Oregon State and Fresno State kicked off their 4-game weekend series Friday night, and the series-opener turned out to be a great one, taking over 10 innings to decide the winner of a good old-fashioned pitcher's duel. If you had to guess the names of the players that propelled Oregon State to a 2-1 victory, you would probably go 3-3: Andrew Moore, Jeff Hendrix, and KJ Harrison.
Fresno State sent sophomore Jimmy Lambert to the mound to face off against the junior Moore. Both pitchers had great nights, mixing and locating their pitches well and allowing very little hard contact. Both teams were hitless headed to the 4th inning, which started about a half hour after the first pitch.
Fresno State picked up the first hit of the game in the 4th, when leadoff man Austin Guibor laced a Moore fastball just inside the right field line for a leadoff double, and ended up making it count. He moved to third when the next batter, Jake Stone, hit a low line drive a step to second baseman Caleb Hamilton's left. Hamilton, appeared to get ahead of himself, checking the runner a split second before the ball arrived, and it went right through him into right field for what was ruled a single. Moore induced a double play from the most dangerous Fresno State hitter in the lineup, catcher Taylor Ward, but it enabled Guibor to come around and break the scoreless tie.
Still chasing that 1 run in the 6th, Jeff Hendrix led off and awkwardly spun away from a 1-2 pitch that was barely off the plate inside. The edges of home plate umpire Greg Charles' strike zone didn't stray too far off the plate, but it was close even for his standards. The next pitch was a rare mistake from Lambert, a fastball that was down in the zone, but over the heart of the plate, and the left-handed Hendrix didn't miss, tying the game with a line shot home run to right center field.
Lambert was replaced after 7 impressive innings, in which he scattered 3 hits and struck out 5, with Hendrix's solo homer being the only run the Beavers scored against him. Hard-throwing Jake Shull was the new Bulldog pitcher, and he easily retired Oregon State 1-2-3 in the eighth.
In the top of the 9th, Moore got into what constituted trouble on his masterful night when he gave up a 4-pitch walk with 2 outs, bringing up Ward. Moore fell behind 2-1 but battled to a full count before blowing a fastball past him on the 7th pitch of the at-bat, eliciting a couple fist pumps and shouts of excitement from the junior ace.
The bottom of the 9th inning started with a 3-0 count to Joe Gillette, which ran full, and Shull did end up losing him with a low fastball that put the winning run on base for Oregon State. KJ Harrison chopped one to third base, but it wasn't hit hard enough to get the lead out on, and Gillette moved to 2nd with one out. Gabe Clark was intentionally walked, setting up the double play, and the Bulldogs' plan almost worked to perfection. Kyle Nobach did hit a ground ball to shortstop, but once again, it was hit too softly to turn two on, and ended up being too softly hit to get an out on, as Nobach beat out the throw for an infield single.
Billy King took the stage with the bases loaded and 1 out, pinch-hitting for Caleb Hamilton, who was 0-3 on the night, but King couldn't deliver as he chased a neck-high fastball for strike 3. Logan Ice suffered the same fate, hacking at a pitch down and away, sending the game to extra innings.
Moore returned for the 10th inning, sitting on 94 pitches, and all he did was strike out the side, making it 4 straight strikeouts for Moore, and 10 on the night. It's easy to forget, but Moore actually is human, and as such he was taken out after 10 innings. He allowed 3 hits, 1 "earned" run, 1 walk, and earned another no decision.
Shull exited after the 9th inning threat, making way for scheduled Sunday starter Garrett Mundell, a 6' 7" senior who worked just one inning, issuing a 2-out walk but nothing more in the 10th.
The Beavers' new pitcher was Mitch Hickey, who lost an 11-pitch battle to shortstop Ryan Dobson with 2 outs, and issued an intentional walk after Dobson stole 2nd. A groundout to first ended the inning.
KJ Harrison, who was a weak 0-4 heading into his leadoff at-bat in the next inning, made sure the Bulldogs lost the 11-inning battle by driving the 2nd pitch he saw over the tall left field fence for a walk-off home run, his 5th of the season and 1st at Goss Stadium. The long ball got Hickey his 4th win of the season, 3 of which have come in relief of great Andrew Moore outings.
The Bulldogs (7-6) and Beavers (10-3) play a doubleheader Saturday, and if it's anything like Friday night's opener, Beavers fans won't want to miss it.