This past weekend, the Oregon Ducks traveled about fifty miles north to Corvallis to take on their in-state conference rival, No. 2 Oregon State, in a three-game series. And it was all Beavers.
Cooper Hjerpe was the star of the show in Friday night's opener. The game finally got underway after a rain delay of about one hour and ten minutes, and another pause for rain in the fourth inning, but Hjerpe was not fazed. The left-hander delivered six solid innings and allowed just one earned run while striking out eleven batters. With the win, Hjerpe improved his record to 9-1 and the win tied him for the lead nationally with Campbell’s Thomas Harrington.
Neither team performed well at the plate on Friday. The two teams combined to go 1-for-21 with runners in scoring position. The only hit with runners in scoring position was a two-out two RBI double by Gavin Logan in the eighth inning which put the Beavers in front 5-1.
Ben Ferrer pitched the final three innings in relief of Hjerpe and did not allow Oregon any reason for hope of a comeback as he limited the Ducks to one base hit and nothing more. Ferrer struck out six of his nine recorded outs in earning his second save of the season. In the opposing dugout, the Ducks pitching staff allowed eleven walks in the 5-1 defeat.
Hjerpe was asked after the game about his ability to stay sharp with the rain in the air and the rain delays both before and during the game. "Throughout the whole day it was kind of a difficult situation, getting delayed early on,” Hjerpe said. “I think it was just repetition, trying to find a feel for it throughout the game, and once we got that going, it was a solid outing.”
Saturday’s scene was an emotional one as Oregon State retired the number of legendary former head coach Pat Casey in a pre-game ceremony. Casey led the Beavers to their three NCAA championships in 2006, 2007, and 2018.
Oregon State’s Jacob Melton was the offensive star of Saturday’s middle game. Melton went 4-for-5 with two doubles and a home run, and five runs driven in to lead the attack in a higher-scoring affair than Friday’s opener.
Oregon used six pitchers in the game and the staff allowed eight runs, and while they cut down on the walks (six), they only struck out five Oregon State batters.
The Ducks got home runs from Anthony Hall and Brennan Milone who combined to drive in five of the seven Oregon runs in the narrow 8-7 defeat. Ryan Brown earned his ninth save of the season out of the Beavers bullpen, but he did allow two runs on a home run.
Oregon State went for the sweep on Sunday, not one of their strengths so far this season when they have taken the first two games in a conference series.
The game was scoreless in the bottom of the fourth when Matthew Gretler, batting in the eighth spot, smashed a baseball over the wall in straight-away center field for a two-run home run. Melton added a two-run blast of his own in the fifth inning and the Beavers held a 4-0 lead.
Jake Pfennigs, making his sixth start of the season for Oregon State, pitched five complete innings without allowing a run. Pfennigs allowed just two hits and struck out six in his outing. The right-hander made just his fourth appearance since he returned from missing nearly six weeks due to injury. The five innings on Sunday was his longest outing since his return on April 14.
The Beavers bullpen followed suit in relief of Pfennigs as they handled the final four innings of work to complete the 4-0 shutout.
Oregon State improves to 38-9 overall and 18-6 in the Pac 12 after the sweep. Oregon falls to 28-19 and 13-11 in the Pac 12.
Despite being swept, Oregon is still very much in all conversations about postseason prospects. The Ducks were outmatched this weekend, but they were not dominated, and they were never more than a big blast away from getting back into a game or taking a lead. The Oregon offense can struggle, but the pitching is their biggest concern as they work to figure things out over the next three weeks before NCAA Regional fields are chosen.
Oregon State remains the class of the conference right now. The Beavers are a complete team, practically every hitter is a threat to do some sort of damage at the plate. The pitching staff is as solid as can be found in college baseball. Pfennigs, who was the third starter this weekend, has allowed just one earned run this season and has a 0.48 ERA. The Beavers seem to be bringing Pfennigs back slowly, but with purpose. If he is healthy when the calendar flips from May to June, Hjerpe-Pfennigs can be as solid a duo as there is in the country. The Oregon State bullpen is equally as strong as the starting staff.
It is said that it takes pitching to win in Omaha. Oregon State may be about to put forth an effort that proves that axiom correct.