Oregon State Beavers survive collapse and ‘craziest day in baseball’, beat UCLA Bruins to reach Pac-12 tournament championship

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The words escaped him.

As Jacob Melton stood on the grass of Scottsdale Stadium on Saturday night, sporting dirt stains on the front of his jersey outside his pants and Gatorade stains on his back, he tried to sum up the improbability of the Oregon day. State Beavers. But he just couldn’t find the right words.

“I don’t think there are words for this day,” Melton said. “This was the craziest day of baseball I think I’ve ever witnessed.”

It featured two games, two wins, nine hours and 34 minutes of baseball, 62 runs, 79 hits, 875 pitches, a colossal collapse, and too many twists and turns to count.

But in the end, the Beavers persevered, defeating the UCLA Bruins 8-7 in the second game of a memorable doubleheader to advance to the championship game of the inaugural Pac-12 baseball tournament. They will play Stanford at 7 pm on Sunday.

But whatever happens in the title game debut, it surely won’t compare to Saturday’s chaos, which left TV and radio announcers, tournament officials and baseball fans in disbelief, saying it was like nothing. that they had seen before.

“Overall, it was a pretty wild day, to say the least,” OSU coach Mitch Canham said, later adding, “I haven’t seen anything like it.”

It started at 10 am on Saturday, when the Oregon State team buses left the team hotel. And it didn’t end until 12:01 am Sunday, when the last of the OSU players slowly walked out of giant, hidden doors along the center field fence onto those very buses. In between, there was endless drama.

The second-seeded Beavers (44-14) entered Saturday needing a win to secure a date with No. 1 seed Stanford in Sunday night’s championship game, while the Bruins (38-21 ), third seeds, needed a couple of wins.

UCLA made it clear early on that it wasn’t going to turn around, chasing down OSU starter Jake Pfennigs in the first inning en route to building an early 7-2 lead after two. And the fireworks were just beginning.

With Garrett Forrester hitting opposite-field home runs, Gavin Logan hitting run-scoring doubles and Justin Boyd spraying the ball all over the field, the Beavers’ offense exploded, scoring four runs in the third … then three runs in the fourth. … then five runs in the fifth … then three more runs in the sixth. Oregon State led 17-10 and was apparently on its way to the title game. By the ninth, the lead had ballooned to 21-12 and the last three outs seemed like a formality.

But a trio of relievers from Oregon State coughed up the lead in amazing fashion, as DJ Carpenter, Victor Quinn and closer Ryan Brown allowed nine runs on four hits, three walks and a one-hit batter. Surprisingly, the Bruins came back, tying the game 21-21 when Jack Holman brought home Kenny Oyama on a one-out grounder to first.

The Beavers infield was playing on the play and Forrester fielded the ground ball cleanly and went home with the ball. But his pitch veered left toward the first base side and jumped home, causing Logan to lunge for the ball, pick it up, and then throw it toward the third base side.

Oyama not only missed the pitch, but Logan hurt his hip on the play and had to leave the game.

As the collapse unfolded during the inning, Logan crouched behind home plate in disbelief.

“In the ninth, I was like, ‘No way. There is no way this is happening right now. There’s no way they’re going to go all the way back,’” Logan said. “I actually looked at the scoreboard one time and was like, ‘Oh my God. They already have eight races. I was shocked.”

The Beavers responded to the collapse by scoring a run in the top of the 10th, when Boyd hit a run-scoring single in the middle. Despite everything, they led 22-21.

But the Bruins had too much momentum. Brown, who emerged as a tight closer midway through the season, allowed consecutive hits, intentionally walked with the bases loaded and then avoided the tying run. One pitch later, he gave up a three-run homer to Tommy Beres, and UCLA won in stunning fashion, 25-22, celebrating amid a crowd at home plate.

The game lasted five hours, 44 minutes and was a fantasy baseball manager’s dream. The teams combined for 47 runs, 53 hits, 20 walks, and 79 baserunners. Oregon State finished with a season-high school record of 28 hits and 22 runs, while Boyd finished with a school record of six hits and four runs, Forrester hit two home runs and recorded six RBIs, and Logan produced five hits. and five RBIs. .

Sixteen different pitchers showed up, including nine from the Beavers, and 26 different players had at least one at-bat.

Then, after the emotional marathon, the teams had to do it all over again.

Between games, it was relatively quiet in the Beavers’ clubhouse, they said, as the players processed their meltdown and tried to regroup. They put on clean uniforms, drank fluids and, Canham said, did their best to “clean up” a finish where “we didn’t do anything right.”

“Not much was said,” Melton said. “I think the guys were a little delusional after that six-hour game. But we just used it as a mental reset and tried to prepare to come back and play the second game.”

Multiple players dealt with cramps and tight muscles from Arizona’s hydration and triple-digit heat, with some sitting out the second game or leaving it early. Wade Meckler didn’t start for the first time all season, and Boyd was pulled after the first inning, forcing Canham to play rookie second baseman Travis Bazzana in center field for the first time of his career. Logan missed the game due to hip pain.

Still, the Beavers struck first, scoring four runs in the first and one more in the second to take an early 5-0 lead. But UCLA rallied, again, and in the seventh, when Holman hit a two-out, two-run single to center, the Bruins led the beleaguered Beavers 7-6.

But this time, the return was temporary.

Ben Ferrer (4-0) calmed the Bruins’ bats, allowing just two hits and striking out three, in 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. And the Beavers offense struck last.

Kyle Dernedde led off the bottom of the ninth with an infield single, diving headfirst to beat the pitch, and Bazzana then sent a double down the left-field line to put runners on second and third with one out. Forrester followed up with a pop to second base, seemingly ending the momentum. But UCLA infielders Daylen Reyes and Jake Palmer collided in the infield in confusion and the ball fell to the ground, sending Dernedde running home to tie the game 7-7.

One batter later, Melton ripped off a 2-2 slider to left field to drive in Bazzana and end the game. This time, it was Oregon State celebrating a final victory, as Beavers players ran out of the dugout and harassed Melton near second base.

Later, while conducting a postgame interview on the Pac-12 Network, Bazzana and Greg Fuchs doused Melton with a bucket of Gatorade.

After nearly 10 hours of baseball, a monumental meltdown and a couple of hits, the Beavers survived to play in the first championship game of the Pac-12 tournament.

“It takes some heart to come back and play a game like that after a Game 1 loss,” Melton said. “I think it’s a testament to who we are as a team.”

—Joe Freeman | jfreeman@oregonian.com | 503-294-5183 | @BlazerFreeman | Subscribe to The Oregonian/OregonLive newsletters and podcasts for breaking news and top stories

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