It's (Matt) Boyd's World
Beavers live in it, and love it, as senior starter lifts them over Indiana 1-0 at College World Series
OMAHA, Neb. -- Rembrandt beat Picasso Wednesday night at TD Ameritrade Park.
Matt Boyd and Aaron Slegers were that good.
Boyd's four-hit masterpiece was just enough to get Oregon State past Indiana 1-0 in a College World Series elimination game, because the Hoosiers' Slegers -- the Big Ten pitcher of the year -- turned it into a pitching duel of epic proportions.
"'Matty' was just a couple of pitches better than the other guy," said coach Pat Casey, whose Beavers (52-12) move on to face Mississippi State in a Friday noon rematch. "It was a heck of a game."
Slegers allowed only seven hits and a fourth-inning run, with two walks and five strikeouts while throwing 116 pitches. The 6-10, 250-pound sophomore right-hander from Scottsdale, Ariz., seemed to get stronger as the game wore on.
The man of the two hours and 45 minutes, though, was Boyd, the 6-3, 215-pound left-hander from Mercer Island, Wash., who spurned a contract offer from the Cincinnati Reds last summer to return to Oregon State for his senior season.
Boyd's importance to the Beavers Friday night?
"How about single-handedly winning us that game, how does that sound?" OSU designated hitter Ryan Barnes said with a laugh. "I get the luxury of watching him from the bench. His stuff was sharp. We were following his lead. He wasn't going to lose. We were just lucky we scored one."
It was the first time both pitchers have thrown a complete CWS game since 2006, when North Carolina's Robert Woodard bested Clemson's Stephen Faris 2-0.
Boyd walked three and struck out 11 -- one short of his career high -- in his 121-pitch performance. Indiana (49-16) didn't get a hit until Michael Basil's one-out bloop single to right field in the fifth inning. Casey Smith had the Hoosiers' only sharply struck hit, a line single to center in the eighth.
"Matt was as good as anybody we've seen throw here in the College World Series," Casey said.
I think the veteran coach meant ever.
OSU's Jonah Nickerson stoned Rice with a two-hit gem in a 2-0 win in the 2006 CWS, a day after Daniel Turpen's five-hitter in a 5-0 win over the Owls. Boyd's showing Wednesday night was right there with them.
Steven Pivovar of the Omaha World-Herald told me Boyd was as good Wednesday night as anybody he has seen in 31 years covering the CWS.
Indiana entered the game with a .303 team batting average and hadn't been shut out all season.
"I haven't seen a guy more on than that," Indiana coach Tracy Smith said. "He was tremendous. He was locating his pitches well. I can't say I've seen a single performance better. He was keeping us off-balance and kept a very good offense in check all night. We got a guy to second base only once."
Casey was asked if he has seen a bigger pitching performance.
"Never," he said. "Not on that stage, against a club, you look at their numbers it was fantastic. That from a guy who turned down professional baseball to come back, because he wanted to pitch in the CWS. I'm happy for Matt."
Boyd mixed his fastball, curveball and slider effectively throughout the game.
"My curveball and slider were working very well," he said. "I was able to put (the fastball) on both sides of the plate and to get ahead early, down in the zone. It opened up both sides of the plate for my other pitches as well."
Boyd's other pitches were so good, he held off using the changeup until the eighth, when he used the pitch to strike out Justin Cureton to end the inning.
"Matt talked about getting ahead with his off-speed pitches, but his fastball was great," catcher Jake Rodriguez said. "He got ahead more with his fastball, worked both sides of the plate. He was down with all of his pitches. That's why he was so successful. We needed him to throw off-speed pitches early in the count, and he hit his spot and threw balls in the dirt and did a great job of keeping (the Hoosiers) off-balance."
Boyd, a successful but not overpowering relief pitcher for Oregon State through his first three season, opted to return after being chosen by Cincinnati in the 13th round of the 2012 draft. A lure was the opportunity to start, and he won the Friday night job, earning first-team all-Pac-12 honors.
But when closer Max Englebrekt suffered back spasms against Kansas State on June 8, Casey used Boyd as a closer two nights later to help Oregon State wrap up the super regional. The left-hander filled that role again in last Saturday's 6-2 loss to Mississippi State in the Beavers' CWS opener.
After the Beavers stayed alive with a Monday win over Louisville, though, Casey knew who he would turn to as a starter Wednesday night.
"Matty had thrown a couple times in relief, but he had 10 days between starts," Casey said. "He was plenty rested."
Boyd looked it.
"He was unbelievable," shortstop Tyler Smith said, "the best I've ever seen him in four years. He was commanding every one of his pitches. (The Hoosiers) didn't know what was coming. The lefties were struggling with his slider. He was coming in, going out."
"He was spotting his fastball and getting his breaking ball in on the first strike," Indiana's Basil said. "It kept us off-balance a lot. We wanted to jump on his fastball, but a lot of times when his fastball was in the zone, it was right on the inside corner or outside corner. He didn't really leave too much over the heart of the plate."
There was no bullpen action for the Beavers all night.
"It would have been hard to take Matty out in that situation, as well as he was pitching," Casey said. "We were going to win or lose with him on the mound."
Boyd said he never felt pressure because of the Beavers' narrow lead.
"I tried not to focus on the scoreboard -- just on making pitches," said Boyd, whose last victory came on May 10. "Score shouldn't dictate how you pitch. Go after guys, try to get ahead and just get outs."
Neither Casey nor pitching coach Nate Yeskie made a trip to the mound to speak with Boyd.
"He was in such good rhythm, we didn't want to interfere with that," Casey said.
The OSU coach said he never offered words of wisdom to Boyd between innings, either.
"Patted him on the rear about three times," the OSU coach said. "I don't think I said one word to him. It's not like a no-hitter, when you're hiding from the guy. He's a senior, he's in a groove. He didn't need me or Nate or anybody to talk to him. He was locked in. He got 'er done."
Good thing, because Slegers wasn't far behind.
"We just could never get anything going offensively," Casey said. "He handcuffed us."
"Slegers was good," Smith said. "He reminded me of (UCLA's Adam) Plutko. He lived at the top of the (strike) zone. We were flying out too much, swinging at the ball elevated.
"That's the game of baseball. we'll take the victory, make our adjustments and get ready for Friday."
If the Beavers beat Mississippi State, the teams will play again Saturday. Another victory would advance the Pac-12 champions to the best-of-three championship series beginning Monday.
Wednesday's classic provided high drama. Slegers was sensational, but it was Boyd's world.