From disappointment to elation, the Oregon State University baseball team took Beaver nation on quite the ride last weekend when facing the Oregon Ducks. After the three game set, the Beavers (43-9 overall, 22-5 conference) took two of three and now lead the league by two games with three home games against Washington State remaining. Here’s the brief recap.
GAME 1 - OREGON 3-0
It is difficult to find the right word for this one. Shocking or surprising might be the most fitting. Heading into the biggest game of the year on the road and nursing a one game lead in the conference, OSU didn’t even score. Baffling. It was believed each team needed to state their case for top dog in the Pac 12, and the Ducks’ Tommy Thorpe held OSU in check by only giving up two hits. The Beavers’ Matt Boyd pitched well but the Beavers offense failed to show. Not a great start to the weekend which left Beaver fans mired in nervousness. Meanwhile, the two rivals were now tied for the league lead.
GAME 2 - OSU 9-0
Now we’re talking. Turnabout is fair play as OSU’s Andrew Moore fired up a shutout and Oregon only managed two hits. Michael Conforto and Ryan Barnes each hit homers as the Beavers offensive attack woke up in the rout. Andy Peterson also went 4-5 as part of the twelve OSU hits. The Beavers took a little time to get it going as they scored all nine runs in the final four innings. Moore improved to 11-1 on the season and the team‘s road record improved to 17-6. The Beavers took back the conference lead, up one game.
GAME 3 - OSU 12-2
And the hits just keep on coming. Did the Beavers even leave the ballpark after Game 2? OSU took the Civil War series by pounding out another 17 hits and tallying 12 runs. Everyone in the starting lineup got a hit (except for centerfielder Max Gordon, but his contribution will be noted shortly) highlighted by Conforto’s grand slam in the second inning. Conforto also collected six RBI’s. Ben Wetzler pitched six plus innings for the win (and now 7-1) as the overall team ERA now stands at 2.02. Wetzler got in to trouble in the second, loading the bases. With two outs, Gordon laid out and snared a deep ball hit by Oregon’s J.J. Altobelli (this catch made the ESPN highlight reel and #1 for Sunday‘s Top 10 Plays). The rally was snuffed and OSU took care of business the rest of the way. Weekend over, Beavers open up two game league lead.
Oregon State now ranks #3 by ESPN and #4 by BaseballAmerica.com. On the RPI scale (wins, losses and strength of schedule), the Beavers only stand behind Vanderbilt, North Carolina and Virginia. Insiders say OSU is a lock for a top eight national seed for the NCAA Tournament. This is certainly not a time to be complacent. The Beavers have clearly stated their goal of winning the Pac 12 and getting to the College World Series.
So taking the Washington State Cougars lightly appears not in the cards. The league title isn’t locked up yet. Furthermore, no one really wants to head in to the post season with a sour taste in their mouths. The Cougars (21-30, 8-19) may be hovering near the bottom of the conference, however, momentum is everything at this time of year. The Beavers should keep doing what they have done so far: win when they have to.