The big news before the season opener between Oregon St.and Gonzaga, the defending champions of the Pac-12 and West Coast Conference, was about the suspension this morning of scheduled starting pitcher Ben Wetzler, over eligibility concerns arising from last year's draft, which we detailed in the game preview. It eclipsed the story of freshman catcher Logan Ice taking over for the departed Nate Esposito, and the other suspension of the morning, of the Beavers's other catcher, Nate Esposito. And it distracted attention from freshman shortstop Trevor Morrison replacing the graduated Tyler Smith, which had been one of the key stories of the preseason.
But perhaps the attention should have been focused more on Jeff Hendrix, who stepped into the starting center fielder role for Max Gordon.
After all, with Andrew Moore to take the start, it will be later in the weekend before the absence of Wetzler or Esposito may come in to play.
Hendrix's presence on the other hand had almost everything to do with Oregon St.'s come from behind 4-3 win over Gonzaga.
Hendrix scored the first run of the game, delivered the hit that moved Morrison into position to score Oregon St.'s second run, and then drove the 2 RBI single in the 8th inning that delivered the game tieing and winning runs for the Beavers.
Hendrix got things started by being hit by a pitch in the first inning. After a detour to the dugout for treatment of a nail ripped off, Hendrix worked his way to third on sacrifices by Andy Peterson and Michael Conforto, and then scored on Dylan Davis' single to right that was the only ball the Beavers put in play beyond the infield in the first inning.
Hendrix also had a run saving catch late in the game.
Meanwhile, Moore breezed along until the 5th inning, when Gonzaga got a couple of hits, and a couple of errors by Oregon St. in the infield, and both Payden Lamb and Cabe Reiten scored unearned runs.
The 'Zags pushed another run in the 6th inning when Cory LeBrun singled, moved to 3rd on a pair of sacrifices, and scored on Lamb's single.
Meanwhile, Oregon St.'s offense was reprising its anemic problems that arose often last season. The Beavers put 2 runners on base in both the bottom of the 6th and 7th inning, and loaded the bases with 1 out in the second case, but plated only 1 run between the 2 at bats, leaving multiple runners in scoring position.
But in the 8th inning, Morrison and Hendrix broke through. With Caleb Hamilton on after drawing a leadoff walk, and 2 outs, Morrison doubled to left center, and then Hendrix hammered the game winning hit.
Moore had a solid outing, though he didn't get the decision, having left after 6 innings, and 97 pitches, during which he allowed 5 hits, and all 3 of Gonzaga's runs, though 2 of them were unearned, while giving up only 1 walk, and striking out 4.
Gonzaga starter Brandon Bailey went 5 innigs, and only game up the 1 run, and 4 hits. Kenny Smith went the rest of the way, giving up Oregon St.'s other 4 hits, and the 3 runs, and took the loss.
Freshman Trent Shelton made his first appearance for Oregon St., and Brandon Jackson finished out the 7th inning. Zach Reser worked the 8th inning, giving up a walk, but no hits, and picked up the win, and Max Ingelbrekt closed out the game to get the save, allowing 1 hit.
Ice played well in his catching debut, throwing out the first runner who tried to steal on him, throwing to Morrison no less, demonstrating that the 2 freshmen are ready to replace Rodriguez, who led the country in throw-out percentage last season, and Smith, the anchor of the middle defense.
The problems with the offense persisted though. Oregon St. had 8 hits, but stranded 11 runners, 7 of them in scoring position.
The Beavers return to action in the morning, taking on tournament host away from home Nebraska at 10 AM. The Huskers handled Pacific, Oregon St.'s opponent Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, coming from behind 3-0 to tame the Tigers 5-3. Junior LHP Jace Fry will get the start for the Beavers.