OMAHA -- Matt Boyd's dream came true, and he made the most of it.
With Oregon State's season hanging in the balance in an elimination game against Indiana, Beavers coach Pat Casey pointed to Boyd, a senior left-handed pitcher, who turned down the Cincinnati Reds as a 13th-round pick last summer, to come back to college with hopes of finding a way to start in the College World Series.
And has been the case so many times throughout Boyd's senior campaign for the Beavers this spring, the lefty rose to the occasion, especially determined to put together an impressive performance after getting tabbed with the loss coming out of the bullpen in relief against Mississippi State in a 5-4 setback.
Boyd added yet another chapter to his amazing senior season with a dominant performance, one for the Oregon State record books, in a gut-wrenching 1-0 win over Indiana.
"I can't say how well Matt pitched. He was amazing," Oregon State coach Pat Casey said. "He was just a couple of pitches better [than Aaron Slegers] tonight. That was as good as I've ever seen anyone throw in the CWS."
That praise by Casey certainly caught everyone's attention. After all, the two-time national championship coach has seen plenty of special pitching performances here in Omaha, from Jonah Nickerson and Dallas Buck to Kevin Gunderson. It goes without saying that Boyd, with the year he's had, can be lumped into that group. But perhaps to put together a more impressive performance than all of those guys? An honor would be an understatement.
Matt Boyd was that good, though.
Boyd, as has been the case for much of the season, had immaculate command of the strike zone. He issued just three walks against the Hoosiers. He started the game with a walk, but proceeded to retire seven-straight batters going into the third inning, including an especially dominant second inning where he struck out the side.
Indiana reached second base in the first inning, then again in the fifth inning. However, that'd be the only two times in the game the Hoosiers would reach second base against Boyd. Furthermore, Boyd racked up 11 strikeouts in the game, interestingly, only the fourth time he eclipsed the 10-strikeout mark, with 12 strikeouts being his season high.
"He was really spotting up his fastball, and he really kept us off balance," Indiana shortstop Michael Basil, who went 1-for-3 in the game, said. "There were a lot of times when his fastball was in the zone, but on the inside or outside corner. He didn't leave much at all over the heart of the plate."
From a stuff standpoint against the Hoosiers, Boyd flashed his typical repertoire, which includes a fastball, slider and curveball. The fastball and curveball were particularly good. Boyd had very good command of the fastball, a pitch that ranged anywhere from 87-90. Meanwhile, the curveball had good depth and was a devastating pitch, sitting 72-74 on the radar gun, and accounting for more than six of Boyd's 11 strikeouts.
"My curveball and slider were working very well today," Boyd said. "I was able to go both sides of the plan, and open both slides of the plate for my pitches as well."
Oregon State catcher Jake Rodriguez, who has spent the past couple of seasons catching Boyd in these type of situations, also expanded on Boyd's performance: "He talked about getting ahead. I thought his fastball was great, and he got ahead a lot more with that fastball," he said. "He was down with all of his pitches, and if he needed to throw his off speed pitches early or late [in counts], he hit the spot. He was just keeping them off balance."
While Boyd's performance headlined Wednesday's elimination game, his margin for error was low as Indiana 6-foot-10, redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Aaron Slegers also put on an impressive display. Slegers, Big Ten Pitcher of the Year during the regular season, was determined to have a good start against the Beavers. After all, he allowed five runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings of work in a short outing against Florida State two weekends ago.
Slegers, a fifth-round pick to the Minnesota Twins, didn't disappoint. He, too, was dominant against an Oregon State lineup that includes outfielder Michael Conforto, who went just 1-for-4 in the contest.
"The entertainment value in that game was off charts. You had two guys who were on tonight, with both of them throwing extremely well," Indiana coach Tracy Smith said. "Unfortunately, we came out on the wrong end of that. As a coach, sure, I could be disappointed with the lack of effectiveness in the batter's box, but it was what their guy was doing to us. As for Aaron Slegers, I thought he threw his rear end off and gave us a chance to win until the last out."
Slegers didn't rack up quite the strikeouts that Boyd did, but he was very good, particularly down the stretch in the game, striking out four batters in the final two frames. He struck out five, walked two and allowed just a run on seven hits in a complete game performance.
Stuff-wise, Slegers certainly showed at times why he was such a hot commodity during the regular season. The imposing righty was up to 93 with his fastball in the eighth inning, and also had an 83-84 slider with late tailing movement well into the latter part of the game.
"He left a bunch of fastballs up that we can't popping up. We just couldn't square a bunch of those up," Oregon State's Kavin Keyes said. "That's just how the game went for both teams. We just had to stick to the plan on defense [behind Boyd]."
While Oregon State stays alive in the CWS, Indiana's magical run through the NCAA postseason ends. The Hoosiers entered Omaha with one of the nation's most impressive offensive numbers, but like LSU, which went 0-2 in the CWS, IU was unable to get into a groove in three games, scoring five runs in those three contests, with Wednesday's 1-0 setback to the Beavers being the first time it had been shutout this season.
But no matter the disappointment for the Hoosiers, this was a season to remember, one that makes them the blueprint for many northern schools, particularly those in the Big Ten.
This was a dream season for the Hoosiers, and one that has come to an end. On this night, Matt Boyd's dream came true, and the Beavers stayed alive.
CWS Snapshot: Oregon State-Indiana
Player of the game: LHP Matt Boyd, Oregon State -- Boyd really couldn't have been more impressive with the Beavers' national title hopes on the line in an elimination game. Boyd, who was touched up by Mississippi State in the first game in Omaha out of the bullpen, was stellar in the 1-0 win over Indiana. He struck out 11, walked three and allowed just four hits in a complete game shutout. Also worth noting, Boyd threw 121 pitches, 71 for strikes, and did a terrific job with a primarily three-pix mix, including a fastball, changeup and low-to-mid 70s curveball.
Turning point: Oregon State left-handed pitcher Matt Boyd and Indiana's Aaron Slegers didn't give opposing offenses any breathing room on Wednesday night, but the Beavers at least were able to strike in the fourth inning, the only time either would all-night long. OSU began the fourth inning with a single from Danny Hayes and double from Kavin Keyes. Then, the Beavers' lone run came from a sacrifice fly to right field from Jake Rodriguez, a play that actually was somewhat close thanks to a strong throw home by IU right fielder Casey Smith. With a run on the board, the Beavers didn't look back with Boyd on the mound.
What they said: "Well, unfortunately, yes. I'll qualify that, because I said it last night. The unfortunate part is that these are some of the best lefties in the country, and it's hard to get mad at your guys. I'd peek up there every once in a while and see the replay of some of the pitches. They were executing the pitches. I think my SID said right before I came in, this is the first time we were shut out all year. Heck of a time for a shutout." -- Indiana head coach Tracy Smith
What's next: With the win over the Hoosiers, the Beavers stay alive in the College World Series, and now have the tough chore of beating Mississippi State twice to advance to the CWS Championship Series. However, the Beavers are set well from a pitching standpoint in those two remaining games, having the ability to bring back freshman right-handed pitcher Andrew Moore and left-handed pitcher Ben Wetzler. Also good news, it looks like freshman lefty Max Engelbrekt would be available. He dealt with back spasms for the past couple of weeks. As for the Hoosiers, their magical season comes to an end, but it was one that put Big Ten baseball back on the map. The future is very bright for Tracy Smith's club.