The voices from the 20,000-plus crowd deafened Trevor Larnach as he stepped into the batter’s box for the Oregon State Beavers. The University of Arkansas was inches away from clinching a College World Series title, but misplayed ball in foul territory with two outs in the 9th inning. Larnach’s teammate, Cadyn Grenier, took advantage of the blunder, tying the game 3-3.
Tying the game gave Larnach the chance to put Oregon ahead and force Game 3. After taking two balls off the plate, Larnach turned on an inside fastball, sneaking it over the wall in right field. The strong crowd in Omaha, Nebraska, erupted with shock.
“I hit it, I remember yelling, ‘get going’ [at the ball],” Larnach said. “I don’t really remember anything after that until I was high-fiving the guys near the dugout.”
Larnach’s home run was the deciding factor in Game 2 of the series, as the Beavers went on to win 5-3. Game 3 clinched the championship for a team loaded with major league talent, after the team had been just inches away from elimination.
One month after Omaha, the Twins’ 2018 first round draft pick stepped onto a field in front of 1,118 fans in Johnson City, Tennessee as part of the Rookie League Elizabethton Twins. He took two pitches out of the park to left-center field, earning his first multi-homer game. He demolished the Appalachian League, and was promoted to the Midwest League a week later.
After spending three stable seasons in Corvallis, Oregon, Larnach has been on three different teams in a matter of months. His quick promotions through the organization highlight the path a college standout takes after leaving the bright lights of Omaha.
“When you’re playing everyday [in the minors], you’re facing better guys more so than college, because they’re all professionals,” Larnach said. “You face a starter everyday who is a starter for a reason.
“They can command most of their stuff, the relievers out of the pen sometimes throw a little bit harder, nastier stuff here and there. But I’m still in A-Ball, I’ve yet to get to the point where I’m sure there are guys that command everything.”
What Larnach perceives about the differences between college and pro ball pitchers haven’t affected him. He posted a 1.115 OPS over 68 games with Oregon State. Between his 32 combined Appalachian and Midwest League games heading into last Friday, the 21-year-old outfielder has posted a .904 OPS. While a noticeable drop-off has occurred, consider the production of fellow college bats — Jonathan India (.663 OPS, Midwest League) and Oregon State teammate Nick Madrigal (.648 OPS, South Atlantic League) — and Larnach has adjusted well.
“The professional atmosphere from team to team is different [too],” Larnach said. “You get to know the guys in [Elizabethton] for three weeks and then you move on up... meet a whole new team and you get used to those guys, play next to them... it’s different.”
Quick promotions mean acclimating to clubhouses only to leave for higher levels and repeat the introduction process. Larnach will see familiar faces as other players follow him through the Twins’ minor league system, and the relationships from his youth have continued to this day.
“We used to bet dinner on who had the highest batting average at the end of the year [in high school],” said Willie MacIver, Larnach’s College Park High School teammate. “[Larnach] has had that same swing since we were probably about 8 years old too.”
MacIver played for Washington University before being drafted by the Colorado Rockies and making his way to their Class A short season affiliate in Boise, Idaho. MacIver and Larnach, once teammates, squared off in one of the first elimination games of the College World Series. The Huskies were eliminated by Larnach and Oregon State in a 14-5 lopsided battle.
“It’s war, we’re going against each other,” MacIver said. “We’re not being buddy-buddy, we’re in Omaha with our respective teams trying to win a championship.”
Larnach, MacIver and Joe DeMers (currently with the Athletics, and who was also in Omaha with Washington University) posted back-to-back section championships with Pleasant Hill’s College Park Falcons. Even as the mileage between the trio changes with every promotion, their bond continues.
“I just wish [him] the best. MacIver texted me after [Omaha] and gave me a lot of love and I said ‘Thank you, I miss you man, and I hope everything is good,’” Larnach said. “He went off to play pro ball a couple days after he was done... on to his next journey.”
MacIver admitted he was getting goosebumps thinking about Larnach’s Game 2, 9th-inning home run against Arkansas. Like so many others connected to College Park High School, he was pulling for Oregon State, but only after they eliminated Washington University.
“The national recognition [Larnach] got, he deserved every single bit of it,” MacIver said. “He worked so hard, I’m so glad he showed it on that big of a stage.”
Larnach’s road to the major leagues will pass through three more minor league cities. Adapting to the speed of the game at higher levels, jersey changes and new teammates are all part of the process.
“It’s the best job in the world,” Larnach said.