Oregon St. bat-tled past Georgia Sunday night to claim a 6-4 win that clinched the Corvallis NCAA Baseball Regional, and sent the Beavers to the Super-regionals for the first time in 4 years, and the first time ever where Oregon St. will be on the road for a super-regional. And it was a "bat"-tle in every sense of the word.
The bat part of the battle was the continued re-emergence of Oregon St. at the plate, where the Beavers hammered out 10 hits, and even more importantly, delivered power. A pair of home runs by Parker Berberet and Brian Stamps were instrumental in the win. Considering there was also a double off the left field wall of the batting cages that would have been out 10 feet to the right, where the lower wall is, another ball caught up against the wall, plus one on the warning path, the Beavers were just a few feet from a 5 home run game.
As it was, Oregon St. still pounded 5 homers on the weekend. It's not a return to the days of Gorilla Ball, but it's about as close as Beaver Nation will see. And a very good thing heading to Nashville, to take on Vanderbilt in the super-regionals. The Commodores (52-9) claimed their regional with a 6-1 win over Belmont, and will be Oregon St.'s next opponent.
But the battle would also require possibly the best, or at least the guttiest, performance by Tony Bryant, the best closer in the Pac-10. Bryant not only had to handle the top of the Bulldog order, but also a bruising line drive that hit him on the shoulder, and a 20 minute delay after a bank of lights went out.
Which might have been the best thing that could have happened, affording time for some more attention from the training staff, and an extended session in the bullpen, which allowed Bryant, above, to work out the kinks.
Important, because Bryant had to get both hit man Levi Hyams, who had already pounded out three hits in the game, and nine in three games for Georgia, and RBI man Kyle Farmer, who had driven in 3 of the Bulldogs' 4 runs, and had multiple RBI's in three straight games.
Bryant's ability to battle through to get his 12th. save of the year was also vital, as his inability to continue could have been a disaster, given coach Pat Casey had rolled the dice with the bullpen, and would have had to use some-times starter freshman Ben Wetzler as his next arm.
As it was, the bullpen came up with a masterful performance, especially given that starter Josh Osich only went one inning plus, unable to find the strike zone. Scott Schultz, above, gave the Beavers 5 innings plus, then Matt Boyd, below, did what he does, which is whatever the Beavers need him to do.
Adam Duke, below, who was injured most of the season, and making only his fifth appearance in an Oregon St. uniform, worked an inning and a third, and picked up his first ever win, before handing the game over to Bryant.
Bryant was unable to even react after being drilled by a hard liner to start the ninth inning, though, and it took 6 minutes before he proclaimed himself fit to continue. But after a pickoff throw to first, and before Bryant could deliver a pitch, the lights behind the first base bullpen went out, adding a new chapter to the colorful history of Goss stadium, where game have been delayed not only for rain and snow, but also chickens in the outfield, and now, a timely power outage.
In the end, though, it was Bryant's ability to get out of the most unique jam of his career that will enhance his reputation.
Georgia, who finished the season 33-31, but played the toughest schedule in the country, looked much better than their record, and after coming from two runs down against Creighton to tie the game at 4-4, and then go on to win 5-4 in the bottom of the eleventh inning.
The Bulldogs took 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the first and third innings, and tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning.
But the Beavers, who had already twice come from behind in the game, responded with single runs in both the eighth and ninth innings. And looked not much like the team that dropped the last 5 games of the regular season, and 6 of 7.
It's not as though there aren't things to work on before the super-regional starts, either Friday or Saturday (the NCAA will announce next weekend's schedule Monday night, after all of the regional series are completed), though.
Stamps misplayed a deep hit to center field, and then mishandled the ball, allowing a double to result in a runner on third base. And Stamps got himself picked off between second and third base. Both miscues potentially made a run difference in the score.
And third base coach Marty Lees needs to rethink some of his base-running calls, reminiscent of poor Little League play. After Michael Miller scored (above) what turned out to be the winning run in the eighth inning on a fly to very shallow right field by Jared Norris, a very good call, Lees called for Carter Bell to advance on a double delayed tag-up of the trailing runners.
Bell, as we see below, had no chance to make it. And for the game, it was only one of two situations where runners advancing to third at Lee's beckon were out by 10 feet or more. Both took the Beavers out of opportunities to add one or more additional runs.
Such mistakes might not be survivable going forward.
On the other hand, Oregon St.'s defense exclusive of Stamps' miscue, and especially in the infield, was stellar. Both Bell and Ryan Dunn had spectacular stabs of line shots.
Ryan Dunn and Jake Rodriguez gave the Beavers good middle defense.
Rodriguez (r, above) also had a good night at the plate, with 3 hits and an RBI.
Oregon St. also had to overcome the inherent disadvantage of being the visitor for the second day in a row. This is an area where the NCAA really misses the mark. A higher ranked team not being the home team against a lower team, at least as long as they are in the winners' bracket, severely diminishes the value of that higher seed.
But overall, it was a great evening, and a great weekend, to be a Beaver. Oregon St. claimed three solid wins against three quality opponents, and looked again like the bunch that had bounced back from briefer slumps and miscues earlier in the season.
As a result, the Beavers improved to 41-17 for the season, and extended their winning streak at Goss Stadium in the post-season to 11 games.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)