‘That’s why they’re so good’: Top-ranked Beavers pull away from Cats, takes series opener | Arizona Wildcats Baseball

No team in the Pac-12 grinds out at-bats like No. 1 Oregon State. The Beavers are similar to recent Arizona squads in that respect – they foul off pitches, take close ones and eventually wear you down.

The Wildcats battled them deep into Friday night. But OSU kept grinding. And in the eighth inning, the Beavers broke through.

OSU scored seven runs to turn a tie game into a lopsided affair. The Beavers defeated the Wildcats 12-9 before an announced crowd of 4,513 at Hi Corbett Field.

The series-opening loss was Arizona’s fourth setback in its past five games. OSU (40-9, 19-6 Pac-12) won its eighth in a row. Game 2 is Saturday night.

“That’s why they’re so good,” said UA coach Chip Hale, whose team fell to 33-18, 14-11. “They’re disciplined. We can do better at throwing strikes. That’s part of baseball. But yeah, you tip your cap. ”

The Beavers entered Friday having drawn more walks than any other club in the Pac-12. UA pitchers issues a season-high 10 bases on balls (one intentional). They threw 233 pitches, including 90 by top relievers Quinn Flanagan and Trevor Long in 2 1/3 innings.

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“It’s just tough to keep executing,” Hale said. “We talk to our hitters all the time about it – the deeper you get into the at-bat, the more quality pitches they have to make against you.”

The Wildcats tempted fate in the sixth and seventh innings, escaping bases-loaded jams both times. They couldn’t keep the Beavers at bay in the eighth.

With the bases again loaded, pinch hitter Jake Dukart singled to right off of Long. Dukart fouled off six offerings before notching the base hit on the 10th pitch of the at-bat. The single drove in two runs to make it 7-5.

Two more walks produced another run. Garret Forrester then delivered the decisive blow, a grand slam off reliever Holden Christian.

Arizona scored four runs in the final two frames, including solo homers by Noah Turley and Tanner O’Tremba. The Wildcats are hopeful that momentum will carry over into Saturday.

“That builds a lot of confidence within the team – those late at-bats, not giving them up, fighting all the way to the end,” UA catcher Daniel Susac said. “You score nine runs, you’re gonna win a lot of ballgames. It just wasn’t one of those tonight. ”

The evening started promisingly for the Wildcats. TJ Nichols worked around a single and a walk in the top of the first, getting a huge assist from second baseman Garen Caulfield, who dove to his right to spear Jacob Melton’s would-be single up the middle. Arizona then scored a pair of runs off OSU ace Cooper Hjerpe to take a 2-0 lead.

No. 2 hitter Nik McClaughry started the rally with a double hustle to left-center. Susac immediately drove him in with a single line to center field. Susac advanced to second on a wild pitch – the first of the season thrown by Hjerpe in 74 innings – and scored on Chase Davis’ sharply hit single past shortstop Kyle Dernedde.

The third inning proved to be Nichols’ undoing. He allowed four runs on four hits and three walks. Melton’s solo home run in the fifth – his team-leading 13th of the season – bumped OSU’s lead to 5-2.

It was an unenviable position to be in against Hjerpe, who entered Friday with a nearly spotless record: 9-1 with a 2.08 ERA and a conference best 14.66 K / 9 rate. But the Wildcats kept battling, and they were able to manufacture three runs in the fifth to knot the score at 5-5.

The inning began with an infield single by O’Tremba, who hit a dribbler off the end of his bat toward first and slid head-first into the bag to beat the throw. A walk and a hit batter loaded the bases. Mac Bingham then notched a single off Hjerpe’s glove to score O’Tremba. McClaughry scored on an error by Dernedde. Susac came home on Tony Bullard’s sacrifice fly to right.

Hjerpe allowed a season-high five runs, four of which were earned. He pitched a season-low 4 1/3 innings.

“The amount of time and effort we put into him … was the most we put in on a pitcher all year,” Susac said. “We knew it was going to be a tough one. He’s a deceptive guy. Comes out there from really far out. A lot of ride. We just stuck to our plan. ”

Both teams had multiple opportunities to tilt the scoreboard before the pivotal eighth inning. Arizona left two runners on base in the second, third and fifth frames. The third featured a pair of baserunning mistakes that blunted a would-be rally.

OSU left the bases loaded in the third, sixth and seventh. The Beavers worked eight- and 10-pitch walks off Flanagan in those innings. The dam finally broke in the eighth.

Arizona now turns to veteran left-hander Garrett Irvin. The Wildcats have an 8-3 record when Irvin starts the day after a defeat.

“I’m super confident with Garrett. Always have been, always will be, ”Susac said. “I came up to him right after the game and said, ‘Let’s go win a game tomorrow, set the tone for Sunday.’ I think he’s gonna do a great job. ”

Turley’s home run was Arizona’s first pinch-hit homer since Ryan Archibald hit one on Feb. 16, 2019.

Freshman right-hander Josh Randall pitched a hitless ninth inning. It was his first appearance since April 5.

OSU leadoff hitter Wade Meckler went 4 for 5 with two runs, a walk and an RBI. Melton, the Beavers’ cleanup hitter, went 3 for 6 and scored a pair of runs.

O’Tremba, McClaughry, Chase Davis and Bingham each had two hits. O’Tremba, McClaughry and Susac combined to score seven runs.

Arizona honored the 2012 College World Series championship team before the game. Former UA coach Andy Lopez threw out the first pitch to ex-Wildcat Brian Anderson, who’s Arizona’s first-base coach.

Contact sports reporter Michael Lev at 573-4148 or mlev@tucson.com. On Twitter @michaeljlev

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