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Oregon State shows its strength with comeback win in CWS opener

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Oregon State rallies to tie game (0:29)

Jack Anderson evens the score with a single, capping off a four-run sixth inning against Cal State Fullerton. (0:29)

OMAHA, Neb. -- Didn't see much of Oregon State before Saturday at the College World Series, other than that gaudy record, which looked a little too good to be true?

Here's my report: The Beavers are for real.

They're opportunistic and balanced and disciplined and supremely confident. And they're going to be one tough out Monday for LSU, the other winner Saturday in Bracket 1 -- 5-4 over Florida State -- as play opened at TD Ameritrade Park.

"We feed off of each other," said Oregon State designated hitter Trevor Larnach, who scored the winning run with two outs in the eighth inning on Adley Rutschman's single into center field.

The Beavers improved to 55-4 with the 6-5 victory over Cal State Fullerton. Fifty-five and four. That's ridiculous. Maybe if Oregon State came to Omaha with a more normal-looking record for the No. 1 overall seed, they'd have been met with less skepticism.

After all, they can't be that good, right?

Well, maybe they can be.

Oregon State looked the part, minus an uncharacteristic first inning in which right-handed pitcher Jake Thompson, unbeaten in 14 decisions this season, handed Fullerton a pair of baserunners before Timmy Richards launched a three-run homer into the left-field seats.

All season, the Beavers had allowed 11 runs in the first inning. They were down 3-0 before batting Saturday and 5-1 when coach Pat Casey yanked Thompson in the fourth inning.

And still, the Titans blinked first.

"They're tough outs," Fullerton coach Rick Vanderhook said. "I mean, how many pitches did we throw? It felt like 7,000."

The Beavers' persistence, even when trailing by four runs, forced Vanderhook, admittedly, to outthink himself. He went in the sixth inning to Colton Eastman, a talented sophomore who pitched well in earlier rounds of the NCAA postseason after missing three months with an elbow injury.

Eastman promptly walked four of six batters. All four scored, putting Oregon State on track to plate the winning run in the eighth and make its mark as the first team since South Carolina in 2011 to win here after trailing by four runs.

"They're really good," Vanderhook said. "And I'm stupid."

He's not stupid. Vanderhook was arguably the most accomplished assistant coach in the country when he took over the Titans in 2012, and he has since won four Big West titles and made a pair of trips to the CWS.

The coach said he was thinking of the potential schedule ahead and wanted to avoid any situation that did not include getting to Eastman, whom Vanderhook described as "our best guy."

It's a little outside the box of normal strategy, for sure, but no strategy is sound against Oregon State. The Beavers appear equipped to make every coach feel stupid.

Even when Fullerton center fielder Scott Hurst crashed into the wall in the eighth to rob KJ Harrison of extra bases, Oregon State rallied with two outs to score the winning run.

That it came from behind in such fashion was more impressive perhaps than winning in methodical fashion. The Beavers have done that plenty in rolling to a .932 winning percentage.

And that Rutschman delivered the winning hit speaks to Oregon State's versatility. He's a freshman catcher who's hitting .246 and played football in the fall, kicking off for coach Gary Andersen's team.

Rutschman is not the ideal candidate to come to bat with the go-ahead run at second base in a CWS opener.

Unless you're Oregon State.

"I really felt confident," Casey said. "He's a special athlete, and he's really established himself. He's been in some big environments, and he's just not going to be intimidated."

The Beavers stayed focused over the past two weeks after star pitcher Luke Heimlich removed himself from competition in the wake of a report by The Oregonian/Oregon Live that he was convicted in 2012 of child molestation in Washington state and failed to register this year in Oregon as a sex offender.

On Friday, Casey revealed that left fielder Christian Donahue was suspended at the CWS for a violation of team rules.

"I think we prepare for adversity during the season," Casey said.

"I've got to give these guys a lot of credit, because you can't do it yourself. You have to have good leadership off the field. Our two captains, Nick Madrigal and Drew Rasmussen, are off the chart."

Listen to the Oregon State players talk, Casey said, and you begin to understand the ingredients that lead to their remarkable success rate.

"We trust each other, and we love each other," Larnach said. "So we come out and fight for each other. It's not just one person. It's just for everyone -- for Coach, for our teammates, for the fans, for everybody."

The Beavers showed Saturday that they've got plenty of fight left.