That was the case, however, as No. 6 Oregon State finished off a dominant four-game sweep with a 7-1 victory on Sunday. The Beavers improved to 8-0 outscoring San Diego State (3-4) by a 22-2 margin in the series.
Oregon State’s starting pitching had been the main Aztec bane in the first three games of the series with Dan Child, Matt Boyd and Andrew Moore allowing just 14 hits and one run in 22 innings of work. But on Sunday it was relievers Brandon Jackson and Scott Schultz.
After starter Clay Bauer went 1 2/3 innings, right-handed sidearmer Jackson gave the Beavers 4 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing four hits. He was followed by three scoreless frames of Schultz, who picked up his second save of the season.
Oregon State head coach Pat Casey said Bauer was scheduled to pitch up to two innings and then turn the ball over to lefty Tyler Painton, but with back-to-back right-handed batters due up, he called Jackson’s number first. With Jackson rolling through the middle innings, Casey left him in the game.
“He just kept getting guys out. We didn’t have it planned,” Casey said. “We didn’t have it scripted. We were actually going to go to the lefty, but Brandon just kept throwing the ball where he needed to and got some big double plays.”
The Game Changer:
As was the case in three of the four games, the Aztecs had opportunities but couldn’t come through in the clutch. Trailing 6-1 in the seventh inning, San Diego State chased Jackson from the game after a single and a walk put two on with no outs. Casey went to Schultz. It took the junior right-hander only three pitches to record three outs and end the SDSU threat.
Jonathan Spirk, playing first base for the injured Ryan Muno, hit the first pitch Schultz offered, but right at Andy Peterson at second base. Peterson caught the ball on a short hop and flipped to second to start an easy double play (so easy the runner from first base peeled off less than halfway to second).
Two pitches later, Schultz got Danny Sheehan to ground weakly to second base to strand a runner at third base and end the threat.
The Aztecs hit into three double plays on the day and left eight runners on base. A couple of timely hits and Sunday’s game could have had a completely different feel.
Best Pitch: San Diego State senior Bryan Crabb isn’t going to be at the top of any draft boards this summer. The sidewinding senior right-hander from Coronado was once part of the Aztecs weekend rotation, but that was in 2010 as a freshman prior to taking a line drive to the back of the head. Crabb’s skull was fractured in two places and he had brain bruising. He hasn’t been quite the same on the mound ever since, being relegated to the bullpen.
But on Sunday, he did have the filthiest pitch. As a former sidearm slinger, I always appreciate good sidearm off-speed pitches. Because of the arm angle, they can be more difficult to get any quality depth and can quickly flatten out becoming meatballs for opposing batters. It is especially tough for right-handed pitchers against lefty batters and vice versa because the hitter has a longer opportunity to see the ball as it comes to the plate.
Some hitters love facing low-angled pitchers while others hate it. Injured San Diego State outfielder Spencer Thornton was practically champing at the bit in the press box on Sunday watching Jackson pitch for Oregon State because he felt sidearm pitchers don’t get as much movement.
Crabb was an exception to Thornton’s beliefs on Sunday as his changeup had great fadeaway action against lefties. While he gave up a run in his two innings of work, Crabb also stuck out two, including Kavin Keyes on a filthy changeup that started at the knees on the outside corner and ended up in catcher Brad Haynal’s glove just off the ground.
Oregon State head coach Pat Casey talks about his team’s quick start and the pitching performance of Brandon Jackson:
San Diego State junior second baseman Tim Zier talks about what the Aztecs have to do to bounce back from a rough weekend:
Aztecs head coach Tony Gwynn talks about the series sweep, the benefits of playing a tough non-conference schedule and the development of his team since last season:
- Brandon Jackson - 4.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, Win
- Scott Schultz - 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, K, Save
- Dylan Davis – 3-for-5, R, 2B
- Kavin Keyes - 2-for-5, R, 2 2B, 2 RBI
- Danny Hayes – 2-for-3, R, RBI, 2 BB
- Jeff Hendrix - 2-for-4, R, 2 RBI, BB
San Diego State
- Avondre Bollar - 2-for-3, BB
The Bottom Line:
What a performance by the Oregon State pitching staff this weekend. Playing eight games in 10 days is a tough task, made even harder if you are missing a key pitcher. But the Beavers are missing three key arms as Jace Fry is likely out for the season and projected starters Ben Wetzler and Taylor Starr have yet to pitch this season. No matter. Casey’s squad is so deep they just plug in a guy like freshman Andrew Moore that allows only two base runners in 8 2/3 innings on Saturday.
Oregon State looks to be a legitimate national championship contender once again. Once the Beavers get healthy, they could be a force to be reckoned with. The offense has struggled some, but the Beavers are known for their ability to grind out games. When opponents are hitting .179 against you, you’re going to be in every game and if you have the ability to manufacture runs like Oregon State does, you’re going to win a lot of ball games.
San Diego State isn’t going to be happy with a four-game sweep. There were some positives though, especially the performance of starter Philip Walby, who looks to be gaining confidence with every start.
As Gwynn said, the Aztecs need Greg Allen and Tim Zier to get on base at the top of the lineup and cause some havoc on the bases. The pair were a combined 3-for-30 on the weekend with eight strikeouts. Having Muno out with a broken hand doesn’t help, but the offense isn’t going anywhere if the Aztecs pot stirrers don’t get on in front of Muno, Brad Haynal and Tyler France.
San Diego State doesn’t have much time to dwell on the series. It will be back in action for a five-game week starting Tuesday with a two-game set at Santa Clara. After a weekend series with Seton Hall, the Aztecs will get another chance to prove themselves against a high-caliber program when they travel to No. 3 Arkansas for four games.
Also check out the 17-shot photo gallery from Sunday.