At a Glance:
- Matchup: No. 5 Washington at No. 2 Oregon State
- When: 4:05 p.m. Friday; 4 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday
- Where: Coleman Field at Goss Stadium, Corvallis, Ore.
- Records: UW (37-11-1 overall, 19-5 Pac-12), OSU (39-8, 20-4)
- Last time: Ben Wetzler threw a complete game shutout — leading the Beavers to an 8-0 win over the Huskies on April 21, 2013. He was backed up at the plate by Dylan Davis and Andy Peterson, who both drove in two runs.
- Series history: Beavers lead 320-189. There also have been two ties. The 230 wins are the Beavers’ most against any one opponent.
- Notable: OSU has a chance this weekend to win 40 games or more for the fourth consecutive season; OSU is ranked in the top-5 in every poll for the fifth consecutive week; OSU is 31-0 this season when it records more hits than its opponent; OSU is allowing an average of just 1.8 runs per game at home this season.
Bottom line: First place is on the line this weekend as the Beavers host the surprising Huskies (Seriously, where did they come from this year?). OSU enters the series with one-game lead over UW in the Pac-12 standings. Adding to the excitement is the fact that both teams are ranked in the top 5 nationally. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Keys to the series:
- Continued dominance from the starting pitchers: Enough said. But it’s especially important for Ben Wetzler, after all the distractions this week.
- Score first: The Beavers are 32-4 this season when they get on the scoreboard before their opponent. Plus, it’s a surefire way to get the crowd into it early, and also provide breathing room for the starting pitchers.
- Execute with runners in scoring position: They might be a mystery to me, but there’s no doubt the Huskies are legit. So the Beavers need to take advantage of every opportunity they get to score. Otherwise, it could be a long series.
- Scoreless performance from the bullpen: Whether the Beavers are winning or not, the bullpen needs to turn in a scoreless performance in at least one game — to build momentum heading into the postseason.
- Be active on the basepaths: One of the ways the Beavers can get off to fast starts against UW is to be aggressive and put pressure on the Huskies’ pitchers and infielders by stealing a base here and there, or at least giving the impression that they will.
Here are some other OSU baseball thoughts:
Wetzler: The senior ace will play this weekend in what might be considered a mild surprise. What Wetzler did was stupid, but nobody got hurt. I covered Pat Casey for several years, I know he’s a man of integrity and has high expectations for his players on and off the field. I trust his judgement, and he can handle any heat he gets for the decision. However, I hope this distraction doesn’t get to Wetzler. The team needs him to lead them down the stretch. Plus, he came back to get to Omaha. A good Friday outing would be huge for Wetzler and the Beavers moving forward.
Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz Part 2?: Speaking of pitching, Wetzler, Andrew Moore, and Jace Fry have been a three-headed monster for opposing batters all season. Just like those 90s Braves teams, the Beavers have excellent starting pitching and a shaky bullpen. How crazy is it when your best pitcher arguably is your Sunday starter? All three pitchers have their own style and strengths. When all is said and done I think they will be the best trlo of pitchers the Beavers have had — even better than Dallas Buck, Jonah Nickerson, and Anton Maxwell. Of course, that team had a lights-out closer in Kevin Gunderson.
Stepping up: Michael Conforto is raking again this season. He’s one of, if not the top, hitters in the nation. While the Beavers were dealt a blow when Kavin Keyes went down earlier this season, his teammates picked up the slack. Most recently, Gabe Clark and local product Jeff Hendrix have been coming up big for the Beavers. Others such as Trevor Morrison and Logan Ice have delivered key hits as well. The timing couldn’t be better as it appears Keyes could be returning soon! A thriving lineup would help take pressure off the starting pitchers, and more importantly, allow them to pitch shorter outings.
Concerns down the stretch: Can the starters hold up? Due to the bullpen’s struggles throughout the season, they’ve pitched deep into a lot of their starts. It would be nice if someone outside of Scott Schultz could emerge as a reliable reliever. How effective will Keyes be when he returns? Not just at the plate, but in the field. Can players such as Clark and Hendrix keep up their performances? If this weekend doesn’t go well for the Beavers, how will they respond in their final series of the season at USC?
Vintage Casey: Expectations were high going into this season. And while the Beavers have lived up to the hype, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. The bullpen has been inconsistent, some hitters haven’t been able to get hot all season, etc. But here the Beavers are again looking primed to make another run to the College World Series. Pat Casey has done a masterful job. But is it really surprising. The Beavers under his leadership have become one of the best teams in the nation the past decade. It’s much deserved for a guy who’s pored a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into the program.