#23 Oregon State (31-16, 12-10) at Utah (12-34, 6-19) at Noon MDT (11:00 AM PDT) at Spring Mobile Ball Park in Salt Lake City - KEJO 1240 AM & KPOJ 620 AM - Audio Stream only (No Video) on Beaver Nation Online, for a fee
Oregon St. continues their first ever trip to Salt Lake City to play baseball with another mid-day game at Utah. All 3 of this weekend's games are at noon MDT (11 AM PDT), with the Salt Lake Bees of the AAA Pacific Coast League playing evening games.
The middle game of the series will be hard pressed to match the fireworks of the opener, in which the Utes rallied after the Beavers had taken an early 9-0 lead, but came up short, losing 11-10 when Tony Bryant got consecutive strikeouts to close out the victory for Oregon St.
The Beavers jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Michael Conforto's 2 run homer got things rolling, and Ryan Dunn followed that up with a solo shot to right. In all, Oregon St. sent 11 batters to the plate, and every one of them put the ball in play.
Utah starter Brock Duke, the older brother of Oregon St. pitcher Adam Duke, saw his day come to an end in the 4th inning when Conforto connected for another home run, this one good for 3 RBIs, and a 9-0 lead. It was the second time this season Conforto has homered twice, after also doing so against Nevada.
The Utes got started on the comeback trail in the bottom of the 4th inning, batting around, and getting to Oregon St. starter Ben Wetzler for 5 hits, 2 of them doubles. The Beavers answered with single runs in both the 5th and 6th, opening an 11-4 lead, the last one coming on an RBI triple by Kavin Keyes with 1 out. However Keyes was left stranded, and the inability to drive him in almost came back to bite the Beavers.
Utah kept chipping away, first with a single run in the bottom of the 6th, and then a pair of runs in both the 7th and 8th innings, as Oregon St. worked their way through relievers Scott Schultz, Matt Boyd, Ryan Gorton, and Cole Brocker, before turning to Bryant for a strikeout to end the 8th inning.
Things got really tense in the 9th inning, when Trey Nielsen was credited with an inside the park home run that pulled the Utes withing 1 run when Oregon St. center fielder Joey Matthews collided with Conforto while apparently catching Nielsen's deep fly into the gap in left center field.
The ball appeared to never leave the ground, and Conforto picked the ball out of Matthew's glove, which would still be an out, but that wasn't the ruling. Worse, Matthews stayed down, drawing attention from the Oregon St. trainer, team doctor, and even paramedics, before he was helped to his feet, and was able to slowly walk off the field.
Preliminary reports were that Matthews would be all right, but was to be further evaluated and observed to be on the safe side.
Once action resumed, Jo Jo Sharrar drove a ball to deep left field, but Conforto played the carom perfectly, and when Sharrar tried to stretch the double into a triple, Conforto threw a strike to Dunn to cut Sharrar down at third base.
It was the second time Utah had a runner thrown out at third, after Tyson Gonzalez got put out on a base running error in the third inning.
Both mistakes loomed large when Bryant got the last two strikeouts to pick up the save, his 9th of the year, preserving the win for the Beavers, and Wetzler, who improved to 6-2 after going the minimum 5 innings. Duke got the loss, and fell to 2-5.
The Utes actually out-hit the Beavers 18-15, and a repeat of that will make it hard for Oregon St. to pull out another win. Freshman LHP Jace Fry (5-3, 2.21 ERA) will take the first turn at trying to keep the Utes under control today.
Fry was nearly flawless last Saturday, allowing only 5 hits in a complete game performance in Oregon St.'s 4-2 win over Stanford, with 2 of the hits and both runs coming in the 9th inning.
Utah will counter with junior RHP Joe Pond (3-8, 6.41 ERA). Pond got knocked out of the game in the second inning last Saturday in Tempe, after allowing the first 3 of what would eventually be 17 Sun Devil runs in Arizona St.'s 17-1 rout of the Utes.
Stanford kept pace with Oregon St., and stayed in a tie for 5th place in the Pac-12 race, with a 3-2 win over Washington St. Friday night, but Washington wasn't able to, dropping out of a tie with the Beavers and Cardinal when UCLA beat them 2-0. The Bruins' win pulled them into a tie with Arizona St. for third place. The Sun Devils have the conference bye this week, and beat Gonzaga 4-2.
Arizona pulled withing a game of conference leading Oregon with a 3-1 win at California. The 'Cats and the Cardinal became the 5th and 6th Pac-12 teams to reach the 30 win level this season. The Ducks don't begin their weekend series against USC until today, and continue through Monday.