Dylan Davis' walk-off, 2 RBI double with one out in the bottom of the 9th inning finally ended a spirited upset attempt by UT-San Antonio, propelling Oregon St., the third seed overall in the NCAA postseason, to a 5-4 win Friday night in the Corvallis Regional.
It was Davis' 3rd hit of the night, and the only extra base hit of the 15 the teams combined for on the evening. Davis also scored twice.
The near capacity crowd of 3,222 never got comfortable on a comfortable evening with temperatures in the 70s and upper 60s all game long, as the tense and tedious marathon that took well over 3 1/2 hours to play never saw a margin of more than 1 run either way.
Taking the early lead has usually been Oregon St.'s preferred method of operations, but tonight it was UTSA that jumped on top, when RJ Perucki and Tony Ramirez followed up a leadoff walk by Riley Good with back to back singles to take a 1-0 lead, as Beavers starter Matt Boyd spent the first frame figuring out the location of the strike zone.
Boyd, above, settled in after that, setting the Roadrunners down in order the next 4 innings in a row. But the Beavers struggled against UTSA starter Nolan Trabanino, and stranded a runner in scoring position in both the 1st and 2nd innings.
Oregon St. finally pulled even in the 4th, when Davis, who had led off with a single, scored on a double play ball that really wasn't with the bases loaded. UTSA second baseman Jesse Baker's throw pulled first baseman Mike Warren so far that he fell off the base, but 1st base umpire Harry Greer was so focused on whether Warren made and controlled the catch (he did), that he missed the detail that Warren's foot was a foot off the base.
The Roadrunners, who finished 4th in the WAC, but earned the conference's automatic bid to the post-season by sweeping the WAC Tournament, retook the lead in the 6th, when Good led off another inning by reaching, this time with a single, and scored on Warren's single after a couple of sacrifices, but the Beavers immediately answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the 6th.
Davis led off by reaching on an error by Warren, and Ryan Barnes followed with a perfect bunt single, ending the evening for Trabanino.
With Matt Sims, UTSA's usual closer, on in relief, Danny Hayes and Kavin Keyes delivered consecutive fly balls that advanced and then scored Davis. Sims then issued consecutive walks to Jake Rodriguez and Max Gordon to load the bases, and then another to Tyler Smith that forced Barnes in with the go ahead run that put Oregon St. up 3-2.
Boyd got 2 outs in the top of the 7th, but then issued a walk to Good, who was a persistent problem for Oregon St. all night, and then hit Daniel Rockett with his 114th pitch, ending his evening.
For the second Friday night in a row, the Beaver bullpen could not hold a lead for Boyd, though this one wasn't nearly as sizable, as Scott Schultz got up 0-2 on Perucki, but then gave up an RBI single that re-tied the game.
The Oregon St. defense that had been solid all evening, highlighted by a couple of against the fence catches by Michael Conforto in left field, lapsed in the 8th inning, as Schultz mishandled a bunt by Warren, and after Max Englebrekt took over for Schultz, Keyes couldn't handle a grounder, allowing Jesse Baker who had led off the inning with a single to score, putting UTSA up 4-3.
Englebrekt, above, bounced back, retiring the last 5 UTSA batters of the game, but the Beavers still trailed going to the bottom of the 9th inning.
However, the top of the order was due up for Oregon St.
"We got the guys up that we wanted to," Oregon St. head coach Pat Casey said.
Smith led off by drawing his second walk of the game, and after Andy Peterson's bunt ended in an out, Sims hit Conforto with a pitch, putting the game winning run on base, and bringing up Davis, the hottest hitting Beaver of late.
Davis drove the first pitch he saw deep in the gap in right center, and all that was left the celebration, as the Oregon St. team mobbed Davis.
When asked what he thought would happen with Davis' at bat, Casey commented "I thought he would hit a 2 run double to right center."
It was, after all, Davis' team high 21st double of the season.
"I got what I was looking for, and took advantage of it," Davis explained. "I wasn't completely sure if Michael was going to score, but I saw him move like I've never seen him move before."
Engelbrekt got the win, improving him to 5-1 for the season, while Sims slipped to 6-3.
Oregon St. improved to 46-10, and will meet UC-Santa Barbara (35-23) tomorrow at 5 PM. The Gauchos, who tied for second place in the Big West Conference, and are coached by former Oregon St. pitcher and Oregon assistant coach Andrew Checketts, upset second seed Texas A&M 6-4 in the day's first game.
UTSA dropped to 35-24, and will face the Aggies (32-28) at noon tomorrow in an elimination game. The winner will meet tomorrow evening's loser at noon Sunday.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)