#2 ranked Oregon St. seized control of the Pac-12 race Sunday afternoon, with a 3-0 win over 5th ranked Washington that opened a 2 game lead in the conference race, plus the tiebreaker, with only 3 games left for both teams. And it all washed away from the Huskies in a single rain soaked half inning.
The game got off to what looked a lot like a repeat of yesterday's pitching duel, won 1-0 by the Beavers in the bottom of the 9th inning, quickly sailing scoreless through the first 3 1/2 innings.
But then in the bottom of the 4th, the sky literally fell in on the Huskies.
Washngton starter Jeff Brigham got Michael Conforto to pop up to left field, but then the rains came. Unable to locate pitches with a wet ball, both Dylan Davis and Gabe Clark singled.
Then the rain turned into a torrential downpour, and the teams should have been pulled off to wait out the passing showers that radar showed would give way to sunshine in a while.
Instead, the order was given to play on, and Logan Ice, who came up with the game winning hit yesterday, blooped another pitch that slipped from Brigham's grip into shallow center field, and Kyle London slipped and couldn't get to the ball, loading the bases.
London was playing for regular Washington center fielder Braden Bishop, who had pulled a muscle on the first play of the game, trying to beat out an infield grounder to short, and couldn't continue.
That brought up Jerad Casper, who proceeded to lose his bat fouling a ball back. Both hit plate umpire Billy Haze, and the bat flew over the Pac-12 Network camera, and only stayed out of the stands because of the netting.
Haze was left in such a haze he initially ruled Casper out on a strikeout, but the call was corrected to a foul ball, and Casper stayed at the plate.
Brigham then lost another ball that slipped, and walked Casper, which walked in Davis for a 1-0 lead.
Washington coach Lindsay Meggs then pulled his team off the field, something that should have been done before the Ice at bat.
A delay of just over 30 minutes ensued while the rain storm passed, highlighted by Oregon St. head coach Pat Casey, who later proclaimed himself a career "dirt dog", personally taking a bucket of field dry and a broom, and doing the work on the mound.
The mound wasn't initially tarped, and the first attempt to return to play came with the rain still coming down.
Brigham still couldn't get any footing, and walked off the field again, and the delay extended until the rain stopped.
A substantial portion of the crowd of 3,277, which brought the weekend series total to 9,909, even sat out the soaking.
With the sun back out, but the bases still loaded, Caleb Hamilton singled down the left field line, scoring Clark and Ice for a 3-0 lead.
"I was just trying to stay calm, stay with my approach," Hamilton said. "I knew they were going to try to throw something out over the plate or down because that's where he had been having success."
Casper was thrown out trying to go to 3rd, blowing the chance for an even bigger inning, but it didn't matter.
Meanwhile, Oregon St.'s Ben Wetzler, who was making his return after a 5 game suspension following being arrested early last Saturday morning after he mistook his neighbor's house for his own and tried to get into it after over-celebrating the Beavers' 4-2 win to kick off the UCLA series he had pitched them to victory in, was in the process of turning in one of his best pitching performances ever.
Wetzler threw a complete game 2 hit shutout at Washington, striking out 9 in the process, with the 9th coming, fittingly, to end the game.
Wetzler also ended the 8th, after issuing a walk, with back to back strikeouts. No Husky ever got past first base, and Wetzler picked off Andrew Ely in the first inning.
Here's Wetzler talking about Sunday's game:
Here's Coach Casey's observations post-game:
Wetzler got solid defensive backup as well, despite the fact that Oregon St. was playing without senior second baseman Andy Peterson, who sprained an ankle in the dogpile celebration following Saturday's win, and had to shift third baseman Caleb Hamilton to second.
Short stop Trevor Morrison threw out 4 Huskies, and saved a probable double with a diving stop.
And centerfielder Jeff Hendrix gave his best impression of "Bouncing" Max Gordon, who was known for all of his diving and tumbling catches last year in center, robbing London of a sure double at a minimum with a diving catch in left center. It came 2 pitches after London had just missed another sure double, when a drive down the left field line fell just foul, and seemed to take the last wind out of Washingon's sails offensively.
It was the second consecutive complete game shutout in a row, following Jace Fry's Saturday afternoon, and improved Wetzler, already Oregon St.'s all time win leader, to 10-2 for the season, and lowered his already nation leading ERA to 0.88.
"I felt like I threw more sliders today than I ever have before," Wetzler said of his performance that kept the Husky hitters off balance all afternoon. "I was able to throw it for strikes and expand the zone, and they helped me a lot by chasing them out of the zone."
Brigham, who came out after 5 innings, took the loss, dropping to 6-3 for the season, despite pitching brilliantly except when he was asked to locate a ball he couldn't grip, while standing on a mound he couldn't get traction on.
Brigham and Trevor Dunlap combined to limit Oregon St. to just 7 hits, and just 3 outside the fateful bottom of the 4th inning.
Oregon St.'s win snapped Washington's streak of 14 straight series win, including all 10 this year, and 12 consecutive Pac-12 series, and took a near strangle hold on the conference race.
The shutout win was Oregon St.'s 13th of the season, an new school record.
Oregon St. improved to 41-9, and 22-5 in the Pac-12, while second place Washington slipped to 38-13-1, and 20-7 in conference.
A single Beaver win next week at USC or a Husky loss to UCLA in Seattle will sew up the Pac-12's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, because of having seized the tie-breaker. Any combination of 2 Oregon St. wins or Washington losses will clinch a second consecutive "outright" Pac-12 title for the Beavers.
That would likely assure Oregon St. of a "National Seed", meaning the Beavers would also host a Super Regional if they can take care of business in the regional they would host in 2 weeks.
Given that several other highly ranked teams nationally also took losses this weekend, it still possible Washington could also snag a "National Seed" if they can sweep UCLA next week in Seattle, which is a likely possibility. The slumping Bruins were beaten 5-4 by Oregon in 11 innings this afternoon, and have now lost 10 games in a row.
Oregon St. will take a run down to Eugene Tuesday before heading to Los Angeles for the season ending series at USC, taking on the Ducks at P.K. Park at 7 PM.