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Beavers Take Game 3 Over Wildcats 5-3

Travis Eckert dazzled as he worked into the 8th inning, and the Beavers found enough offense to clinch a series victory over the Wildcats.

Michael Howard went deep in the 4th inning, giving the Beavers a 2-1 lead.
Michael Howard went deep in the 4th inning, giving the Beavers a 2-1 lead.
Andy Wooldridge

Arizona jumped out to an early lead, but couldn't capitalize on Oregon State mistakes to extend it. The Beavers took the momentum, slowly took the lead, and held on behind great pitching from Travis Eckert and Mitch Hickey.

Travis Eckert, coming off a 2 inning, 5 run start against Oregon, got off to an ominous start by walking Scott Kingery. Kingery stole second and scored on a one-out single, and Beavers fans had to wonder whether this would be a repeat performance. However, partially thanks to a sparkling play from Caleb Hamilton at third base, Eckert held the Wildcats to just the 1 run.

After the Beavers went down 1-2-3 in the first, the Wildcats had a golden opportunity to possibly put the game away. Another leadoff walk was followed by an error on Trever Morrison, putting runners at first and second. The Wildcats were trying to bunt, but popped it up down the third base line. Hamilton, looking for his second great play in as many innings, dove forward in an attempt to catch the ball in the air, but instead deflected it into foul territory and turned it into a bunt single that loaded the bases with nobody out. Eckert buckled down, getting a strikeout on a 3-2 pitch, an infield fly from Kingery, and a flyout to center to escape without giving up a run.

The Beavers used that momentum to tie it in the bottom half of the 2nd when Billy King singled home KJ Harrison with two outs. On the first pitch of the 4th inning, Michael Howard gave the Beavers a lead they would never surrender with a solo home run to right. They tacked on two more in the next inning, which started with walks to Hamilton and Morrison. Christian Donahue laid down an impressive sacrifice bunt, moving the runners over despite the Wildcats having the wheel play on. With an open base, the Wildcats elected to intentionally walk Jeff Hendrix, loading the bases and setting up the double play. KJ Harrison, who may not be hitting as well as he was to start the year, is still quite dangerous, and made Arizona pay by lining a single over the third baseman's head and scoring 2 runners.

Harrison picked up another RBI in the 7th, giving the Beavers a 5-1 cushion by driving home Morrison, who had tripled, with a sacrifice fly to center field. The Wildcats' bats woke up in the next inning, as starting pitcher Bobby Dalbec, who left the mound after 5 innings but remained in the lineup, hit his 2nd home run of the weekend, ending Eckert's day after 7.1 innings. Eckert recovered very well after the somewhat rocky beginning, giving up 2 runs on 5 hits, walking 3 and striking out 4.

Luke Heimlich took over with one out in the 8th, and his recent struggles continued, as he did not record an out. Mitch Hickey took over after Heimlich loaded the bases on a walk and a pair of singles. Hickey gave up a sacrifice fly, but got a strikeout to keep the score 5-3, which would be the final. He threw a 1-2-3 9th to get the save and earn the Beavers a series win.

Michael Howard and Billy King both had 2-hit games, and KJ Harrison paced the Beavers by going 1-2 with a walk, 3 RBIs, and a run scored. However, the Beavers might now be down to one reliable reliever, namely Mitch Hickey. Heimlich has really had problems of late, and the Beavers' late-inning tightrope shrinks even more.

The Beavers have 5 conference series remaining, and this win moved them to 8-7 in conference play, good for 6th place. Three of their remaining series come against teams below them in the standings, but next week is a matchup against the third place Trojans, who sit at 10-5. This was a big win to keep the Beavers from losing 4 straight series, which could have been disastrous as the young team enters the home stretch of the season.