Beavers Lead Pac-10 After Weekend Sweep…
By CB360 Contributor Jack Blanchat
There might not be a team in all of college baseball that is hotter than the Oregon State Beavers, and they extended their winning streak to nine games by sweeping the Stanford Cardinal this past weekend in Palo Alto. The three victories put Oregon State on top of the Pac-10 with an 8-1 conference record, and they certainly look like a force to be reckoned with deep into the postseason.
The Beavers have a solid offense, with both lefty and righty hitters who can pepper the ball all over the diamond (for example, switch hitting freshman Kavin Keyes went 6-for-12 with two walks at the plate this weekend) but the reason Oregon State can beat any team in the country is because of their pitching and defense.
Sam Gaviglio, the Friday starter, is a hitters’ worst nightmare. He throws almost exclusively breaking pitches, but the words “hanging curve” are not in his vocabulary. He struck out eight Stanford hitters in Friday’s game using the precise command of his curveball, baiting hitters into sitting back and swinging over pitches that ended up in the dirt and mixing in a surprise fastball every now and then.
With breaking pitches that were so deadly accurate, Gaviglio can go deep into games and keep the base paths clear – he only gave up two walks and four hits in eight innings on Friday, keeping consistent with his 0.779 WHIP this year.
But after Gaviglio beats you on Friday night (he’s 7-1 this year), lefty Josh Osich will most likely beat you on Saturday, too. Osich uses the fastball to his advantage, riding up into the mid-to-high nineties at times, and then mixing his stuff up to keep hitters guessing at the plate. Osich is 5-0 so far this season, and his six-inning, two-hit, six-strikeout, five-walk performance on Saturday was especially good because the Cardinal has a .332 team batting average against lefties this season.
Freshmen hurlers Scott Schultz and Ben Weztler were also impressive on Sunday, but no matter who takes the hill, the Beavers’ defense gives any pitcher they trot out an advantage over most teams in the nation.
Shortstop Ryan Dunn has a massive range, and he can get to essentially any ball that comes his way, no matter if it’s to his left or right. Similarly, centerfielder Brian Stamps made three great catches in the outfield this weekend – and he came in as a defensive replacement for the last two innings of every game. It’s hard to rally on a team with such a good defense, and that great D can keep the Beavers safe even if their excellent starters get bounced early in a game.
Stanford, on the other hand, leaves this series reeling. The Cardinal has now lost five of its last six games, and the offense was downright dreadful for the entire weekend.
For example, righty Mark Appel dropped to 2-4 this season because Stanford couldn’t muster a single run off Gaviglio on Friday night. Appel went six and two-thirds innings with six strikeouts and just two walks, but he ended up losing a 1-0 decision, the second one-run game that Appel has lost this season ( the other a 2-1 loss to Vanderbilt).
The Cardinal offense appears to be struggling because shortstop Kenny Diekroeger is in the midst of a miserable slump, and in each game this weekend it was apparent that Stanford needs Diekroeger to hit if it expects to win.
Diekroeger went 2-for-12 this weekend with just one RBI, and his batting average has dropped over seventy points in two weeks, plummeting from .422 to .351. As Diekroeger goes, so do the rest of the Cardinal hitters, as the offense has only mustered 11 runs in the last six games.
After this cheerless weekend, the Card cannot afford to let the Beavers beat them again, as any hangover from the Oregon State series might be just the advantage that the visiting UCLA Bruins will exploit in this weekend’s upcoming series at Sunken Diamond. If the Cardinal expects to get back into the race for the Pac-10 title, it needs to rally hard and get wins against the Bruins’ great pitching staff.