To say Oregon State’s 11-4 victory over Louisville was one-sided would be an understatement. The Beavers outplayed the Cardinals in every aspect of the game, starting with pitching and much-needed production from their potent offense. The Cardinals committed four errors as the sloppy play extended innings and gave the Beavers the opportunity to put up lopsided numbers. OSU snapped its spree of stranding baserunners that it created in game one against Mississippi State and cashed in on the mishaps.
The unraveling began in the bottom of the third when the Beavers loaded the bases off Cardinal starter Jeff Thompson. Danny Hayes sent a routine groundball to second and rather than try for a sure out at first, Zach Lucas attempted a difficult flip in an attempt to get Michael Conforto bearing down on the second base bag. The throw got past the shortstop, allowed a second run to score and put runners at first and second.
OSU struck again in the bottom of the fourth, this time manufacturing a two-out rally. A struggling Dylan Davis reached on an infield single with the bases loaded that plated two runs as Andy Peterson got a great secondary lead and jump off of second base. A bad throw from Cardinal shortstop Sutton Whiting allowed two more to score, and Max Gordon capped off the inning with a two-run single that brought the score to 10-0.
Louisville attempted to chip away with one run in the fifth and three more in the seventh, but OSU added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh and shut down the Cardinals the rest of the way.
The victory was a significant one for the Beavers beyond the obvious fact that it kept their season alive. The bats heated up and while much of the scoring came via gifts from the Cardinal defense, the fact that the Beavers took advantage of opportunities is certainly a good sign. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise came from Max Gordon, who went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a pair of runs scored out of the ninth spot in the lineup. Considering OSU’s six, seven and eight hitters went a combined 0-for-12 with four strikeouts, Gordon did well to pick up the slack and flip the lineup over.
Wetzler was solid in his 6 1/3 innings of work, allowing three runs on eight hits with six strikeouts. Scott Shultz threw the final 2 2/3, allowing one run and striking out a pair in a performance that should restore at least some of Pat Casey’s confidence in his bullpen.
The road to the championship from here is far from simple. The players know it, Casey knows it, and the rest of the teams in the tournament know it. The feat of winning a title after losing the first game of the tournament has only been accomplished three times since 1981, but there is hope within that daunting figure; the 2006 Beavers are on that list. On top of that, the 2007 team put together an improbable championship run after being the last team selected to the tournament. Needless to say, Casey is battle tested and the Beavers have a history of getting hot at the right time. If Monday’s victory is any indication of the character of the team, then the Beavers have just as good a chance of anyone to plow through the loser’s bracket and reclaim the title. If you don’t believe me then replay yesterday’s game and check out the expression on Gordon’s face after one of his hits. That tells the whole story.