CORVALLIS, Ore. — It seemed only fitting that an NCAA baseball super-regional featuring an eight-error game by USC and an epic collapse by Oregon State would be won by the team that finally mastered the art of damage control.
The Beavers appeared in classic self-destruct mode in the sixth inning of the deciding third game Monday afternoon when they walked three USC batters and hit two more to tie the score and bring up the Trojans' hottest two hitters, Jeff Clement and Billy Hart, with the bases loaded and one out.
But reliever Eddie Kunz struck out Clement and retired Hart on a fly ball to left before Oregon State surged ahead with three late runs during a 10-8 victory at Goss Stadium that propelled the Beavers to their first College World Series since 1952.
"If we come up with a couple of hits," said Clement, who had belted a three-run homer in the third, "it's a different game."
Oregon State (46-10), which won four of six games against USC including Pacific 10 Conference play, will play Tulane on Saturday in Omaha.
The Beavers' Andy Jenkins, who hit for the cycle in his first four at-bats and tied a school record with five hits, tripled past diving center fielder Zack Kalter leading off the bottom of the sixth and scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly.
Darwin Barney and Jenkins added run-scoring singles in the seventh to give the Beavers a 10-7 lead before USC (41-22) added a run in the eighth on Matt Cusick's sacrifice fly.
Dallas Buck, who started Saturday's game, pitched in relief for the first time this season and recorded the final four outs for the save. First baseman Jenkins joyfully chucked the ball into center field after stepping on first base to retire pinch-hitter Lucas Duda with the last out as the Trojans stared blankly from their dugout.
"There's nothing like this," Jenkins said. "This whole series has been a roller-coaster. Coach said we would find out what we're made of today, and we came out and performed."
Oregon State was six outs away from sweeping the best-of-three series Sunday before the Trojans rallied with two runs in the eighth and three in the ninth to send the game into extra innings. USC won in the 10th, on Hart's bases-loaded infield single against Kunz.
"Last night was a huge win for us," Hart said. "We came in here thinking we could win today and fell behind early."
Clement wiped out the three-run deficit with one swing for his 15th homer, but Oregon State came back with two runs in the third and two more in the fifth to take a 7-3 lead into the wild sixth.
Hart led off with a double to left-center and moved to third on a wild pitch. Beaver starter Anton Maxwell walked Cyle Hankerd on four pitches before giving way to reliever Nate Fogle, who hit Baron Frost with his first pitch to load the bases.
Fogle hit Roberto Lopez with another pitch to bring home a run, and Hector Estrella stroked a run-scoring single through the left side of the infield to make it 7-5.
Kunz relieved Fogle but fared little better initially, yielding a sacrifice fly to Kalter and walking Blake Sharpe to load the bases again.
Kunz then walked Cusick on five pitches, forcing in a run and bringing up Clement, who had homered twice in two days. Clement worked the count full before striking out swinging, and Hart flied out to left.
It was disaster averted as the Trojans, who had only six hits for the game, stranded the bases loaded.
"We didn't have a ton of hits, but we had a ton of baserunners," Clement said. "Unfortunately, we left too many runners on base."
Still, Clement said the Trojans had put themselves in a bind by committing a season-high eight errors during their Game 1 loss Saturday.
"If we really look back at this week," he said, "it won't be about today, it will be about Saturday and how we didn't play like we had played all season long."