On Monday night, the Oregon State Beavers closed out Kansas State in the Super Regional baseball finale, 4-3. A must win game for each team, the Beavers proved their superiority. Kansas State certainly gave OSU all it could handle. However, where the Beavers had the clear advantage is what ultimately gave them the win: starting pitching.
Ben Wetzler went 7 2/3 innings spreading nine hits and 3 runs before handing the reigns to fellow starter Matt Boyd. Rather than going to a suspect bullpen, Coach Pat Casey turned to Boyd in relief appearance. Mission accomplished as Boyd closed it with the help of Pac 12 Conference Player of the Year Michael Conforto. Conforto did not do it with the bat this time. It came in the field. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, Conforto snagged RJ Santigate’s single and threw out Blair DeBord at the plate. DeBord tried to score the tying run from second base, but the throw was right on line and catcher Jake Rodriquez blocked the plate beautifully in the tag. The throw was spectacular, but the impressive part of the play was the glove work. Conforto grabbed it on a one hop. Talent, my friends.
I can’t help believe Kansas State played the best they could. Sure, they had two errors in Game 3. But errors are as common as hit batters or walks. Their starting pitcher for the final game wasn’t named until Monday. Not for lack of preparation, but pitching appears to be second priority for a Wildcats squad with eight starters who hit over .300.
In Game 1, Kansas State held OSU to seven hits in the 6-2 extra inning victory. If Wildcat second baseman Rod Kivett stays at second after his double in the ninth (stretched it to third on the slight mishandle by Dylan Davis), OSU probably takes the first game. The gate opened on the Beavers bullpen and the Wildcats won it in the 10th. Down a game, the Beavers pounded out 21 hits in the 12-4 Game 2 victory. This sort of game was inevitable for the Pac 12 champs. It was just a matter of time for a decisive victory. Kansas State happened to be the victim. In the finale, Kansas State hit (11 total) and pitched well in a platoon effort (four pitchers used). Their downfall was what usually plagues Oregon State of late: timely hitting. Despite playing on the road, they were the designated home team twice.
Their effort is commendable. KSU hit extremely well considering the pitching they faced, pitched admirably enough to extend the series as long as possible and needed a miracle double turned triple in the first game to make the trip a three-gamer.
At home, the Beavers struggled at the plate in the bookend games (1 &3). More discipline and working up counts (Game 1) might have provided additional hits and runs. Game 2 was the momentum dagger for the Wildcats, despite KSU claiming it was one to easily forget. With Andrew Moore (now 14-1 on the season) on the mound, a five-run first paced OSU and they never looked back. A four-run cushion in the third game was enough for Wetzler and Boyd.
This series was defined by two plays. Kivett’s 9th inning, 2-out extra base hit kept KSU in it and prevented a Beaver sweep. And Conforto’s defensive gem sealed it for OSU in Game 3. Overall, Oregon State is going to the College World Series because of unmatched perseverance, stronger defense and reliability in starting pitchers.