Oregon St. pulled out a 9th inning win for the second evening in a row in the NCAA Baseball Corvallis Regional, this time literally walking away with the game winning run when Danny Hayes, with the bases loaded, 2 out, and down 0-2 in the count, had the nerve, and the eye, to not go after any of 4 straight balls by UC-Santa Barbara's Dylan Hecht. This after Hecht, who took over for Greg Mahle, had gotten Dylan Davis, who delivered the winning runs with a walk off double in the 9th inning last night against UT-San Antonio, to ground out, but then walked Ryan Barnes to load up the bases.
Due to an oddity of the NCAA, Oregon St., the #3 seed into the post-season, was officially the visitor even though they were playing a lower seeded team in their own ball park, so it wasn't a walk off walk, and there was still work to be done. But freshman Max Engelbrekt, who got his 5th win of the season in last night's 5-4 win, shut down the 7-8-9 hitters in the Gaucho lineup, picking up his 5th save of the season, and securing the 13th win of the year against only 1 loss for freshman All-American Andrew Moore, who 5-hit UCSB through 8 innings.
Barnes had put Oregon St. ahead early, with a solo home run, above, his 2nd of the season, to left-center to lead off the 2nd inning, but UCSB answered with single runs in both the 2nd and 3rd innings.
The Beavers evened the score at 2 runs apiece in the 6th inning, when Barnes delivered again, singling to center to drive in Davis, below, who had doubled to left an at bat before.
But Oregon St. couldn't capitalize on a subsequent bases loaded opportunity, after UCSB starter, freshman LHP Justin Jacome, hit Hayes with a pitch, and then Gaucho third baseman Marc Venning couldn't handle a grounder by Kavin Keyes, as Jacome struck out Jake Rodriguez.
The Beavers loaded the bases again in the 7th, on singles by Max Gordon and Andy Peterson, followed by an error that allowed Michael Conforto to reach to load the bases, when Gaucho first baseman Tyler Kuresa initially bobbled Conforto's grounder, and Jacome didn't cover first, leaving no one for Kuresa to throw to.That ended Jacome's evening, as UCSB coach Andrew Checketts went to Greg Mahle, who promptly struck out both Davis and Barnes to preserve the tie.
Oregon St. stranded Jake Rodriguez in the 8th inning, the 5th at bat in a row where the Beavers left someone aboard. And the issue persisted even after Hayes' go-ahead run scoring walk, as the Beavers again left the bases loaded in the 9th.
Just as on Friday night, Oregon St. had the top of the order up in the 9th inning, but Tyler Smith grounded out to start the Beavers' last at bat. Peterson put down another perfect bunt single though, as the ball rolled up onto the paint that is the 3rd base foul line, and back down off of it to stay fair.
Mahle then hit Conforto, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, with his next pitch, which ended his evening, as Checketts checked down to Hecht.
Davis was again unable to deliver the big hit most in the record crowd of 3,535 were looking for, but his grounder moved up Peterson and Conforto, which made it easier to walk Barnes to set up a force at all 4 corners. That force didn't come into play until after Hayes' plate discipline delivered what Beaver bats hadn't been able to time and again against what was pretty good pitching by the Gauchos.
Englebrekt, above, didn't have an uneventful final 3 outs, however, as Luke Swenson led off with a line drive that nearly knocked Englebrekt off the mound. Engelbrekt caught the shot, though, and then struck out Venning, before getting help from a web gem by Smith, the All-Pac-12 first team shortstop, who had a couple of them on the evening, to seal the deal.
An inning ending snag by Smith in the 8th inning after the Gauchos had loaded the bases was crucial to keeping the Beavers in position to pull out the win.
"That was a game changer," Oregon St. head coach Pat Casey felt. "If the ball gets through, it's pretty tough to come back from that."
"I thought that was a hit for sure," Moore added. "But he (Smith) took it away."
Moore, above, turned in another strong performance, made necessary by the Beavers' difficulties with clutch hitting, who had 10 hits, but left 13 total runners on base. But Moore did not have his sharpest of evenings, and both UCSB runs came from runners who advanced on balls that got past Rodriguez. One was a passed ball, but Moore uncorked an uncharacteristic 3 additional wild pitches.
The mistakes and missed scoring opportunities are eventually apt to bite the Beavers, who have now played 18 innings of post-season baseball, with the score either tied or a 1 run differential, for every minute of the over 7 hours the 2 games have taken.
Oregon St. did improve to 47-10 for the season, though, and will await the winner of tomorrow's Texas A&M-UCSB elimination game, which will start at noon, and also be a rematch of the Corvallis Regional opener, which the Gauchos won 6-4.
The Aggies (33-28) earned the rematch with a 6-1 win over UTSA, using 3 consecutive extra base hits to start the game that opened a 2-0 lead, and augmenting that mostly with a 3 run 5th inning, which began with 3 consecutive singles, and then a 2 RBI double by Daniel Mengden that pretty much put the Roadrunners away for the season. UTSA finished 35-25.
UCSB dropped to 35-24 after tonight's loss, which also dropped Mahle to 7-5 for the season.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)