“He doesn’t have to take me anywhere after that,” Tracie Conforto said right after hugging her son, Oregon State junior outfielder Michael Conforto, in the stands at Goss Stadium on Sunday.
“That” was the younger Conforto’s two-homer, five RBI performance in an 11-2 victory over UCLA. The win gives OSU a full-game lead over Washington for the Pac-12 Conference title with the Huskies coming into Goss next weekend for a three-game showdown.
Conforto – held without an RBI in the first two games of the series – broke OSU’s career record for RBIs with his first hit on Sunday. His three-run blast to right field gave him 175 in his career, leaping him past Andy Jarvis’ 173.
An injury-ravaged UCLA pitching staff had kept Conforto off-balance until the seventh inning of game three. Reliever Nick Kern couldn’t continue the success of starter Cody Poteet, surrendering the record-breaking hit.
“UCLA, they did a great job, they’re always a great pitching team and they did a good job of keeping me off-balance and a great job against a lot of our hitters, but me especially. They had me guessing there for a while,” Conforto said. “I broke myself out a bit, and it wasn’t before I had to check myself and get back to the things that have been so successful for me – not getting too big on my swings and not swinging outside of the zone – that’s kind of what got me out of it.”
Facing Scott Burke in the eighth, Conforto unleashed another deep ball, a two-run shot to right center that was followed immediately by a solo shot by Dylan Davis.
Considering Conforto’s performance earlier in the game – he grounded out with the bases loaded – the two homers reiterated his status as perhaps the most dangerous hitter in the Pac-12. He was the conference MVP as a sophomore and is a favorite to earn that honor again.
UCLA took the bat from his hands in Saturday’s game by hitting him twice and his 43 walks entering Sunday’s game placed him among the nation’s leaders.
“I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it, I was pretty upset with myself,” he said of his mental state after the groundout. “We’re all so close on this team, we know each other so well that we know when to talk to someone and when not to. I had guys letting me know that they had my back and the coaches talked to me about not getting too big on my swing and keeping my weight back. That’s what teammates are for and coaches are for.”
Setting the school record on Mother’s Day, with his mother watching, wound up making it a little bit more special.
“It’s a dream come true. It’s surreal to be honest,” he said. “Coming into this year it wasn’t on my radar. To see my name up there with some of the guys that have gone here, that’s a real honor. We still have more games to play so we’ll keep adding on to it.”
For the record, Conforto currently has 177 career RBIs – 54 this season – with eight games remaining. The Beavers play Portland on Tuesday, host Washington, face Oregon in a nonconference game on May 20 and finish with a three-game set at Southern California.