Ducks add to woes of the day for Oregon State
CORVALLIS — Tuesday was pretty much a lost day for Oregon State's baseball program.
Oregon ended a 10-game losing streak in its series with OSU by beating the Beavers 12-8 Tuesday night at Goss Stadium.
In the sixth inning, junior shortstop Beau Philip slipped while base running and injured a hamstring, forcing him to leave the game.
During the day came the biggest blow with the news that ace right-hander Kevin Abel will undergo Tommy John elbow surgery and be lost for the season.
"A pretty tough day for us all around," said Pat Bailey, Oregon State's interim head coach.
The Beavers (23-7-1), ranked between second and seventh in the six national polls, gave up five runs in the first as starter Sam Tweedt didn't make it through the inning. The Ducks increased their lead to 8-2 in the third, but the Beavers battled back to tie the game at 8-8 on a three-run homer by Adley Rutschman in the fourth and four runs in the seventh.
The game turned in the eighth after sophomore left-hander Christian Chamberlain had retired the first two Oregon batters. After starting No. 8 hitter Cameron Campbell with an 0-2 count, Chamberlain walked him, then hit No. 9 hitter Max Foxcroft with a pitch. The Ducks (19-12) capitalized by plating four runs in the inning.
"We worked our rear ends off to get back in that game," Bailey said. "We're one quality pitch from getting out of that inning. Then we give up a four-spot."
Oregon pounded OSU pitching for 13 hits, with freshmen Aaron Zavala and Tanner Smith, sophomore Evan Williams and juniors Campbell and Spencer Steer all rapping a pair of safeties. Coach George Horton's Ducks were the better team on a cold, dank early-spring evening.
OSU'S Philip was having an outstanding game at the plate with two singles and a pair of walks in four appearances before suffering his injury. Bailey said Philip's hamstring had been bothering him "a little bit" the past couple of days.
"Our trainer doesn't think it's serious," Bailey said. "We're hopeful he'll be able to go this weekend (in a three-game Pac-12 series at Arizona State)."
The loss of Philip for any period of time would be monumental for the Beavers. Aside from Rutschman — who is second in the Pac-12 in batting average (.426) and home runs (12) — Philip (.306) has been their next-best hitter as leadoff man. He is also an outstanding fielder.
Oregon State's pitching staff has been effective most of the season with a 2.78 ERA, led by now-starter Brandon Eisert (7-0, 0.75) and closer Jake Mulholland (2-0, 0.86, four saves).
Hitting has been another story. The Beavers are batting a collective .258, a far cry from the .321 mark last year's national champions posted.
Rutschman has been outstanding and Philip consistent. Sophomore Ryan Ober, who has taken over the starting first base job, entered the Oregon game hitting .385 but went 0 for 5 against the Ducks in the clean-up spot.
Sophomore Alex McGarry hit home runs in four straight games and was batting nearly .400 before going in an 0-for-20 slump over the last 11 games.
Junior Tyler Malone, who ripped eight home runs a year ago, has none in 29 games this season and is hitting .198, though with a .398 on-base percentage thanks to 28 walks.
Veterans who were being counted on have struggled all season, including Troy Claunch (.231), Tyler Malone (.198), Preston Jones (.205), Andy Armstrong (.135) and Zak Taylor (.122).
Bailey has been left to employ youngsters such as sophomores Kyler McMahon and George Mendazona and freshmen Matt Gretler and Jake Harvey, who have had their moments but with inconsistency at the plate.
The Beavers need somebody to step up and provide some consistent hitting and power if only to protect Rutschman in the order. Opponents can -- and increasingly will -- pitch around the OSU star. Rutschman already has a nation-leading 40 walks, several of them of the intentional variety.
Rutschman put on a brave front after the Oregon loss when asked about where the Beavers are at this point in the season.
"Our team is going to continue to get better," the All-America catcher and reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week said. "Our hitters are doing a lot better job from (at-bat) to (at-bat). I know our (pitching) staff is better than they showed tonight. I have all the faith in the world in them. I'm happy with the direction our team has headed."
The Beavers, who are 9-3 and in third place in the Pac-12, now hit the road for a three-game series against powerful Arizona State (26-5, 9-3). Games are 6:30 p.m. PT Friday and Saturday and 12:30 p.m. Sunday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
The Sun Devils, led by junior center fielder Hunter Bishop (.405, 16 homers, 42 RBIs), first baseman Spencer Torkelson (.382, nine homers, 39 RBIs) and left fielder Trevor Hauver (eight homers, 30 RBIs), rank third in the nation with a .330 team batting average.
"Torkelson is one of the best hitters in the country," Bailey said."Their entire team is really good.
"But every weekend is a big series in the Pac-12. This one is no bigger than UCLA or when we go to Stanford. We're going to have to show up and play. We'll have to compete our rear ends off and see what happens."