Beavers’ offense stagnates, and pitching not strong enough to hold off Tigers
Oregon State's historic and record breaking 2017 campaign came to a crashing thud by way of a 6-1 loss to LSU.
All season long, the Beavers (56-6) looked like the best team in baseball, as they entered the CWS with the best winning percentage in over 20 years. It appeared that the stars were aligning for OSU as they came from behind to beat Cal State Fullerton in game one, and smashed LSU in game two.
However, something changed for the Beavers after their shellacking of LSU on Monday, as the Beavers weren’t the same team on Friday and Saturday. The looked timid and uncomfortable at the plate, and made several defensive mistakes that ended up costing them a shot in the championship series.
The Beavers also didn’t get great starting pitching performances in the final two games against LSU. Jake Thompson was inefficient in the entire CWS, and Bryce Fehmel wasn’t ready to go the second time around. Those performances, combined with ice-cold bats cost the Beavers a chance at a national championship.
The missed call on Steven Kwan’s fly ball on Friday will most likely be one that Pat Casey and the Beavers will never forget. The play had the potential to be reviewed and Casey did not choose to replay it. Should that ball have been ruled a ground-rule double, Friday’s game could have changed completely. That play deflated the Beavers, and it didn’t seem that they had the same zip and pop that we have seen all season.
Unfortunately for OSU, the deflation carried over to Saturday. The Beavers and Tigers entered Saturday with a spot in the CWS Finals on the line. Both teams had defeated each other once prior, but the Tigers had the momentum from Friday’s win and they rode it all the way to victory.
Once again, LSU (52-18) won with their outstanding pitching. Caleb Gilbert started on the mound for the Tigers and was superb just as his Friday counterpart Alex Lange. Gilbert picked his up the win for the Tigers worked 7 ⅓ innings allowing just two hits and one run while striking out seven Beavers. He handed off to Zack Hess who finished the game off for the Tigers.
If there was another factor that caused OSU to be on edge Saturday, it was definitely the home plate umpire. His strike-zone was extremely wide, and ESPN showed several times where a pitch on the white line of the left-handed batters box was called a strike. The Beavers weren't able to adapt to the widened zone, while the Tigers feasted off it.
Another decision that Casey and Beaver fans will be thinking about for awhile is the choice to start Fehmel on the mound instead of Drew Rasmussen. Fehmel threw a gem against LSU on Monday, but was starting against the Tigers on just four days rest. Rasmussen on the other hand hadn’t started since the Corvallis Regional.
Fehmel started for the Beavers and was charged with the loss to fall to 6-3 on the season. It was evident early that he wasn’t his usual self as he only worked 2 ⅓ innings before giving way to Brandon Eisert and eventually Rasmussen. Raz showed perhaps why he should have gotten the start for the Beavers as he worked 4 ⅓ innings only allowing three hits and one run.
LSU started their scoring punch in the second inning as two runners got on base via a walk and double to set the stage for catcher Michael Papierski. Papierski sat on Bryce Fehmel’s 3-1 pitch right down the middle and sent it into the right field bleachers to give LSU a 3-0 lead.
Kramer Robertson scored in the bottom of the third inning for the Tigers as Antoine Duplantis singled him home. The run could have been avoided as the Beavers whiffed on the opportunity for the double play earlier in the inning that would have got Robertson out at 2nd. However, Robertson made it a 4-0 game for LSU.
Papierski was far from done adding numbers to the scoreboard as he launched a solo home run into left to give LSU a 5-0 lead.
LSU finally ended their scoring onslaught in the bottom of the sixth as Beau Jordan homered down the left field line to give LSU their final run total of the day as they led 6-0.
Michael Gretler was the hero for the Beavers on Saturday in the sense that he was the only one who was able to break up the shutout for the Tigers. In the 8th inning, Gretler was able to send a solo home run to the left-field bleachers for OSU’s first and only run of the game.
The Beavers threatened slightly in the 9th, but the wide strike zone proved to be just too much for OSU as the couldn’t get their two base runners home.
Looking ahead, there are several Beavers who have most likely played their last game in an OSU uniform. Drew Rasmussen, Jake Thompson, and KJ Harrison are all expected to sign with their major league clubs and senior pitcher Max Engelbrekt is out of eligibility.
The lone player who will have to make a decision on whether or not to return to school is Gretler who was drafted in the 39th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Even if Gretler decides to turn pro (I don’t believe he will) the Beavers still bring back the heart of their team.
This season didn’t end the way that the Beavers wanted, but it was still a record breaking year for them as they won a program record 56 games and returned to Omaha for the first time since 2013. It’s now up to the sophomores and freshman on the team to mature and come back to Omaha with the losses to LSU as their motivation.
2017 was a memorable year for the Oregon State baseball team, but with Pat Casey at the helm and players like Madrigal, Rutschman, and Grenier coming back, the sky's the limit for 2018. It all starts with toughness and determination. The Beavers will need both as on Sunday, new challenge will begin for OSU.
The return to Omaha.