CORVALLIS, Ore. – Six days ago, Oregon State blew a 6-1 lead in a loss to Sacramento State.
The Beavers underwent a “come-to-Jesus” talking to from senior pitcher Ben Wetzler. Since then, the Beavers have been both resilient, patient and unbeatable.
Junior lefthander Jace Fry allowed one hit in eight innings, Michael Conforto had a first-inning solo home run and fifth-ranked Oregon State won its fourth straight in finishing off a Pac-12 Conference sweep of arch rival Oregon at Goss Stadium on Sunday with a 7-1 victory.
“That was a huge wakeup call for us,” said Fry, who started Monday’s loss to Sac State. “Wetzler got on us pretty good, and that was a wakeup a little bit and to start competing. I think it was great, we were losing that game on Saturday for seven innings, we get our leadoff man on, then one thing leads to another. It was fun to watch.”
Sunday’s contest was a dominating performance by Fry, and by an offense that turned seven walks and eight hits into more than enough runs for Fry (8-1), who struck out 11 of the 32 batters he faced.
“It feels like a different world now,” Conforto said. “We were pretty down after Sac State.
“But it just takes one at-bat to change the way you think. We try not to get into a negative mindset. We try to stay in the moment and keep a positive mindset.”
OSU coach Pat Casey said the key to beating the Ducks was beating their pitching. Its the same blueprint for beating the Beavers, and their pitching is almost unbeatable.
No. 19 Oregon came into the series with six starters hitting .270 or better, led by Mitchell Tolman (.353) and Tyler Baumgartner (.327). The Ducks saw those numbers dip by series end – particularly impacted by Fry’s one-hitter. The Ducks had six hits in the series from the first five hitters in the lineup, and three of those came in Friday’s series’s opener.
“Anytime you sweep in this conference you have to feel pretty good,” OSU coach Pat Casey said. “I’m proud of our guys, they’re playing good baseball. If they (the Ducks) get their leadoff guy on, their top of the order guys, they can be real dangerous. When you play them, every pitch counts.”
Oregon State made each pitch count more, staying in the moment according to Conforto and making each moment a positive one.
All three OSU starters – Wetzler, Andrew Moore and Fry – worked through the eighth inning in the series. That greatly lightened the load on the Beavers’ bullpen.
“We knew that (they are great competitors) when we recruited them,” pitching coach Nate Yeskie said. “Being surrounded by guys that want to one-up you, they’re always competing.”
Oregon coach George Horton took his team to task Saturday night for its approach and attitude. He wasn’t happy with the loss, but he was encouraged by the adjustments the Ducks did make.
“We were under control, almost borderline that we didn’t believe we were going to come back,” Horton said. “But a lot of that was Fry was that good.
“The Beavers executed and we didn’t.”
The Ducks have slipped from being within a game of OSU in the loss column – effectively even with Pac-12 leader Washington – entering the weekend, to a team with 8 conference losses. They’ve already suffered a meltdown series loss to the Huskies, though they retain strong hopes of reaching an NCAA Regional for the third straight season.
“I think we’re pretty resilient,” Horton said. “We hit rock bottom on the Seattle deal. They’ve never ever given in to not getting up off the deck and getting back after it. We had every intent of having a bounce back effort today and yesterday and Oregon State was just better.”
Oregon State, which won the conference title in 2013, is percentage points ahead of Washington in the standings now, with one fewer losses and home series with the Huskies and defending CWS champion UCLA in its future.