Beavers get one job done
CORVALLIS — Oregon State accomplished one goal and kept another as a possibility Friday with a 4-1 victory over UCLA at Goss Stadium.
The Beavers (44-9-1 overall, 20-8-1 in Pac-12 play) all but clinched one of eight national seeds in the NCAA tournament and kept alive their hopes for a second successive Pac-12 championship with the win over the Bruins (35-19, 18-11).
Oregon State, which beat UCLA 2-0 on Thursday, can sweep the Bruins with a triumph in Saturday's 2 p.m. contest at Goss.
With a 4-2 loss to Washington on Friday night, Stanford fell to 21-8 in Pac-12 action, with the Huskies a game behind at 21-9. If Washington completes a sweep on Saturday and the Beavers finish off their series with the Bruins with a victory, Oregon State will successfully defend its title.
That wasn't on the mind of OSU coach Pat Casey after Friday's win. The likelihood of gaining a national seed — and serving as host site for a regional and potential super regional — was foremost.
"We think if we win this series, we should be a national seed," Casey said. "That's how important it was for us, to win the first two games.
"I'm not suggesting it's a lock. I don't make those decisions. I'm just saying if you look at our RPI (No. 4 going into Saturday's action) and our ranking (first and second in the five polls), you feel good about your chances."
Oregon State rode the arm of junior right-hander Bryce Fehmel and the bat of redshirt senior left fielder Kyle Nobach to victory on Friday.
Fehmel allowed three hits and one run over 6 2/3 innings to improve to 9-1 this season.
Sophomore left-hander Brandon Eisert finished the seventh, and freshman right-hander Kevin Abel threw two perfect innings, with four strikeouts, to register his first career save.
"We really pitched," Casey said. "Don't underestimate how good UCLA is. (The Bruins) can throw a lot of guys out there who can hit. Fehmel was lights out. Watching Abel grow up before our eyes the last month ... he has gotten better and better. His stuff the last two innings was electric."
OSU pitching has been remarkable against UCLA at Goss for some time. The Bruins hadn't scored a run in 50 straight innings on the Beavers' home turf before finally plating one in the seventh on Friday.
Nobach's three-run home run to left field keyed a four-run seventh inning that snapped a scoreless tie. Nobach belted a 3-2 fastball off UCLA reliever Kyle Mora — who came into the game with a 1.65 ERA and a .153 opponents' batting average — to send a Senior Day throng into a frenzy.
"I sat on a slider on 3-1, and I was late," Nobach said. "I knew he wasn't going to throw it again. He came in with a heater, and I was on time and I put a good swing on it.
"It's an incredible feeling. My family was here. My grandma hasn't been to a game all year, but she was here today. I was thinking about them and being able to watch us play on Senior Day — it was awesome."
Nobach said he felt good for all the seniors who were honored Friday, including pitchers Luke Heimlich and Sam Tweedt, outfielder Jack Anderson and third baseman Michael Gretler.
"There were five of us who have been here four years together," Nobach said. "We've put in a lot of work. This place has been our home for four years. It's not easy, now that it's coming to an end."
With Eisert doing strong work out of the bullpen the past two days and Abel being used in relief on Friday, Oregon State may be intending to move closer Jake Mulholland into the rotation as Saturday's starter.
"We've never got through a Sunday without using multiple arms," Casey said. "A guy asked me, 'Why don't you start a reliever, and then maybe you can do something?' I might have to do that now."
OSU pitching coach Nate Yeskie said no decision has been made about Saturday's starter, but that Abel is among the candidates, too.
"We'll put our heads together and come up with something we feel will work best," Yeskie said.
The Beavers checked off the biggest goal Friday, all but assuring themselves of the national seed.
"We did our job," Nobach said. "We won today. Now we have to win again (Saturday)."