Facing elimination as the top seed in the NCAA Tournament, and coming off the worst loss ever by a "National Seed", last night's 14-2 loss to UC-Irvine, Oregon St. once again turned to senior All-American LHP Ben Wetzler, something they have done time and again over the last couple of years.
And Ben did what Ben does; deliver both a win and an emotional boost when Beaver Nation's spirits are down.
Wetzler turned in his third consecutive complete game, this one a 4 hitter, with the 4th hit coming with 2 outs in the 9th, and struck out 10 Rebels, on his way to a 6-1 win.
The game was a snoozer through the first 5 innings, probably putting much of the crowd of 3,372 asleep (I know I dozed off more than once), as neither UNLV nor Oregon St. even threatened to get much going, other than a false start by the Beavers, who with 2 out, put runners on the corners, on singles by Logan Ice and Caleb Hamilton, but couldn't convert when Kavin Keyes flew out.
All that changed in the 6th inning though, when the "visiting' Beavers finally broke out of their late season offensive slump.
Michael Conforto, hitless for the regional, finally broke out, with a single that drew a standing ovation from Beaver Nation.
Dylan Davis followed with a hard shot that UNLV third baseman T.J. White couldn't handle, and the Beavers had 2 runners in scoring position.
That hasn't been a concern for opposing pitchers in the NCAA Regional, as Oregon St. was 1 for 21 with runners in scoring position.
They improved to 2 of 22, and took the lead, on Gabe Clark's RBI single to left that scored Conforto. Ice followed with a sacrifice fly to score Davis, but the real damage came after Caleb Hamilton had singled, when Keyes improved Oregon St. to 3 for 23, with a 2 RBI triple to make it 4-0, and chase Rebel starter Kevin Oakley from the game.
Joey Lauria took over, but Trevor Morrison wasn't impressed, and delivered an RBI single to center to score Keyes, and make it 5-0, the most runs Oregon St. has scored in a game since May 13 against Portland.
"It was a lift," Conforto commented. "Whatever was over us is gone!"
UNLV threatened to get right back into it in the bottom of the 6th, as the long inning left Wetzler a little cold, and he issued back to back walks on 11 pitches to start the inning, and prompt a visit from Head Coach Pat Casey.
Joey Swanner followed with an infield single to load the bases, and the Rebels got on the board on Patrick Armstrong's RBI single to center.
But Wetzler slammed the door, with a strikeout, and then a double play ball roller off of Edgar Montes' bat.
The Rebels' inability to capitalize was essentially the end of the game, and their season.
Hamilton reached on an error on the UNLV shortstop to start the 8th inning, and Oregon St. added an insurance run on Jeff Hendrix's RBI triple to right center, and that only empowered Wetzler even more to overpower the Rebels the rest of the way, saving the Oregon St. bullpen for tonight's rematch with the Anteaters.
Wetzler threw a season high 128 pitches, with the last one, fittingly ringing up his 10th strikeout of the day.
Wetzler improved to 12-1, while Oakley took the loss, and ended his season 4-8.
Because both innings featured errors before any runs were scored, all 6 Oregon St. runs were unearned.
Here's Casey and Wetzler postgame:
Oregon St., the Pac-12 Champions, improved to 44-13, and earned the rematch with UC-Irvine, at 8 PM tonight. ESPNU will have the coverage.
UNLV ended their season 36-25.
Senior RHP Scott Schultz, who is 6-2, including 2 complete games in 6 starts, and also 6 saves, will probably get the ball tonight for Oregon St. Schultz has a 1.86 ERA.
UC-Irvine will probably go with their regular Sunday starter, senior RHP Evan Brock (8-5, 2.95 ERA).
An Anteater win will claim the Corvallis Regional for the third seed team from the Big West. A Beaver victory will force a third, rubber game of the series tomorrow. That game is tentatively scheduled for 8 PM as well, but might be moved to earlier in the day depending on how other NCAA Regional action has unfolded.