It’s no secret that Oregon State is a better baseball team than Arizona State.
That trend continued in Saturday afternoon’s series finale as No. 2 Oregon State (17-1, 3-0 Pac-12) shut out Arizona State (9-10, 0-3) for a 4-0 victory. The win sealed the deal on a sweep for the Beavers, marking the second consecutive season in which Tracy Smith’s team has been swept by Oregon State to start conference play.
“The rational person inside of you has to take a step back and say we got manhandled by a really good club,” said Smith after the latest loss. “That baseball team is really, really good, and they are going to frustrate a lot of opponents throughout the course of the season.”
It was the Beaver arms who frustrated the Sun Devils in this one.
Starter Jake Thompson (5-0) and left-handed reliever Jake Mulholland combined to throw nine innings of three-hit, shutout baseball, missing Maroon and Gold bats all day long. The team’s deep pitching staff flustered the hosts all weekend, as Smith’s team combined to plate just one run in the three-game set.
“When you score one run in three games on a conference weekend, it’s going to be really tough to win,” Smith said. “Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the opposition, because they shut us down. And that happens in athletics sometimes; you get beat.”
Senior Eder Erives got the start on the mound for Arizona State, and while his performance was solid (two runs on seven hits in 4.2 innings of work), the visitors from Corvallis were able to get to him in back-to-back innings.
A productive RBI groundout off the bat of designated hitter Tyler Malone drew first blood in the top half of the third inning, and one frame later it was a run-scoring single from two-hole hitter Christian Donahue to put Oregon State up 2-0.
That would prove to be more than enough on this day, but the Beavers did tally two more insurance runs in the seventh off relievers Reagan Todd and Grant Schneider.
“I thought he did a good job of giving the team a chance to win,” said Smith when asked about Erives’ start. “When he left the game we were two runs down and I was confident in our offense.”
Unfortunately for Smith and company, it takes a little more than confidence to beat this Beaver team.
Thompson continued to stymie the Sun Devil bats, and Mulholland didn’t miss a beat when entering the fray in the eighth inning. Arizona State did not even get a runner to third base until the last of the ninth inning, when cleanup man Lyle Lin tripled off the all in right field.
Lin’s extra-base hit would ultimately prove fruitless as the next man to the plate - Tyler Williams - flew out to end the ballgame and the series.
The Maroon and Gold have now been swept in two series and have come up on the wrong end in all but two of the six they’ve played thus far.
They also find themselves under the .500 mark once again, and things don’t get much easier as a trip to USC awaits next weekend.
“Our greatest challenge is how we handle this moving forward,” Smith said. “We've got to be able to weather the bad times, because this game will kick you in the teeth. We just need to make sure we stay together because we have a lot of baseball left to play.”