Ben Wetzler made his much-awaited return on a dreary, windy Sunday against the Wright State Raiders. Wetzler looked good, not great, occasionally losing control or surrendering hard-hit balls. Some of that was likely fueled by nerves, as Wetzler really settled down as the game went on.
Even wilder than Wetzler were the Raiders' pitching staff. They handed out 13 walks and hit 3 Beaver batsmen. Still, they managed to hold the Beavers scoreless for the first 3 innings, and even took a lead in the top of the 4th. Raider shortstop Joe Ford laid down a beautiful bunt that Wetzler fielded and threw down the first base line. He moved to third on a groundout to Kavin Keyes at first, and came in to score on a Jeff Limbaugh shot into left field. Wetzler escaped without further damage, and wouldn't give up another run in the game.
The Beavs got even in the bottom half of the frame, putting a run across after squandering a bases loaded opportunity in the 2nd. Wright State, clearly stretched for pitching in the 4th game of the weekend, were already on their second pitcher of the game, Jack Van Horn. Van Horn had the biggest control problem of the Raiders' pitchers, a crown that didn't exactly come easily. He started the 4th by walking both Dylan Davis and Gabe Clark, then giving up a sinking line drive to Kavin Keyes that fell into centerfield. Unfortunately for the Beavs, Clark was caught between first and second, unable to see if the ball was caught on Jordan Jackson's diving attempt. Junior pinch-hitter Michael Howard tied the game with a sacrifice fly into right field, but Logan Ice couldn't come up with a two-out hit.
Oregon State would score in the next three innings as well, blowing the game open as Wetzler began to find his groove. After Trevor Morrison's infield single up the middle and an Andy Peterson bunt single (big surprise there), Van Horn walked Caleb Hamilton to load the bases with Michael Conforto coming to the plate. He drove a sacrifice fly deep enough into left center that all 3 runners moved up 90 feet, and the Beavers had a 2-1 lead. Davis was intentionally walked, and Clark was unintentionally walked, driving in another run. Keyes hit into a 5-2-3 double play to end the inning, and it did feel like some other games this year, where missed opportunities could come back to haunt OSU.
It didn't help that Wetzler got into some trouble in the sixth, giving up a hard-hit double and single, ending up with 2nd and 3rd and one out. However, he buckled down and got consecutive strikeouts to end the threat, one looking on a pitch that looked a bit off the plate, and the second on a slider in the dirt.
The bottom of the sixth started with (surprise!) a walk to Michael Howard. After a SAC bunt, Morrison picked up his second infield hit, and the senior Andy Peterson walked to load the bases. Hamilton hit the third Beaver sacrifice fly of the day to make it 4-1 with two outs in the sixth. This time, finally, the Beavers would get some hits with two outs. Conforto absolutely laced an RBI double to left-center, and moved to third on a run-scoring wild pitch. Davis was hit, and Conforto completed his quick trip around the bases on a balk, one of his 2 runs on the day to go along with the 2 RBIs. The Beavers had scored 3 runs on 4 pitches, and added another on a Gabe Clark's second RBI single, giving Oregon State an 8-2 lead.
The Beavs scored another 5 runs on 2 hits in the 7th, thanks to 4 walks and 1 HBP. Caleb Hamilton picked up his 3rd RBI on a single, Howard did the same on a 2-run double, and Keyes was hit by a bases-loaded pitch. Oregon State only had 8 hits on the game, Morrison and Clark had the only multi-hit games, Clark had a couple walks as well, while Morrison scored 3 runs.
Wetzler exited to a standing ovation with 2 outs and nobody on in the 8th after throwing 89 pitches. He struck out 5, walked 1, and gave up 1 run on 4 hits. Junior Zack Reser got the final out of the 8th after hitting a batter. The Raiders touched up freshman Chandler Eden in the 9th, giving up a walk and RBI double off the left-field wall, but also picked up a strikeout.
The Beavers take a 3-1 series win over Wright State, which isn't a horrible result. They have a Tuesday home game against an inferior Portland team, and stay at Goss for a 4-game series against Northern Illinois next weekend. Their final tuneup before Pac-12 play is next Tuesday against Ohio State.