Bulldogs were giving him wide berth and walked him.

In addition, Conforto made two superb defensive plays, gunning down Sam Frost at home for an inning-ending double-play after a fly out to left in the second, then making a sliding catch of a line drive to left in the fourth.

"I'm thinking about getting out of coaching and being his agent," Pat Casey joked when asked about Conforto's day. "I heard they get five percent.

"Michael was fantastic. He showed what kind of player he is. The wind fooled him (on the fly ball) in the first inning. It didn't hurt us. Then he threw the kid out of the plate. That ball he hit to center field (in the fifth) was absolutely torched."

• Danny Hayes came close to hero status in the final at-bat of the game.

With runners on first and second, two outs and the Bulldogs ahead 5-4, Oregon State's senior first baseman sent a drive to deep right-center field. Right fielder Hunter Renfroe caught it up against the fence to end the game.

"Danny put a great swing on it," Casey said. "In almost any other park in the country, it's probably out. If it'd been 20 minutes earlier, when the wind wasn't coming in a little bit, maybe it would have (been out)."

"I left a curveball hanging there, and he hit it pretty good," Mississippi State closer Jonathan Holder said. "I thought he might have got it a little off the end of the bat, and the wind helped me out a little bit. Like coach (John) Cohen says, sometimes it falls for you; sometimes it doesn't. Today it was in our favor."

• Other than one bad inning -- the second -- OSU freshman Andrew Moore wore the national spotlight well in the biggest start of his young career.

The right-hander from North Eugene High allowed six hits and four earned runs in his 7 1/3 innings and left the game with a 5-4 lead in the eighth.

The first five Mississippi State batters reached base in the second on three hits, a walk and a hit-by-pitch, and the Bulldogs got three of their runs in that frame.

From the second to the eighth innings, though, Moore set down 18 of 20 batters and retired the side in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh.

The Bulldogs' game plan was to try to work counts, raise Moore's pitch count and get to Oregon State's relief corps, a supposed weak link.

"We'd heard that, and that was part of the scouting report," Cohen said. "But their closer (Max Englebrekt, who was injured and didn't pitch) has great numbers. And then if you use (Matt) Boyd, that bullpen is as good as anybody's. Gosh, their pitchers compete so hard … it seems like they get better when they get close to the 100-pitch count."

• In 2006, Oregon State lost its opening CWS game 11-1 to Miami. The Beavers then reeled off six straight victories in elimination games to win the title.

This season, the Beavers lost openers against UCLA, Oregon and Washington State before rallying to win three-game series. Will that experience help them as they try to survive through the losers' bracket?

"I hope so," Casey said. "These guys have never been to the College World Series, but they have had their backs to the wall. We talk about our character all the time. We'll be back. We'll be OK. We'll find a way."

Even so, Casey admits there will be an emotional letdown with the OSU players after losing a close game such as Saturday's.

"It's difficult," he said. "It's more difficult on them than it is me because those guys put their heart and soul into it. I feel for them. But I've been in this position before. They've been in this position before. We're not going away. They're going to have to rip the unis right off our backs."

Added Conforto: "Hopefully, there's a lot of baseball left. We have to come out Monday and be ready to play. This team knows how to bounce back from a loss. We've been in this position before. We plan on doing the same things we've done all season."

• If Mississippi State wins its next two games and Oregon State maneuvers through the losers' bracket, the teams could meet again in the best-of-three final series.

The Beavers "are a really well-coached club." Cohen said. "The more I watch them play, the more I realize they don't beat themselves. Their middle of the order takes unbelievable swings, they make you beat them, they don't chase (pitches) out of the zone. It wouldn't shock me at all if we meet those guys again."

• The Bulldogs made two mental errors early, getting thrown out on a base-running blunder between second and third base and turning a Kavin Keyes single into a triple by diving for a ball in left field.

"We can do some pretty dumb things and still find a way to win a game, because of the competitive nature of our kids," Cohen said.

• Mississippi State set-up man Ross Mitchell, who threw 2 2/3 innings of shutout ball, ran his record to 13-0 in 32 relief appearances. That's not close to the Bulldogs' single-season record -- that's 18 in 23 starts by Jeff Brantley in 1985 -- but has to be an NCAA record for relievers. … attendance was 24,473, eight-best in the park's three-year history.

• MSU's Adam Frazier set the school single-season record for 104 hits with a single in the fifth inning.

• Moore allowed four earned runs for the first time in 17 starters this season.

• The loss snapped Oregon State's seven-game CWS win streak.

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