Max Gordon has given Oregon State all it could ask for in the field.
At bat? Not so much.
That changed in an 11-4 win over Louisville on Monday, when the 5-foot-8 senior reached base three times in five plate appearances.
Gordon went 2 for 4 with two RBIs out of the No. 9 hole to break out of a 3-for-35 slump. He also scored twice as the Beavers stayed alive in the tournament.
Gordon was hitless in the super regional against Kansas State and 0 for 3 in the Beavers' CWS opener against Mississippi State.
"Max is always a spark for us. Really," coach Pat Casey said. "I told him after the Kansas State game that when we put (him) in the lineup permanently, we really got consistent as a club.
"His dad clued me in yesterday that he was going to hit today. And he did."
Gordon started the Beavers' three-run third inning against Louisville, getting hit by a pitch and scoring from first on Tyler Smith's double into the left-field corner. In the seven-run fourth, when the Beavers batted around, Gordon singled and scored and drove in two more runs with a base hit to left to make it 10-0.
"To get my first hit in Omaha always feels great," he said. "It got the monkey off my back. But tomorrow's a new day, and we've got to keep bringing it every day."
Gordon, who has committed only one error in his 49 games, said a number of seniors probably won't play organized baseball again after this season, so this isn't a time to let down. His performance Monday bumped his batting average to .238.
"We're trying to continue our road to Omaha, and we want to have the final say," he said. "Today we really played like we want to keep the jersey on our back as long as possible."
UMPIRE UPDATE: Steve Manders, the home-plate umpire who left Saturday's Louisville-Indiana game in the middle of the fourth inning, was released from an Omaha hospital on Monday.
The NCAA, citing privacy laws, wouldn't say why he was hospitalized.
The NCAA had said Saturday that Manders left the game because he felt dizzy. He was treated by medical personnel at the stadium before being taken to a hospital.
COMING UP ACES AGAINST ACES: Oregon State has scored 14 earned runs in 16 innings this season against pitchers who were taken in the first three rounds of the draft.
The runs came against Stanford's Mark Appel (No. 1 overall pick by Astros), Gonzaga's Marco Gonzales (19th pick, Cardinals), Arizona State's Trevor Williams (44th, Marlins) and Louisville's Jeff Thompson (94th, Tigers).
DREAM FULFILLED: Louisville's Nick Ratajczak got his long-awaited at-bat the CWS.
The senior second baseman injured his right shoulder at practice three days before super regionals. He tried to play against Vanderbilt, but the pain was so bad that he lasted only three innings.
His arm was still in a sling on Sunday, but he was adamant about getting on the field at the CWS.
His chance came in the eighth inning of the blowout loss to Oregon State. With his teammates on the top step of the dugout cheering him on, he pinch hit for catcher Kyle Gibson and flied out to right.
Upon his return there were hugs all around with teammates and staffers.
'PACK MENTALITY: Francis Combs played catcher on North Carolina State's 1968 College World Series team and never really went away.
Combs had two sons play for the Wolfpack, and he's remained a presence around the program, sometimes throwing batting practice or serving as home-plate umpire for intrasquad scrimmages.
Combs, the high school catcher for Jim "Catfish" Hunter in Hertford, N.C., said he sensed this year's players had confidence they were ready to break through and get the program back to Omaha for the first time in 45 years.
"They emphasize that every year, and this year every kids' locker had '1968' written over it," Combs said. "They knew they had the team that could get here. Things just had to fall into place, and they did."
The Wolfpack beat No. 1 national seed North Carolina in its CWS opener and will play UCLA on Tuesday night.
WHERE HOMERS GO TO DIE: LSU's Mason Katz knows more than anybody at the College World Series about the degree of difficulty of hitting a home run at TD Ameritrade Park.
The senior first baseman is the only player to knock the ball out of the park so far at the College World Series. He did it in the fourth inning Sunday against UCLA's Adam Plutko, driving a liner into the left-field bullpen.
Last year Katz hit 12 at TD Ameritrade — but they all came in the College Home Run Derby. He finished the competition behind Fresno State's Aaron Judge.
Playing in the so-called "dead bat" era, no ball has much of a chance of getting out unless it's hit down one of the lines. There has never been a homer hit to straight-away center, 408 feet from home plate.
The dimensions are the same as the old Rosenblatt Stadium. But the prevailing wind blows in and, as everyone knows, the bats aren't what they used to be. Since the CWS moved to the downtown stadium in 2011, there have been 20 homers in 33 games.
"This park is big, and it's unfortunate that that's the way it plays," Katz said. "Everybody has to adjust."