Conforto Grand Slam Starts Beaver Blasting Of Ducks

Michael Conforton homered twice against Oregon this weekend, including today's grand slam. - (OSU Facebook Photo)

Final Score: Oregon St. 12 Oregon 2

Michael Conforto's grand slam in the second inning sent #6 Oregon St. on their way to a second consecutive blowout win at #10 Oregon on Sunday.

2 errors in the first 2 innings by the normally solid Duck defense, which is #1 in the Pac-12 and #5 nationally in fielding percentage got Oregon St. off to a good start, contributing to a 1-0 lead in the first inning, and then putting a Beaver on every log for Conforto, who had picked up the first of what would eventually be 6 RBIs on the day when he singled to score Tyler Smith for the game's first run.

Conforto then joined Dylan Davis in the 40 RBI club for the season, pulling the first pitch he saw into the Oregon bullpen beyond right field. It was his 9th homer of the year, and second grand slam of the season, as well as his second round trip of the weekend.

"We threw him the kitchen sink today, and he hit everything pretty hard when it mattered," Oregon head coach George Horton said.

Oregon St. head coach Pat Casey rarely pulls out the "send 10 hitters to the plate and score 5 runs in the inning" play, but after it worked so well in the decisive 8th inning of Saturday's 9-0 Beaver win, Casey called for it again, and it provided a margin that would never be threatened the rest of the day.

Not that Oregon didn't try; the Ducks immediately responded by loading the bases in the bottom of the second, but a diving catch on the warning track by Oregon St. center fielder Max Gordon saved at least 3 runs, and bailed Ben Wetzler out of the worst jam he would see all day.

Oregon St. added another run to go up 7-0 in the third inning, when Smith singled to score Jake Rodriguez, and end the day early for Oregon starter Jake Reed, before the Ducks were finally able to begin to chip away, scoring single runs in both the 4th and 5th innings.

A pair of errors by Oregon St. third baseman Kavin Keyes contributed to the minor Oregon uprising, but double plays by the normally sound Beaver defense in both the 4th and 5th innings limited the damage, and got Wetzler far enough into the game for him to pick up his 7th consecutive win in as many Sundays, improving him to 7-1 for the season. Reed took the loss and tumbled to 6-4.

The Beavers blew a chance to blow the game wide open in the top of the 6th inning, leaving the bases loaded against the Ducks' Garett Cleavinger, but Wetzler got the Ducks in order in the bottom of the 6th, and added a strikeout in the 7th before handing the ball over to Tony Bryant for safe keeping. Wetzler had allowed 6 hits and a walk, and the Oregon St. bullpen, which hadn't seen any action all weekend, no-hit Oregon the rest of the way.

"We're one step closer to our goal of winning the Pac-12 title, and our big goal, getting to the sunny place in Nebraska,'' Wetzler said.

Oregon St. did slam the door on any thoughts of an Oregon comeback in the 8th, as the crowd of 3,762 saw, and the radio audience heard Beaver play-by-play man Mike Parker say something that may never have been said before; "4 consecutive hits off Jimmy Sherfy."

Davis, Danny Hayes, Keyes, and Ryan Barnes all hit the normally almost invincible Oregon relief ace, who had picked up his 20th save of the season in the Ducks' series opening 3-0 win Friday night, and entered the game with an ERA below below 1, and the 4 run inning opened the lead to 11-2.

Andy Peterson and Conforto put an exclamation point on the series winning victory with back to back doubles in the 9th inning for the 12th run that upped the Beavers' total to 17 hits for the day, and quelled any controversy that might have arisen after Peterson's comments following the Saturday win were blown out of proportion, but also earned him an interview ban by Casey.

The double digit margin that produced also resulted in Oregon St. administering the 2 most lopsided losses Oregon has suffered in nearly 3 years in back to back days allowed Jace Fry to make his third appearance of the season, and get his first strike out, less than 11 months after undergoing Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.

The 10 run win also equaled the largest margin of victory over the Ducks by the Beavers since the Oregon baseball program was reinstated.

The 2 wins at PK Park were also the first road wins in conference games by either team in the Civil War since 2009, and improved Oregon St. to 43-9 for the year, and 23-5 in the Pac-12, the most conference wins by any Beaver team, surpassing the mark set by the 1994 squad). More importantly, it opened a 2 game lead in the conference race over Oregon, who dropped to 43-13, and 20-7. The Beavers also have the tie-breaker over both the Ducks and UCLA (37-15, 20-7), who pulled into a tie for second place with Oregon with a series sweep completing 5-2 win at USC, so one win next weekend over Washington St. OR a loss by both the Ducks at Utah and the Bruins at Stanford will clinch the Pac-12 championship. 2 wins, or a win and a single loss by each of their pursuers, ensures Oregon St. an out-right title without the benefit of tie-breakers.

The season Civil War series is tied, however, with the deciding game to come Tuesday at Goss Stadium, when the Beavers and Ducks meet once more, at 5:35 PM.

While Oregon St. moved very close to locking up a super-regional seed in the NCAA tournament with the series win, Oregon may need to pull out the Tuesday win in order to secure their second consecutive one.

For a look back, check out the Pac-12 Network Highlight video:

You can vote for Max's catch here as the best of the best.

Here's another look at it:

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com

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