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Oregon St. Wins Pac-12 Title Outright With 2-0 Win

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Early runs and another Ben Wetzler complete game complete second consecutive conference title run for Beavers.

Oregon St. claimed their second consecutive Pac-12 title with their 2-0 win over USC.
Oregon St. claimed their second consecutive Pac-12 title with their 2-0 win over USC.

Oregon St. capitalized on a leadoff walk to Jeff Hendrix and a 4 pitch walk to Michael Conforto that set the table for back to back RBI singles by Gabe Clark and Kavin Keyes to score first Hendrix, and then Conforto, and take a 2-0 lead to get things started.

It should have been a bigger margin, but the Beavers' inability to hit in the clutch continued, and Oregon St. left the bases loaded. In all, they left 7 runners on base in the first 4 innings, 4 in scoring position, a result of 6 walks in those early innings by USC starter Wyatt Strahan.

It didn't matter with Ben Wetzler on the mound though, especially with the Beaver defense backing him up.

Wetzler, coming off a 2 hit complete game 3-0 shutout of Washington last Sunday to win the series against the Huskies, which earned him both the Pac-12 and NCBWA National Pitcher of the Week honors, delivered another complete game shutout performance, this one a 2-0 3 hitter, in under 2 hours and 20 minutes.

"Wetzler is a serial killer," Oregon St. head coach Pat Casey declared.

This on a day when Casey had said he wouldn't over-extend Wetzler, who also had to fight through a stretch in the middle of the game where his back stiffened up, and had to get treatment during Beaver at bats from the Oregon St. trainer.

It wasn't one of Wetzler's best outings, as he only struck out 5 Trojans, and had a lot of balls put in play. But the Beaver defense turned 4 double plays, including 3 in the first 4 innings to keep USC from getting back in the game, Conforto made a diving catch, which would have been a Sportscenter highlight most days, and Hendrix made the catch of the year for Oregon St., leaping and reaching out over the fence in left center to rob Timmy Robinson of a home run for the first out of the 9th inning that would have meant USC would be able to bring the tieing run to the plate at least 3 times.

Appropriately though, the last out came on a strikeout, but the ball got loose, and the runner had to be thrown out by the defense that was flawless save for one weird play, on which Keys was assessed 2 errors, 1 for not fielding the ball cleanly, and then making a bad throw that put a USC runner on second in the 4th inning.

Fittingly, Trevor Morrison cleaned up the miscue with a putout on the next play.

Oregon St. also had to overcome a gritty performance from Strahan, who survived 7 innings before handing the ball over to Kyle Twomey in which he issued 8 walks, mostly because the Beavers only got 1 other hit besides the back to back run scoring singles in the top of the first all afternoon.

Strahan, who threw 126 pitches, after a 119 pitch outing in USC's Monday win over Grand Canyon to ensure the Trojan's first winning season since 2005, took the loss to slip to 6-4, and USC dropped to 28-24, and 15-14 in the Pac-12.

Wetzler's second shutout win of the week not only improved his record to 11-1, he lowered his already nation-best ERA to 0.76.

Oregon St. improved to 42-11, and 23-6, and locked up their second consecutive outright Pac-12 title with the win. The Beavers, having gained the tie-breaker against the Huskies, had backed into the conference's automatic seed to the NCAA Tournament despite yesterday's 4-2 loss to USC after Washington fell 3-0 to UCLA last night.

"I asked them (the players) if 20 years from now they wanted their ring to say 'Co-Champions" or just 'Champions' on it," Casey said.

The answers that Wetzler and Hendrix had became apparent this afternoon.

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Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com