After doing this now for a couple of years, it is about time I covered a college game. Actually, I did go to the Oregon-Oregon State game at PK Park in Eugene last year, but it was so cold and wet that all I wanted to do for the next week was stay in my warm bed to recover.
So, through the good fortune of my brother getting a couple of tickets from his friend Jerry, Tom and I ventured to Corvallis to see the (occasionally) number 1 ranked Beavers take on the Wolf Pack of Nevada. Their stock fell last week after they dropped a series to Utah (their first series loss in the PAC 12 after 14 consecutive wins).
The Beavers play at Goss Stadium , most recently renovated in 1999, the oldest continuous ballpark in the country. It is right in the heart of the OSU campus, a compact venue with a capacity of 3,248 (though they’ve occasionally packed more in) and not a bad seat in the house. Our seats were in the second row behind home plate – sweet!
One side note – like so many parks below the major leagues, Goss has a turf field (everything but the pitcher’s mound). As a result, far fewer baseballs are used during a game because there’s no dirt (well, not much) to sully them. The uniforms are clean through the game too since the only way to dirty them is for someone to lose his way from first to third and slide into the mound.
OSU has a storied baseball program, with two national championships to its credit. One of the OSU boosters took us to the trophy room before the game to look at those trophies and other memorabilia.
We were concerned about the weather, since the night before had been cold and wet and the forecast was similarly gloomy. It wasn’t that bad, though – last year’s Oregon-OSU game still ranks as my coldest, wettest baseball experience.
That previous OSU-Nevada game ended in the bottom of the 11th when the Wolf Pack’s center fielder, Cole Krzmarzick (10 letters, too few vowels), dropped a fly ball off the bat of Adley Rutschman (more about him later) allowing the winning run to score. So Nevada had a score to settle this night.
They started down revenge road in the 4th inning with three home runs, an impressive display of power that put them up 5-0. Tom and I were at the left field pavilion to get some food and got to see all three dingers clear the fence. (Speaking of food, all you need to know is major league prices and high school quality – $5 for a soda – really???) OSU’s bats were largely silent until the 6th, when they scored a couple. They added another in the 7th (should have been 2, but a perfect throw from left cut down the runner at the plate).
Then came the wacky 8th. With two out and no runs in, a walk, pinch single and a walk loaded the bases. Then two different Nevada relievers walked four straight batters to give the Beavers a 7-5 lead.
Coach Pat Casey brings in his ace, Luke Heimlich, to finish them off in the top of the 9th. This is curious because Heimlich is scheduled to start a very tough series against Arizona this weekend. And what does he do? Gives up two runs to blow the save and tie the game!
The Beavs don’t score the the bottom of the 9th, so we’re off to extra innings, just like the night before. Heimlich comes out again, but this time he holds Nevada scoreless in the top of the 10th.
OSU has the top of their order coming up, so there’s hope. Steven Kwan leads off with a not-very-good bunt (he’s famous for his bunts, but this one was handled easily by the pitcher). One down. Andy Armstrong, filling in for the injured Nick Madrigal, is hitting well, so there’s still hope. He pops up. Two down. Then comes Adley Rutschman, 3 for 3 on the night with a walk, so there’s (a little) hope.
Rutschman is the grandson of Hall of Fame Linfield College football coach Ad Rutschman and initially went to OSU as a football kicker. Baseball intervened and Adley had a very creditable year in 2017 as the regular catcher, when OSU went to the College World Series (though that didn’t go so well for the team).
This year, again as the regular catcher and occasional first baseman, Rutschman is hitting the cover off the ball (current average .426) and he’s a switch hitter. How high in the draft do you think a switch hitting catcher with that batting average will go?
Anyway, Rutschman is up with two down, takes a couple pitches and then strokes a liner to center. Looks like Krzmarzmick can get this one and we go to the 11th. But the ball drops a little faster than expected and he gambles with a dive, but misses. The ball rolls to the fence, and when Rutschman sees that, he turns on the jets, loses his batting helmet around second and slides home on his belly with an inside-the-park home run to win the game!
There were no errors in the game. The pitching was sub-standard. But from a purely entertainment standpoint, this was one of the best games I’ve ever seen.