Oregon State suffered its first loss of the young season Sunday afternoon, falling 7-4 to the New Mexico Lobos, in what turned into an ugly game.
The Beavs started out hot, with a KJ Harrison RBI single giving Oregon State a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Freshman Luke Heimlich, an early high-school graduate who started on the bump for the Beavers today, held the Lobos hitless through 3, and in the bottom of that 3rd, OSU extended their lead. Again, it was the freshman Harrison, this time with a solo line-drive home run, his 2nd of the season.
Heimlich protected the 2-0 lead into the 5th, when he found himself in some trouble. Heimlich surrendered three singles (with a sacrifice bunt mixed in) to start the inning, the last of which made it a 2-1 game. The sophomore New Zealnander Mak Fox replaced Heimlich, but faced only one batter, whom he walked to load the bases. Fellow sophomore Kevin Flemer was the new pitcher, who got a couple of big outs by way of strikeout and flyout to keep the Beavers ahead at 2-1.
Heimlich performed well as a young freshman in his first college game, going 4.1 innings and giving up 1 run on 4 hits, while striking out 3. Going forward, if he can grow on this outing, he could solidify himself as the Sunday starter during the big games, although it would be nice to get more length out of him, in an effort to see less of the less-than stellar bullpen play we saw today.
The Lobos got the lead and began to pull away in the 6th, touching Flemer for a single and 2-run home run, and then adding two more off Scotland Church, the 5'9" sophomore righthander who we saw go 1-2 while playing right field yesterday.
The Beavers bats, meanwhile, had gone quiet. Left handed outfielder (and pitcher, evidently) Luis Gonzalez had entered the game for the Lobos in the 4th inning, and left the game with 1 out in the 8th. He did not allow a hit, and was yanked in the 8th after walking his 2nd Beaver batter of the game. He struck out 4, and earned the win in relief.
New Mexico scored twice more in the 7th, and it took 3 pitchers for the Beavers to get through the inning. Sophomore Trent Shelton became the 2nd Beaver pitcher of the game to walk the only batter he faced, and yesterday's winning pitcher Sam Tweedt retired one of his three batters. Ryan Mets got the last two outs, but by the end of the inning it was 7-2 Lobos.
Redshirt senior (a senior pitcher!) Clay Bauer made his triumphant return to the diamond in the 8th, and his 2 scoreless innings more than doubled his career innings total at Oregon State. He also quintupled his strikeout total by adding 4 today.
Junior outfielder Jeff Hendrix started the season 1-11, but in the 9th he made it a healthier 2-12 by crushing a 2-run homer to centerfield to make it 7-4, but it was too little too late for the Beavers.
In case you lost count (and you probably did), the Beavs used 8 pitchers Sunday, with 4 of them combining to get just 3 outs. Altogether, they gave up 6 runs in 4.2 innings. They also walked 3 batters and hit 4 more. Trent Shelton has the honor of owning an ERA of infinity for the game, giving up a run without recording an out, but Keith Flemer is the pitcher of record for the Beavs, moving to 0-1 on the season.
This game served as a nice reminder to Oregon State fans to keep their expectations in check a little bit this season. There will be flashes, there is certainly talent, but there is not much experience, and probably not as much depth as we'd like and grown accustomed to over the last several years.
The Beavers and Lobos have a rematch on Monday, first pitch scheduled at noon.