Oregon State ace Luke Heimlich, who is from Puyallup, pitched four innings of one-hit ball before struggling in the fifth inning of a 4-1 loss for the Pac-12 Beavers. Game 2 is Wednesday.
OMAHA, Neb. – Arkansas scored four fifth-inning runs against a faltering Luke Heimlich and moved a step closer to its first national championship in baseball with a 4-1 victory over Oregon State in Game 1 of the best-of-three College World Series finals Tuesday night.
The game, delayed a day because of rain, included a fly ball lost in the sun that went for a ground-rule double and a runner-interference call against Oregon State.
Then there was the collapse of Heimlich, who looked so good, and then so bad.
After failing to get out of the third inning in both of his previous CWS starts, the Oregon State ace from Puyallup was in full command while striking out five and limiting the Razorbacks (48-19) to one hit through four innings.
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In the fifth, though, the senior left-hander issued a walk, hit two batters, gave up two hits and got a bad break when second baseman and first-round draft pick Nick Madrigal fumbled the ball.
“He started to lose it,” Oregon State coach Pat Casey said of Heimlich. “He didn’t throw the ball where he needed to. He’d been real good all year long, and certainly really struggled in that inning.”
Arkansas starter Blaine Knight (14-0) went back to the mound with a 4-1 lead, pitched another inning and left having allowed seven hits with six strikeouts. Barrett Loseke and Matt Cronin combined to pitch three scoreless innings of relief.
Michael Gretler, who is from Bonney Lake, had an RBI single in the second for the Beavers (53-12-1). They looked ready to add to the lead when Arkansas left fielder Heston Kjerstad lost Trevor Larnach’s fly in the sun and it bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double.
Adley Rutschman was on first and Larnach on third when Tyler Malone grounded to first and Jared Gates threw to second to start a double-play attempt. Rutschman ducked as he approached the bag — rather than sliding or peeling off away from the play — and was called for interfering with shortstop Jax Biggers. It was ruled a double play, Larnach was ordered back to third base, and Knight struck out Gretler to end the inning.
“It appeared Rutsch was doing everything he could to get out of the way,” Casey said. “The ball left the guy’s hand. They weren’t near one another, so I don’t agree with the call. We had that run taken off the board right there, so that makes it tough.”
Heimlich (16-3) issued a walk and gave up back-to-back singles for the Razorbacks’ first run in the fifth. Heimlich then hit two straight batters to bring home another run. Arkansas extended its lead to 3-1 after Madrigal’s bobble.
Heimlich’s first two appearances in Omaha didn’t draw much reaction, other than cheers from Oregon State supporters. That was mostly the case again Tuesday, though there were scattered boos when he was introduced before the game.
Last year, Heimlich left the team before the CWS when it was revealed he had pleaded guilty to molesting a young relative when he was 15. The university allowed him to return to the team this year. He served two years of probation and went through a treatment program, but denied wrongdoing in interviews with Sports Illustrated and The New York Times.