Just when Oregon St. needed it the most, Ben Wetzler came through with the best outing of his career Sunday in Seattle against Washington.
Two weeks ago, Wetzler was on his way to a wasted season, not having been able to last long enough to earn a win even if he had pitched well enough to get one. But Oregon St. head coach Pat Casey felt that if Wetzler could just get through 5 innings, it would change everything.
Casey was right; Wetzler did get through the 5th inning that day against UCLA, and went on for a couple more innings, and his first win of the season, which happened to earn a series win. Last week, Wetzler went into the 7th inning again, getting another win, which completed a weekend sweep of Utah.
Facing the Huskies today, the Beavers were staring at being swept by their ancient northwest rivals, after getting thumped twice yesterday. And a 7 inning, "quality" start wasn't going to be good enough. After all, Oregon St. had gotten those from Matt Boyd and Andrew Moore, and still gotten beaten soundly in both games. And after burning through 10 pitchers without really accomplishing anything Saturday, there wasn't going to be help backing up Wetzler.
No problem, Wetzler promptly went out and turned in a 4 hit, 1 walk, 6 strikeout compete game shutout, riding an early 5-0 lead to his 3rd win of the season, improving him to 3-1, and the 30th of the year for the team. It was Wetzler's first ever 9 inning complete game.
After being particularly punchless at the plate Saturday, the Beaver bats wasted no time today. Max Gordon led off with a double down the left field line, and Tyler Smith followed with another, scoring Gordon. Michael Conforto moved Smith to third, and Dylan Davis doubled to score Smith.
Danny Hayes singled to move Davis to third, and Ryan Barnes followed with another hit, driving in Davis. Kavin Keyes made contact, but flew out, and Jake Rodriguez was the first Beaver to not put the ball in play. He drew a walk though, and Andy Peterson then delivered a 2 RBI single that scored both Hayes and Barnes, and as a result, Washington starter Tyler Davis wouldn't even make it to the end of the inning, being replaced by Zach Wright, who actually pitched pretty well for a while. Davis took the loss, dropping to 1-6 for the season.
Oregon St. added a run in the top of the 2nd, on Davis' second homer of the season, and Wetzler was perfect in 3 of the first 4 innings.
The Beaver bats were back at it in the 5th, when Hayes and Keyes both delivered RBI doubles, opening an 8-0 lead. The fact that Husky relievers Troy Rallings and Will Ballowe allowed only 2 hits and a walk the rest of the way was immaterial, as Wetzler was in complete command.
"This was certainly an important bounce-back win," Casey said. "We got production from every part of the lineup, and Ben (Wetzler) was solid. He did a good job against a good Washington offense."
The win averted the first sweep of the Beavers by the Huskies in Seattle since 1995. And thanks to back to back 1-0 wins by UCLA over Oregon before today's 5-3 Duck win over the Bruins in Eugene, Oregon St. still leads the Pac-12 standings my percentage points, and trail by only 1/2 game with 3 games in hand, right where they were before the weekend began.
Washington climbed up to 9th place in the Pac-12 this weekend, but the Huskies are only 6 1/2 games out with still half of their conference schedule to play. The entire conference is spread out over only 8 games at this point.
Oregon St. wraps up their 5 game northern road trip tomorrow, visiting Seattle for a 3 PM game, before returning home for a 6 game home stand, with Pac-12 series against USC next weekend, and then California.
The Redhawks are 14-23 for the season, and 5-9 in the Western Athletic Conference, after taking 2 of 3 this weekend from Texas-Arlington, including a 5-0 win today. Seattle also defeated Washington 10-4 last week.