Jared Norris led the way as Oregon St. wrote another chapter in the horror story that Corvallis has become for USC Friday night. Norris had the first of two Beaver home runs, and also an RBI triple, as Oregon St. twice came from behind twice, and eventually pulled away to a 7-2 win on what became a miserable night at the ball park, but much more so for the Trojans.
USC may well reconsider going independent in order to avoid any more visits to Corvallis, most of which of late have been nothing short of disasters from the Trojan point of view, considering the outcome of their last 2 basketball road trips, their last 3 football games at Reser, and now a cold, rainy night that more resembled the weather to be expected on the first series of the season at Goss, not the last. All of which have ended poorly for poor USC.
Oregon St. fans seemed nervous early on, when Sam Gaviglio struggled with both his control and a tight strike zone, and the Beavers fell behind. And after Norris' home run tied it, USC promptly took another lead.
But the concerns of the home fans were unfounded.
Against UCLA or Arizona St., falling behind twice, even by a single run, is legitimate cause for concern, never mind the probability of a loss. But USC is a different animal. No one beats the Trojans 2-1 very often, but then USC doesn't win a lot of 2-1 games either.
Jared Norris launches the first of two Oregon St. home runs of the night.
Carter Bell belts his RBI double.
Carter Bell came up with an RBI double, then Norris followed up with his triple, and it was all the help Gaviglio needed. The Beavers' ace retired 8 consecutive batters during his best stretch, and improved his record to a Pac-12 best 11-1. Meanwhile, In the meantime, Kavin Keyes got in on the extra base RBI game, opening the Oregon St. lead to 4-2 in the fourth inning.
Sam Gaviglio improved to 11-1 for the season with the win over the Trojans.
Gaviglio's most crucial effort came in the sixth inning, when he retired Ricky Oropesa, Joe De Pinto, and Alex Sherrod, the 3-4-5 hitters in the USC batting order. All three hit Gaviglio, but none did any damage, as the Oregon St. defense backed up their #1 starter, who didn't pitch like a #1 on the night, but battled like one.
Scott Schultz cleaned up the seventh inning for Gaviglio, and then the sky, which was already falling in on USC in the form of a cold, win driven rain, completely collapsed in on them.
USC relief pitcher Chris Mezger avoided allowing Norris to become the second Oregon St. player to hit for the cycle in the last two weeks, walking Norris, who needed only a double for the rarest of Beaver batting feats, something that has only happened twice in team history. Norris made the at bat the equivalent of a double with a stole base, though, by getting both arms past the tag. (Can we put a cycle with an * in the books for that?)
Jared Norris slides in with a stolen base.
Tyler Smith walked, as the rain was making it almost impossible to deliver a pitch with control. (Note to Mike Parker, the voice of the Beavers, who repeatedly described the conditions as a 'drizzle': It might have seemed like a drizzle from the warm dry inside of the press box, but describing the conditions during the 6th and 7th inning as a drizzle is like describing the Pacific ocean as a small marsh. The crowd, which took a couple of innings to file in, but was just shy of capacity, at just under 3,000, was 2/3 gone by the middle of the soggy seventh inning, when temperatures had dropped from the 70's on a sunny afternoon, to the mid 50s. Coupled with a steady wind of 15 mph, with gusts to over 20, and 100% humidity, the wind chill effect was around 40 degrees, surely not something USC was looking for in late May.)
Then Brian Stamps, above, delivered the knockout blow, driving his first career home run out to left field. The 3 RBI blast opened what would be the 7-2 final score, and sent most of the rest of Beaver Nation scurrying for the exits. Matt Boyd got a pair of double plays to finish off the Trojans.
Matt Boyd shut down USC to close out the night and the win.
Besides the five extra base RBI hits, which delivered all the Oregon St. runs, the key stat of the game was the result of the matchup of the pitching staff that gives up the most walks in the Pac-10 (USC) against the team that draws the most walks (OSU). The result was 8 Beavers on base on 4 balls.
Oregon St. fans spent much of the evening decrying the strike zone, but except for a couple of late game "its cold and wet, and this game needs to get over" strikes, the target was consistent, and a challenge for USC as well. Trojan starter Andrew Triggs, who took the loss, and dropped to 4-4 for the season, served up as many walks as he recorded strikeouts.
Oregon St. (38-12, 17-5) moved within 3 wins or Arizona St. losses of clinching the Pac-10 championship heading into Saturday's 2:05 first pitch middle game of the series. USC (20-29, 10-12), but winners of their last 3 series, and 4 of their last 5, will have to get their offense into its normal high gear in order to escape being the 8th. conference series victim of the Beavers.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)