Sometimes it’s personal.
After dropping two straight games to LSU to end their season at the College World Series, the Beaver Nation has been hungry for a rematch. In round one tonight, it was all Oregon State.
The scoring started in the top of the first (the Beavers were the designated visitors), with Adley Rutschman driving in Nick Madrigal and Trevor Larnach on a 2 out double to give the Beavers an early lead.
It looked as though LSU would match them, as Luke Heimlich loaded the bases with no outs, a marked departure from his usual form. Oregon State came up with some clutch defensive plays, however, with a 1-2-3 double play getting the first couple outs, and a follow-up pop fly ending the inning.
Heimlich and the Beavers got into trouble again in the bottom of the second, with Heimlich’s second hit batter and a single getting two on with no outs. Heimlich followed that up with a single, and then Heimlich caught a line drive hit right at him and threw to second for the Beavers’ second double play in 2 innings.
The Beavers got back on the board in the top of the third, starting with back to back singles from Nick Madrigal and Trevor Larnach. A Michael Gretler single scored Madrigal, and then three back to back walks brought in two more runs, giving the Beavers a 5-0 lead after three innings.
The fourth inning erased any doubt as to the outcome of the game. Cadyn Grenier and Trevor Larnach both hit doubles, to bring in a run, and then a fielding error brought in one more. That ended LSU starter Zack Hess’s day. Hess has been one of LSU’s best players on the mound, but just couldn’t find it tonight, giving up 9 runs on 8 hits, with 4 walks and 6 strikeouts.
Caleb Gilbert came on in relief but fared no better. Hit his first batter faced, and then walked the next, bringing in a run. Zak Taylor added two more with a single, bringing the total to 10-0 after 4 innings.
The Beavers would add 4 more runs over the rest of the game, including a Nick Madrigal solo home run and a Steven Kwan triple that scored two. LSU would only manage one, a solo home run in the 4th.
Before the game, many expected a pitcher’s duel. That never materialized. Both Heimlich and Hess looked uncomfortable in such a high-pressure situation; the only difference being that excellent team defense bailed out Heimlich but not Hess. That early difference helped give Heimlich time to settle down, with LSU not having the luxury of affording Hess the same. Heimlich ended up pitching 7 innings, allowing six hits but just one run, with 4 balls and 3 strikeouts. Far from his usual stat line, but good enough today.
On offense, there were several standout players. Nick Madrigal hit his first home run since Surprise, Arizona, finishing with 2 hits, 1 RBI, and 1 walk. Trevor Larnach had 3 hits and 2 walks, spending a lot of time on the basepaths. Adley Rutschman had maybe the best game of the team, with 3 hits and 3 RBIs.
Steven Kwan struggled at the plate until his late triple scored two runs, but made some excellent plays in the outfield. Fielding is often an unsung skill in baseball, but it saved the day for the Beavers here.
LSU won’t have much time to rest, they’ll take on Northwestern State in the elimination game at 12:00 PM PT. The Beavers will play the winner of that game at 6:00 PM PT, and could potentially repay LSU for ending their season last year.