A lot of college baseball programs will be glad to see Oregon St.'s Ben Wetzler graduate this spring, but none more so than California. Wetzler improved to 4-0 in his career against California with the first 7 2/3 innings of the Beavers' 10-4 win over the Bears Friday night. Oregon St. has now won 8 in a row against California, and 4 of those have been come at Wetzler's hand.
Until yet another bullpen breakdown, Oregon St. and Wetzler dominated the game, which should have been much more than a 7-1 game when Wetzler handed over the game to the bullpen. Indeed, it was only 3-0 Oregon St. after 6 innings, after the Beavers repeatedly ran themselves out of scoring opportunities, and also squandered additional scoring opportunities in the 2nd, 5th, and 6th innings. In all, Oregon St. left 1 or more runners in scoring position in 6 of the first 8 innings, and had 3 runners thrown out unforced in scoring position in the other 2.
Oregon St. opened a 2-0 lead in the top of the 1st inning after Jeff Hendrix led off with a single, and Andy Peterson reached on the first of what would be 4 errors on the night by California.
Michael Conforto proceeded to double to score both Hendrix and Peterson, but was thrown out easily trying to stretch it into a triple.
Dylan Davis popped out, but Michael Howard doubled, and Gabe Clark followed with a single.
Not satisfied with having already run Oregon St. into one unforced out in scoring position, 3rd base coach Andy Jenkins sent Howard home, and he too was easily thrown out. The 2-0 lead was a good start, but it should have been 3-0, with a runner on 3rd and 1 out.
The Beavers added a run without a hit in the 3rd, when Peterson was hit by a pitch, stole second, moved to 3rd on Conforto's sacrifice grounder, and scored on Davis' sacrifice fly.
But a chance to add another in the 4th slipped away with another over-aggressive base running call. Clark led off with a double, but was subsequently doubled off when he ran on a fly ball by Logan Ice to short right field.
Oregon St. had the lead-off runner in scoring position 4 times in the first 6 innings, and only scored them twice, but finally broke the game open in the 7th, when Davis delivered a 3 RBI bases loaded double. The opportunity was set up when Hendrix was hit by a pitch, and Peterson got a bunt hit, and was exacerbated by the 3rd error of the game by the Bears, when what should have been an inning ending double play ball hit by Conforto was dropped twice.
Davis finished with 4 RBIs to remain the team and Pac-12 leader, with 51 so far this season.
Meanwhile, Wetzler was isolating California hitters effectively. The Bears put at least 1 runner on base in each of the first 7 innings, but only twice more than 1 in an inning. A couple of double plays and a leaping catch against the left field wall by Conforto that robbed Robbie Tenerowicz of an extra base hit helped.
California finally got on the board with a solo home run to left field by Derek Campbell to lead off the 7th inning, and Wetzler dropped the relay from Gabe Clark on the next play, but the Beaver senior responded with his 6th strike out of the evening, and got out of the inning without further damage.
The Beavers answered with another run in the 8th, when Hendrix was hit by a pitch for the second consecutive at bat, and scored on Peterson's triple to make it 7-1. But once again, Oregon St. couldn't capitalize further on a chance to blow the game open.
Wetzler came out after 2 hard ground outs in the bottom of the 8th, with Phil Belding coming on, and it appeared to be over in the top of the 9th when Hendrix hammered his first collegiate home run, a 3 run shot that came after Clark reached on the 4th error of the night, and Ice walked.
Hendrix finished with 3 hits and 3 RBIs, and 4 runs scored, after reaching in 5 of 6 trips to the plate.
But after getting 2 quick outs, Belding lost his control, and hit a batter, followed that with a walk, and then an RBI single. Trent Shelton gave it a try, and gave up a 2 RBI double, the first hit of the season for pinch hitter Max Dutto.
Brandon Jackson came on to extinguish the dumpster fire, and close out the win that improved Oregon St. to 32-8 for the season, and 15-4 in the Pac-12, and improved Wetzler, Oregon St.'s all-time leader in wins, to 8-1 for the season, his 32nd win as a Beaver.
California starter freshman Daulton Jeffries took the loss and dropped to 2-5 for the season, and the Bears dropped to 19-22, and 7-12 in conference, which left California in 8th place.
It was the first night game Oregon St. has ever played at California, where lights were only installed last year, and drew a crowd of 1,783, the largest of the year at Evans Diamond.
Oregon St. remained 1/2 game behind Pac-12 leading Washington, after the Huskies handled Utah 8-4 earlier today in Salt Lake City. The Beavers are percentage points ahead, but because they have played fewer conference games than Washington, who has yet to have their conference bye week.
The Beavers and Bears continue their series tomorrow night, with a slightly earlier 6 PM start at Evans Diamond.