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Beaver Baseball Continues to Underperform

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While much of Beaver Nation was celebrating the womens' Final Four berth, the Beaver baseball team was stretching their losing streak to 4, falling 6-5 to San Diego State.

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It was another poor performance in all aspects of the game by the team that was the prohibitive Pac-12 favorite a mere five days ago.  Three errors, two wild pitches, and other defensive mistakes allowed a really bad San Diego State team to come back not once, but twice, and win a game they had no business winning, while starting a pitcher with an ERA north of 7.  The 6-5 score reflected the back and forth nature of the game, but didn't quite illustrate the fact that the Aztecs appeared to be playing over their skis, while the nationally ranked Beavers made mistake after mistake.

Last weekend, the Beavers were on the road against a ranked team, and while they performed poorly in the sweep, at least there's some justification in that Cal is a good team, and winning on the road is tough.  There is no such excuse tonight.  Unforced errors, getting outhit 12-9, and watching third strikes will cost you a lot of games, even against 5-16 6-16 Mountain West teams.  That's eleven errors in their last four games, which needs to get fixed quick with conference leading Washington coming to town this weekend.

On a day when most of Beaver Nation's eyes were focused on the womens' basketball team, the baseball team took the field against an underachieving San Diego State Aztec team.  Although the Aztecs have won three consecutive conference titles, coming into the game this year they were only 5-16.  However, they were coming off a series finale win over New Mexico, a team that gave Oregon State trouble in 2015.  The Beavers were hoping to use this series as a "Get Well" series of sorts, after suffering their first series sweep since 2012 over the weekend in Berkeley.

The Beavers trotted out Bryce Fehmel for his second career start, following his victory over the University of Portland the previous Tuesday.  Despite only the one start (in which he did not get a win), Fehmel was hoping to get his team leading sixth win.  The Aztecs answered with junior southpaw Marcus Reyes (0-3, 7.76 ERA in 29 IP including three starts).

In the first inning, the aggressive hitting Aztecs managed a one out single, but stranded the runner at second.  Oregon State's inning didn't go any better, as a two out walk to Nick Madrigal turned into a pick off which was generously scored as a caught stealing.

The Aztecs led off the second inning with a home run over the outstretched arm of Kyle Nobach on a 2-1 count by left fielder Spencer Thornton, putting the Aztecs up 1-0.  An out was followed by a single, followed by a questionable safe call on a stolen base.  Eventually Fehmel got out of the inning, but perhaps not as easily as he should have.

As Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott joined Mike Parker in the broadcast booth, Kyle Nobach returned the favor to Spencer Thornton, hitting a ball over his head (and the fence behind).  Luckily for the Beavers, KJ Harrison had a leadoff single before that, so that put the Beavers up 2-1.  Andy Atwood, getting only his third start and fourth at bat of the year at designated hitter, smacked a single up the middle, but Cadyn Grenier flew out to end the inning.

San Diego State is a free-swinging team, often swinging at the first pitch, and Mike Parker kept having to interrupt Larry Scott with the game's third inning play-by-play due to the Aztecs' aggressive approach.  Two quick outs in the top of the third were followed by an Aztec single and a walk caused a mound visit from Nate Yeskie.  A past ball and a walk to the previous innings' home run hitter, Spencer Thornton, loaded the bases for the Aztecs.  The first pitch to the next batter hit off catcher Michael Gretler's kneepad, and bounced all the way to the back stop, allowing the runner to score from third.  A two run single followed, getting the Aztecs back ahead 4-2.  Nobach made an error fielding the ball, allowing the remaining runner to advance to second.  Yet another wild pitch by Fehmel, and the runner advanced to third, but the batter finally managed to get the next Aztec to hit a comebacker to the pitcher, and Fehmel fielded it cleanly to finally get out of the inning; the bases had been empty with two outs, and the Aztecs managed to score three runs.  For those scoring at home, this is rarely a good thing.

The Beavers returned the favor, though, getting a two out single followed by a KJ Harrison home run, tying the game at 4 runs after three innings.  That was Harrison's fourth home run in his last three games;  the dearth of offense the Beavers experienced in California was certainly not KJ's fault.

Fehmel set the Aztecs down in order in the fourth, meaning tonight's appearance would be his career long regardless of the outcome of the game.   Andy Atwood hit a two out double, but Cady Grenier continued his result slump and watched strike three go by to end the fourth.

A leadoff single was played well by the Beavers, as the next batter bunted the runner over, but two strike outs by Fehmel ended the Aztec portion of the fifth without any actual damage.  A leadoff walk paid no dividends for the Beavers in the bottom half of the inning, although it did chase the Aztecs' starter.

Two outs alternating with singles put runners on the corners with two outs in the top of the sixth for the Aztecs, and Nate Yeskie made the slow walk to the mound, pulling Fehmel and replacing him with Mitch Hickey, who struck out the Aztec third baseman to end the Aztec threat in the sixth.   The Beavers got another leadoff walk, but a double play followed by a strike out made zero use of that runner.

Three groundouts (interrupted by a two out walk) got Hickey through the seventh.  After two fly ball outs after the stretch, Trevor Morrison pinch hit for Caleb Hamilton, and hit a single.  A balk moved him to second, and a triple from Christian Donahue brought Morrison in to score.  A fly out stranded Donahue at third, but the Beavers had a 5-4 lead after seven.

What should have been an inning ending double play turned into two errors on the same play, and the Aztecs followed that up with a bunt single to score a run and tie the game.  After a fielders' choice moved the runners to second and third, Max Engelbrekt came in to replace Hickey, and Max got an easy fly ball to right to end the inning.   The Beavers got some base runners in the bottom of the eighth, but didn't plate anyone and stranded Harrison at third; the womens' basketball game was finishing right around now, so I wasn't paying a ton of attention.

In the top of the 9th, the Aztecs led off with a home run to take a 6-5 lead.  Engelbrekt managed to take down the rest of the Aztecs in order, but the damage was done.  Pinch hitters Billy King and Trevor Larnach did nothing productive, and Trevor Morrison hit a ground ball to third base to end the game.

The same two teams play again Tuesday at Goss Stadium at 5:35pm.   Hopefully, the Beavers can get something figured out in time for the game.  As of publish time, Oregon State's starter was not announced.

On the plus side, while I will remember the Oregon State womens' victory tonight for a long, long time, this game will end in the same forgettable pile as the Utah Valley State and San Francisco losses from earlier this season.  I hope.