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Big Eighth Inning Gives Beavers Series Win over No. 3 Arizona State

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<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericksonimages/3411365364/in/set-72157616241289281/">Photo by Ethan Erickson</a>
Photo by Ethan Erickson

Final Score: Oregon State 10, Arizona State 5 (Beavers win series, 2-1)

I said before the game that today's rubber game against Arizona State felt like one of the biggest games of the year so far, and I think it lived up to the billing. The Beavers took advantage of a great opportunity to win a series against a top-ranked team in the nation, after dropping a frustrating series opener of Friday afternoon.

Mike Leake was a big reason why the Beavers couldn't get back into Game 1. But in Games 2 and 3, the Beavers were able to get the offensive production they needed to beat Arizona State on consecutive days.

Arizona State entered the game at 16-4 in the conference, and hadn't lost a conference series all year. The Sun Devils had only played in one rubber game all season, beating California 6-5 last week in Berkeley.

After six straight great starts by Jorge Reyes, dating back to a 7 inning outing against Hawaii on March 23, he ran into some trouble against ASU. He had is normal velocity, with his fastball touching 92 miles per hour according to some scouts, but he didn't have his full command and seemed to be frequently falling behind in the count. He walked three batters in his two and two thirds innings of work, striking out three as well.

Tyler Waldron, Friday's starter, came on to relieve Jorge in the third inning. He also pitched two and two thirds innings, holding ASU to just one run on four hits. Tyler also struggled with his control, walking three batters as well.

Jordan Swagerty got the start for Arizona State, just his second of the year. He's a versatile player for the Sun Devils who got the start by way of the injury to Josh Spence's throwing hand. Swagerty entered Saturday's game as a pinch hitter, has been used as a closer and in relief situations, but got the start on Sunday. He threw six innings on Sunday, allowing four runs on five hits to the Beavers.

Arizona State established the upper hand from the start, scoring two runs in the second inning and two more in the third. The Beavers clawed back with a run in the bottom of the third that was made possible by a Koa Kahalehoe double.

The first three innings was definitely not the start the Beavers were looking for, especially just capping off a comeback win the night before. However, the Beavers stuck with it, matching Arizona State's run in the top of the fourth with another run in the bottom of the forth.

The Beavers entered the bottom of the fifth trailing 5-2, but it was here that the Beavers really got started. With two outs, John Tommasini was hit by a Swagerty pitch, immediately prompting some jawing from Tommasini. The Beaver second baseman then swiped second base, thanks to a skillful slide and a generous call from umpire Dick Flaherty. Tommasini would then score on a base hit by John Wallace and continued to get under the skin of Swagerty, and the ASU starter wasn't the same from that point on.

The Beavers went down quickly in the sixth, but capitalized on two ASU errors to score two unearned runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. The two runs tied the game at five, and further turned the momentum in Oregon State's favor.

The Beavers got just their second lead of the series in the eighth inning, when Adalberto Santos drove in Stefen Romero, who had reached on an inning lead-off walk. The only other lead the Beavers had held in the series came when then Koa Kahalehoe singled to left field to give the Beavers the Game 2 victory on Saturday night. The 6-5 lead would have allowed for Kevin Rhoderick to come on and shut down the Sun Devils in the top of the ninth, but the Beavers were more interested in getting some insurance.

Following Santos, Kahalehoe reached on a fielder's choice in which Santos was thrown out at second yet Jared Norris, who had walked earlier, scored. With one on and one out, Rob Folsom it a triple to right field, scoring Kahalehoe from first, and giving the Beavers a three run lead. After Tommasini walked, Folsom scored from third on a wild pitch, as the self-destruction of Arizona State continued. After a pitching change, John Wallace grounded out, but Joey Wong milked one more run out of the inning by singling to right field to drive in Tommasini from second, who moved up on the wild pitch.

The Beavers were able to score five runs in the bottom of the eighth, against an ASU pitching staff that entered the game with a combined ERA of 2.65 on the season. That's pretty impressive, if you ask me.

Kevin Rhoderick, the fifth Beaver pitcher used in the game, (Sitton recorded one out, Grbavac, three) threw just over two innings in his first work of the weekend. He struck out the first two batters he faced, and ended up with four strikeouts on the afternoon against a total of seven batters. With a five run lead and the support of his defense, he retired the Sun Devils in order in the top of the ninth inning to clinch the win. Rhoderick moves to 2-1 on the season with the victory.

It was great to see the Beaver offense operate at a high level, especially against such a talented team like Arizona State. It's one thing to rack up hits against a BYU, an Arizona, or an Oregon, but it's another thing to do it against ASU. Sunday's win, but on a larger scale the series win, will definitely be an accolade on Oregon State's resume that will help them when it comes selection time for the NCAA tournament.

There were a few base-running errors in the game, but Tommasini's stolen base in the fifth inning makes up for them, and it's the play that I think changed the entire dynamic of the game. It showed Arizona State that the Beavers weren't going to go anywhere, and were willing to scrap for runs to keep it close. The Beavers got the two runs in the bottom of the seventh to even things up, and broke the game open in the eighth with the five-run barrage.

The defense played well, with the only error coming on a ball Jorge Reyes threw over the head of John Tommasini on a bunt play in the second inning. Jorge was able to get out of the inning with only two runs allowed due to a timely double play, but the error extended the inning and gave ASU the opportunity to score two runs.

The one glaring negative is the starting pitching. It wasn't the greatest this weekend, but the bullpen really stepped up to give the Beavers enough of a presence on the mound to beat the top-ranked team in the Pac-10. It's tough to judge Jorge on this one game because he's pitched so well the past several outings.

The Beavers move to 27-12 overall and 11-7 in the Pac-10 with the win, and the Sun Devils fall to 33-11 and 16-5.

The Beavers will play Portland Tuesday at Joe Etzel field before making the trip to Seattle for what will be another big weekend against the Washington Huskies. Friday's game will be played at Safeco Field. The Huskies just capped off a sweep of USC with a 3-2 Sunday win, and will enter Friday's contest with a 10-8 Pac-10 record.

First pitch on Tuesday from Portland is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. 

And once again, ConnorOSU's series recap is now available as well

--Jake (jake.buildingthedam@gmail.com)

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