When Grant Gambrell was contemplating where he would continue his baseball career after a stellar career at Buchanan, the star pitcher and first baseman had a clear vision – he wanted to compete for, and win, a national title.
He ultimately chose Oregon State, and his decision proved to be a great one as Gambrell can now call himself an NCAA champion as the Beavers came back in dramatic fashion in the College World Series in Omaha after defeating Arkansas 5-0 in Game 3 of the championship series.
“This is exactly what I signed up for,” said Gambrell, a sophomore. “I knew that these guys were special when I stepped on campus and knew that we could do this.”
However, it certainly wasn’t easy as the Beavers were down to their last strike in Game 2, down one game to zero, and down 3-2 in the top of the ninth inning. That’s when a foul pop down the first base line by Cadyn Grenier fell in the middle of a trio of Razorbacks.
Given new life, Grenier followed with a tying hit before Trevor Larnach smashed a two-run homer.
In the winner-take-all Game 3, Oregon State would clinch its third national title – along with 2006 and 2007 – when freshman pitcher Kevin Abel struck out the final batter looking, setting off a wild celebration, Gambrell jumping on the pile near the pitching mound in exuberance.
“It felt amazing,” Gambrell said. “To share this experience with these group of guys is something that we will be able to cherish for the rest of our lives. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to do it with.”
After losing its first game of the College World Series 8-6 to North Carolina, the Beavers won four straight elimination games to reach the finals against Arkansas.
During the regular season, Gambrell started 12 games on the mound and went 5-1 with a 4.40 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 57 ⅓ innings. However, despite warming up multiple times during the College World Series, he did not see any action on the field.
While at Buchanan, Gambrell was a part of two D-I Central Section championships (2015, 2016). During his senior season, the Bears went 30-1 and finished No. 1 in the nation. That year the 6-foot-3 right hander went 12-0, with an ERA of 0.69 and 72 strikeouts in 71 innings while hitting .363 with five home runs and 35 RBIs. He was also named a finalist for Cal-Hi Sports Player of the Year.
In 2017, Oregon State was the conscious No. 1 team heading into the College World Series with a record of 49-4, but was ousted by LSU, ending its season in disappointment.
However, that loss made the Beavers even hungrier, and was motivation the entire 2018 season.
“Our mentality is what drove us through the year and now we can finally say that we ‘finished,’” Gambrell said. “We love each other and we were playing for each other. We had one goal and we ultimately made that decision that we weren’t going to let anything stand in our way from reaching that goal.”