First day qualms about the Oregon St. offense were at least temporarily allayed, at least when up against inferior pitching, after the Beavers exploded to obliterate Nebraska 15-7, in a game that was not nearly as close as that. The Huskers rallied for 5 runs in the bottom of the 9th, long after Oregon St. coach Pat Casey had gone exploring deep in his bullpen, and down at the end of the bench.
Oregon St. posted 4 runs in the 3rd inning, and then 3 more in the 4th, before Nebraska finally got on the board. The Beavers then blew open what was at the time an 8-2 game with 7 more in the top of the 8th, as the Husker bullpen completely melted down.
Nebraska pitchers walked in 3 runs in the inning, including 2 back to back. They also walked Michael Conforto 3 times, though that was sounder than letting him hit, as he added a 2 RBI single to the 8th inning onslaught, as 12 Beavers came to bat. (Actually, only 9, but 3 of them came up a second time.)
By the time the game was over, a half dozen Nebraska pitchers had issued 11 walks, as well as hitting 2 Beaver batters, both of whom would go on to score. As many Oregon St. batters got on base without hitting the ball as did, as the Beavers also had 13 hits.
Oregon St. did leave 11 runners stranded, as they did yesterday, though only 5 were in scoring position this time, including the bases loaded, so it could have been much more lopsided.
With Jeff Hendrix, who lost a fingernail and got his hand stepped on in the process of carrying Oregon St. to their opening day 4-3 win over Gonzaga, Casey shook the lineup up, inserting Nick Rulli into center, and also moving Kavin Keyes to 1st. Both moves worked out.
Keyes had a huge day at the plate, with 3 hits and a walk, and 3 RBIs. Rulli had a hit, a walk, and an RBI, and scored twice.
Gabe Clark was also inserted into the DH slot, and may have cemented himself there for a while, with 2 hits, 2 RBIs, and 3 runs scored.
Conforto also had multiple hits, RBIs, and runs scored.
More importantly than the offensive breakout was Jace Fry's pitching performance. Fry, making his first start since 2012, after "Tommy John" surgery that cost him the regular season last year, went 7 innings, which equaled the number of innings he threw last year once he returned for Oregon St.'s College World Series run.
It wasn't a "great" outing by Fry, who gave up 9 hits, but an important one in that he was able to go deep into the game, after the bullpen got more work than Casey wanted yesterday, and pick up the win.
It's been a long time since Fry has been a reliable inning eater, and it was a huge factor last season that Andrew Moore was so often able to deliver so many innings on Saturdays, and why he was originally still the Saturday guy in this year's rotation until the eligibility issue arose with Ben Wetzler that has him on the shelf for the time being. (See yesterday's opening day preview for the details.)
Fry only gave up 2 runs, and never more than 1 in an inning. The large amount of early run support afforded the opportunity for Fry to work through several tough patches that would have resulted in an immediate hook in games like yesterday, underscoring the importance of pouring on the offense, especially when working on developing a pitching staff.
Nebraska starter Aaron Bummer lasted only 3 innings, and took the loss, after giving up 6 hits and 3 walks, and 4 runs. Things didn't get any better once the Husker bullpen came into play, however.
Oregon St. improved to 2-0, and will face Pacific tomorrow afternoon at 4 PM Arizona time (3 PM PST), and again Monday morning at 11 AM (10 AM PST). Scott Schultz is scheduled to start Sunday.
Nebraska dropped to 1-1 for the year. The Beavers will face the Huskers again next Friday, across town in Surprise, in the Pac-12 - Big-10 Tournament. It will be interesting to see if Nebraska can find a pitching solution by then.