CORVALLIS, Ore. – Left-hander Ben Wetzler’s impressive season debut sparked the fourth-ranked Oregon State baseball team to a 13-2 victory over Wright State at Goss Stadium on Sunday in the finale of a four-game series.
Sidelined for the first 11 games of the season by an NCAA sanction, the Beavers’ (9-3) senior ace from Clackamas High School limited the Raiders (3-8) to four hits and one run over 7 2/3 innings. He struck out five, walked one and threw 62 strikes in 89 pitches in his first appearance since defeating Louisville in the 2013 College World Series. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd of 2,032 when he was relieved by Zack Reser with two outs in the eighth inning.
“I felt like a little kid going to make his first start again,” Wetzler said. “It was fun. I think I did an OK job, I know the first couple innings I was kind of antsy and amped up.
“Case [coach Pat Casey] told me all week to kind of control my emotions and do the best I can. I think I was able to do that decently.”
Wetzler’s 25th career victory moved him into an eighth-place tie with Sam Gaviglio and Scott Anderson on Oregon State’s all-time wins list. He was tied with Andrew Checketts for 10th; the career leader is Ken Noble, who had 30 wins from 1975-78.
The sanction cost Wetzler two starts but after becoming eligible on Sunday he wasted little time illustrating why he is considered one of the premier pitchers in the country. In his first three innings he induced seven ground-ball outs, retired nine of the 10 batters he faced and didn’t allow a hit.
Joe Ford’s bunt single leading off the fourth ended Wetzler’s no-hit bid. He eventually scored on an RBI single by Jeff Limbaugh to give Wright State a 1-0 lead, but the Beavers replied quickly in the bottom half to tie the game. With runners at the corners and one out, pinch-hitter Michael Howard lifted a sacrifice fly to medium-deep right field to score Dylan Davis.
Oregon State went ahead for good in the fifth, scoring twice despite hitting just one ball to the outfield. Infield singles by Trever Morrison and Andy Peterson and a walk to Caleb Hamilton loaded the bases with no outs. Michael Conforto’s sacrifice fly gave Oregon State a 2-1 advantage and a bases-loaded walk to Gabe Clark made it 3-1.
The Beavers parlayed two walks, two hit batsmen, a balk and Conforto’s booming RBI double to the gap in left-center to score five times in the sixth to clinch the game. Caleb Hamilton and Clark had the other RBIs in the rally on a sacrifice fly and a single, respectively.
Hamilton’s two-run single in the seventh was the big blow in a five-run sixth inning and gave him a career-high three RBIs. Michael Howard smacked a two-run double in the inning, giving him a career-high three RBIs as well.
Conforto and Clark each drove in two runs and Trever Morrison scored three times and had two hits. Aided by a season-high 13 walks and three hit batsmen, Oregon State reached double figures in scoring for the third time this season despite having only eight hits.
The Beavers won the series 3-1 and are 5-1 in their last six games. They resume their 10-game homestand at 5:35 p.m. Tuesday against Portland. The Beavers lead the all-time series 158-60 and have defeated the Pilots 18 consecutive times.
Tickets can be purchased via BeaverTickets.com, by calling 1-800-GOBEAVS or visiting the ticket office at Goss Stadium, which will open at 3:30p.m.
For more information on the Oregon State baseball team, follow the club’s official Twitter account at Twitter.com/Beaver_Baseball or by Facebook at Facebook.com/OregonStateBaseball.