OMAHA, Neb. -- The kid from San Diego fired a complete-game, two-hit shutout with the national championship at stake. His Oregon State teammates lifted him on their shoulders as he held the trophy over his head.
And there stood Kevin Abel on the biggest stage in this sport -- an actual stage constructed between home plate and the pitcher's mound in the minutes after he caught Arkansas' Luke Bonfield looking to set off the celebratory dog pile. Reporters peppered Abel with questions. Teammates offered hugs.
Abel caught a glimpse of his parents, Carrie and Rick. They embraced, sharing a private moment amid the most public of all spots, still standing on the infield stage in the aftermath of the Beavers' 5-0 win over the Razorbacks.
"The only word I can come up with for this game is extraordinary," Carrie Abel said. "You want your kids to reach their fullest potential. This is unheard of, as a freshman, to come in and do this, when eight weeks ago he couldn't find the strike zone."
Abel climbed the mound Thursday night at TD Ameritrade Park and delivered one of the most memorable pitching efforts in CWS history. It came less than 24 hours after he threw in relief as Oregon State pulled off a stunning comeback to deny Arkansas a championship, and four days after he worked seven sparkling innings to push the Beavers into the finals through the loser's bracket.
The true freshman right-hander won four games in Omaha, a CWS record and a saving grace for Oregon State, which got nothing close to a quality start from top starters Luke Heimlich and Bryce Fehmel in six appearances here.
"I have no idea," Abel said when asked if he could comprehend the accomplishment.
Pat Casey had an idea.
"It was pretty special," said the 24th-year Oregon State coach, now a three-time national champion. "I mean, Kevin was halfway through the year, [and] we were pulling our hair, trying to get him in the zone because his stuff was so good."
Early in April at Arizona, Abel gave up three runs without surrendering a hit over two innings in relief.
"We just kept telling him how good he could be," Casey said.
Abel got it going, really, in regional play this month with eight innings of shutout work against LSU, the program that knocked the Beavers out of Omaha a year ago.
"I believed in him," said catcher Adley Rutschman, whose play at the CWS was so dominant that he was named the Most Outstanding Player over even Abel. "I know everyone else believed in him. I knew he could do it. It's all mental. It's all mental for him.
"He stepped up to the plate and became such a guy for us."
Abel threw four innings on June 18 against Washington in relief of Fehmel. He gave up one hit and one run, and earned the win, Oregon State's first in Omaha this year. After the three-hit, one-run effort against Mississippi State on Saturday, he entered to start the eighth inning Wednesday night in relief of Brandon Eisert and held the Hogs.
In the top of the ninth, Cadyn Grenier and Trevor Larnach put the Beavers on top.
"I stole [Eisert's] win," Abel said. "He deserved that one."
Abel lights out in Beavers' CWS title win
Kevin Abel tosses nine scoreless innings, retiring the last 20 Arkansas batters faced, as Oregon State wins its third CWS title.
No one else deserved credit for Thursday, though. Not even Rutschman, who collected three hits to raise his CWS batting average to .567 with a record 17 hits in the 13-day tournament.
When it ended with Abel's 10th strikeout, Rutschman raced to the mound and tackled him, football style. The star catcher, after all, played football for the Beavers in 2016 -- he's a place-kicker -- and needed to protect his pitcher from the incoming mass of bodies.
"He took most of it, that's for sure," Abel said of Rutschman. "Yeah, my ribs hurt -- a lot. But I loved it. I couldn't ask for a better group of guys to pile on top of me."
Abel said he went to bed Wednesday with hopes that he could start the winner-take-all finale. He learned of the assignment Thursday. And though Casey said he didn't expect to get more than five innings out of any pitcher in the last game of the season, Abel never thought about leaving.
He ran on adrenaline in the middle innings, he said, but retired the final 20 batters after allowing three of four Razorbacks to reach in the third inning.
"It was stress-free all day," Oregon State pitching coach Nate Yeskie said. "He had to wiggle a little bit in the third. But other than that, it was like watching a throwback performance, where guys pitch on four days rest in the big leagues.
"I'm sure, somewhere, guys like Ferguson Jenkins or Goose Gossage are saying, 'That a way kid.'"
They were saying it Thursday night in Omaha, San Diego, Corvallis, Oregon and everywhere in between.
"I've never done anything like that," Abel said.
In the CWS, perhaps no one has.