Oregon St. got out to what would be all the lead they would need, going up 2-0 in the top of the first inning in Sunday's rubber game of their Pac-12 series with UCLA. But the Beavers squandered as many scoring opportunities as they capitalized on, and the Bruins were in the marathon game all afternoon.
The reason the 6th ranked Beavers beat the #10 Bruins came down to pitching, as Ben Wetzler went 7 innings, giving up only 5 hits, and just 1 run, and Scott Schultz retired the last 4 of the 5 batters he faced to close out the win, picking up his 7th save of the season in the process.
That Wetzler was even around long enough to qualify for a win for the first time this year was newsworthy enough, as the junior lefty has struggled his way back from a back problem before the season. But no one would have anticipated that come the 7th inning, Oregon St.. would have made a change at 5 defensive positions and none of them would have involved Wetzler.
The only real hitch of Wetzler's day came when he gave up a leadoff home run by freshman Brett Urabe, his first career hit for the Bruins, in the bottom of the 6th inning. It caused more angst than it should have because the Beavers had just finished failing to extend what was at the time a 4-0 lead in the top of the inning, when Jake Rodriguez struck out looking with the bases loaded.
Taylor Starr took over for Wetzler, who had thrown 99 pitches, in the 8th inning, and got 2 outs, but also gave up a walk and a single. Schultz took over and immediately was victimized by an error by Danny Hayes on a blooper that scored Brian Carroll, and brought the tieing run to the plate.
Schultz shut the Bruins down the rest of the way though. As a result, Wetzler improved to 1-1 for the year, and UCLA starter Grant Watson suffered his first loss of the season, and only the second of his career, dropping him to 5-1 for the season, and 13-2 as a Bruin. UCLA was 7-0 in games Watson had started this season entering the afternoon.
Rodriguez, who started the day at second base, before moving behind the plate in the bottom of the 7th inning, as Oregon St. head coach Pat Casey made a number of defensive moves, got off to a good start, with an RBI in both of his first 2 at bats.
But the Beavers, who loaded the bases twice with only 1 out in the first inning, got only 2 runs out of it, and didn't accomplish anything after loading the bases a third time in the inning, with 2 outs, opting to take a 3rd strike looking instead.
It was just the beginning of offensive ineptitude to come. Oregon St. added a run in the 3rd, when Rodriguez drove in Conforto, but stranded J-Rod in scoring position.
Joey Matthews drove Watson from the game in the 4th with a 1 out single, and Ryan Barnes and Andy Peterson followed with singles off UCLA strike-out specialist James Kaprielian to score Matthews to make it 4-0. But Michael Conforto hit into a double play ball that stranded Barnes.
Oregon St. put runners on second and third in the 5th with 1 out, but another called third strike and a foul out wasted that opportunity. And as noted, the Beavers had the bases loaded in the 6th and took another called 3rd strike.
Conforto would drive in Joey Jantzen, who had led off the 8th with a single, for his first RBI of the weekend, and a useful insurance run.
Both Conforto and Davis had 2 hits, and Hayes added a double, snapping somewhat out of the slump the middle of the order suffered in the first 2 games of the series, and Barnes also had multiple hits. Oregon St.'s offense continues to be coincidental, not situational, though.
The concept of "protect the plate" with 2 strikes, something anyone can learn at any Little League game, is absolutely lost on this team.
Fortunately, defense and pitching isn't, a throwing error on Wetzler in the 6th inning not withstanding. 2 Bruins were caught trying to steal, including a big one in the 3rd inning, when Nate Esposito and Rodriguez combined to get Cody Regis, who would otherwise have scored when Brian Carroll doubled for the Bruins 2 pitches later.
1,057 attended, the most ever for a visit by Oregon St., eclipsing yesterday's turnout of 1,001, the first ever 4 digit crowd for a Beavers visit to the Bruins.
The win resulted in Oregon St.'s 3rd straight series wins over UCLA, and 4 series wins in their last 5 trips to Jackie Robinson Stadium.
Oregon St. has won all 3 of their Pac-12 series so far this season, but the Beavers will return home still in second place in the conference, after #5 Oregon's 16-3 win at #22 Arizona St. today. The less than their best effort, especially offensively, that cost them a 3-2 loss to UCLA in the opener Friday, Adam Plutko's pitching performance not withstanding, resulted in missing an opportunity for a second conference series road sweep of the season.
Some of the same inexplicable bad offensive decisions that insured what could have been a blowout today would be a close game puts the pitching and defense under immense unnecessary pressure. It would be better corrected before it costs a conference pennant, or a trip to Omaha, as its a recipe for disaster in an NCAA Regional.
Oregon St. returns home for a Tuesday afternoon game against Oregon, the first non-conference meeting of the season between the Pac-12's two front runners.