Whenever this postseason ride ends for the Oregon State University baseball team (hopefully not for a while), no one will be able to say it was boring. After two games of dancing on a tightrope for Beaver Nation in the Corvallis regional, the Beavers took care of the Aggies of Texas A&M 6-1 this past Sunday, advancing to the Super Regional round.
On Friday, in the first game for OSU, a two-run scoring double by Dylan Davis was needed in the bottom of the ninth inning, plating Tyler Smith and Michael Conforto, defeating University of Texas-San Antonio 5-4. Check your heart rate, we’re not done. The next day against University of California-Santa Barbara, OSU managed 10 hits, however was not able to string any scoring bursts together. Again, the game went to the final inning, as OSU’s Danny Hayes received a bases loaded walk to put the Beavers up 3-2. Beaver pitcher Max Engelbrekt cleaned up the bottom of the ninth and sent OSU to the regional final against A&M.
Through three games, Oregon State had no problems hitting. It was a matter of scoring. Collectively in the regional games, the team had 30 hits, yet left 34 men on base. In the final game, each player had at least one hit except for centerfielder Max Gordon, who once again made up for it in the field with a stellar lay out catch snuffing any thoughts of an Aggies rally. OSU only committed two errors in Game 1 and had none in the final two games.
Which brings us to how the Beavers worked their way through the weekend. Pitching. Oregon State is not a Number 3 seed by luck. This is a well-rounded team offensively and defensively. A mixture of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. Balance. After this first weekend of postseason play, the heart lies with the pitching staff. Starters Matt Boyd, Andrew Moore and Ben Wetzler were simply outstanding. Boyd pitched 6 2/3 strong innings only giving up three earned runs against UTSA and four hits. Moore and Wetzler each only gave up one earned run in their outings, as Moore went eight innings and Wetzler closed out the regional with a complete game.
No one will disregard the value of a great staff. But performing when necessary, as Boyd, Moore and Wetzler have continued to show, is nothing short of impressive. Need further evidence of pitching in the clutch? Florida Atlantic had overall number one seed North Carolina on the ropes in their regional finale, 11-8 going in to the bottom of the 12th when their pitcher, Hugh Adams couldn’t find the strike zone with a GPS. The Heels tied it with four walks and won it in the 13th. On the flip side, Rice’s Jordan Stephens two-hit Oregon in a 1-0 shutout on Saturday, leaving the Ducks with an uphill climb they were unable to overcome as Oregon was eventually ousted from the tournament.
Of the sixteen teams remaining in the tournament field, OSU now leads with the lowest ERA at 2.18. Arkansas, with an ERA of 1.89, was eliminated in the Manhattan, Kansas regional by Oregon State’s next opponent, Kansas State. The Wildcats, having already defeating the #1 ranked ERA Razorbacks twice, won’t easily be intimidated by #2 (Beavers). With a combined record of 31-5, don’t expect Boyd, Moore or Wetzler to cower down either. Home is where the heart is, and OSU’s heart lies in three consistently powerful arms.