Utah Valley bounced back from an 8-2 loss to Minnesota this morning to upset 5th ranked Oregon State 12-9 this afternoon, in a surprising afternoon of
NCAA Div I Little League baseball in Surprise, AZ.
Not unlike any number of early season Little League games, both teams burned through pitcher after pitcher, with both teams using 5 arms in a game that took 4 hours and 20 minutes to complete.
The Wolverines jumped all over Oregon State starter Jake Thompson, who was returning to action for the first time since early last season, when he suffered a season ending injury. Utah Valley, aided by a throwing error by Thompson and an infield miscue by freshman Nick Madrigal, pushed 3 runs across in the top of the first inning, and added 3 more in the third, chasing Thompson in the process, and then pushed another pair of runs across the plate in the 4th inning to open an 8-0 lead, with a hit by pitch and a walk with the bases loaded contributing considerably.
It could and probably should have been worse for the Beavers, as the Wolverines left the bases loaded in both the 1st and 4th innings, and left a runner on 3rd in the 3rd.
Oregon State finally started fighting back, with 2 runs in the bottom of the 4th, but Utah Valley continued to pour it on, with 3 more runs in the 5th to open an 11-2 lead.
With Wolverine starter Jackson Cofer having been lifted after 5 innings, the Beaver bats finally got going against the Utah Valley bullpen, and batted around and then one in the 6th to score 6 runs, making a game out of what had been looking like a rout. Again, classic Little League early season Saturday ball.
Utah Valley countered with a run in the top of the 7th to make it 12-8, but Oregon State stayed alive with a run of their own in the bottom of the 8th.
But in classic Oregon State fashion, even in a day where they hammered out 15 hits, clutch hitting was a problem. The Beavers got runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out in the bottom of the 9th, and twice brought the tieiing run to the plate.
But Madrigal flew out to shallow center, and KJ Harrison struck out to leave the 11th & 12 Beaver runners of the game stranded, instead of orchestrating a wild comeback win.
Despite Cofer's solid start for Utah Valley, and 2 innings of what was actually pretty good relief work by Scotland Church for Oregon State, plus a shut down last 2 outs by freshman Bryce Fehmel, it was overall not a good pitching effort.
The game was just 2 pitches short of a 400 pitch game (that's not a typo), and while the staffs combined for 14 strikeouts, 9 by Oregon State, they also served up 17 (!) walks, as well as both sides hitting a batter. And there were 5 wild pitches.
Offensively, though the teams combined for 28 hits to go with the 17 walks and 2 hit by pitches (yes, there were just shy of 50 base runners, with a couple of fielders choices), and they pushed 21 runs across, there were 25 runners left on base.
Oregon State did have some players with good days, as Billy King, who got the start at first base, went 3 for 4, with a run scored, and Trevor Morrison was 2 for 4 with an RBI double in the leadoff spot.
Logan Ice, who came on in relief of Michael Gretler, who made his first ever appearance as a catcher in any game at any level, went 2 for 2 with 3 RBIs.
Stone Ramsey was solid for Utah Valley, with 2 hits, including a double, 2 RBIs, and 2 runs scored.
Thompson took the loss, while Kyle Valgardson, who worked his way into and out of the 9th inning jam, got the save.
It's apparent that Oregon State head coach Pat Casey and pitching coach Nate Yeski don't have a handle on the pitching staff yet. Despite the continued problem of not consistently hitting when it matters the most, the Beavers have the ability to score runs, but it will take a lot of them to win the way the pitching staff has started off the season.
Utah Valley improved to 2-1, while Oregon State dropped to 1-1. The Beavers will play Minnesota tomorrow as they continue their Surprise weekend.