At Goss Stadium
At Goss Stadium
Oregon: The Ducks are fifth in hitting (.278) and are paced by third basemen Mitchell Tolman. The Oregon sophomore is batting .353 and his 37 RBIs are third in the Pac-12. Tolman (14) and Tyler Baumgartner (.353, 1 home run, 37 RBI, 16 doubles) have two best doubles' totals in the league, and Kyle Garlick (.297, 3, 27) has developed into a productive bat in the middle of the order. As always, Oregon is a threat on the bases. The Ducks have are second in the conference with 46 steals. The Ducks will likely have at least three freshmen in the lineup this weekend — A.J. Balta, Austin Grebeck and Mark Karaviotis. All three have excelled at various points of the season, but none of faced a pitching staff quite like OSU's.
Oregon State: The Beavers' offense is top-5 in the conference in every major category, including first in on-base percentage (.392) and walks (191), and second in RBIs (210) and runs scored (230). In the heart of its lineup, OSU boasts the Pac-12's No 1. and No. 2 RBI men, respectively, in right fielder Dylan Davis and left fielder Michael Conforto. With one of their most consistent batters — infielder Kavin Keyes — out with a thumb injury, the Beavers are platooning senior Jerad Casper and sophomore Gabe Clark at first base. OSU leads the conference with a fielding percentage of 98.
Advantage: Oregon State
Oregon: Three months ago, this one might have been a bit closer but with season-ending injuries to Matt Krook and Cole Irvin, the Ducks' rotation is a fraction of what it was projected to be. That doesn't mean it's bad, though. Thorpe may not have been Oregon's original Friday starter, but he's got the stuff to be. Thorpe (6-3, 2.35 ERA) is still one of the best pitchers in the conference, and Jeff Gold (9-0, 2.54) has the best record in the country. Sunday is a question mark for the Ducks. The start will either go to Brando Tessar (3-0, 2.73) or Trent Paddon (1-2, 3.03), who picked up his first win over the weekend against Washington State.
Oregon State: Ben Wetzler, Andrew Moore and Jace Fry are college baseball's third-best weekend rotation with a 1.72 combined ERA. Yet Wetzler, who will try to set a program record Friday with his 31st career win, experienced his first on-field struggles of 2014 in his last start when he allowed four runs (two earned) over 5 1/3 innings at Washington State. Can he return to form before a packed Goss Stadium crowd? Fry, the owner of two Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week awards this season, aims to rebound Sunday from a tough cameo (three earned runs in four innings) at Sacramento State. Sophomore right-hander Andrew Moore, an ace in his own right much of the season, has been the weakest link among the weekend starters lately. He has a 4.11 ERA through five Pac-12 appearances.
Advantage: Oregon State
Oregon: In terms of potential, the Ducks feature one of the strongest bullpens in the country. In theory, Jake Reed has the stuff to be one of the nation's best closers. Garrett Cleavinger, one of the best eighth-inning men. Both these two have shown flashes of that potential, but they've also experienced speed bumps. Both have struggled, at times, to find the strike zone, but over the last nine games they've been lights out. Reed had 10 saves while Cleavinger has struck out 28 batters in 18 1/3 innings pitched. The Ducks have arms for the long haul with Porter Clayton, Jordan Spencer and Stephen Nogosek each seeing spot starts, while Darrell Hunter brings experience and an above-average late-innings fastball.
Oregon State: The bullpen, one of OSU's biggest question marks entering the season, has progressed steadily. It had a 6.88 ERA in February and a 3.24 ERA in March. With the month almost over, the relievers are 3-1 with a 2.12 ERA in April. Senior right-hander Scott Schultz has been a reliable closer, while junior left-hander Zack Reser has been an outs machine all season as a setup man/middle reliever. He has surrendered just one run through 22 innings pitched, pounding the bottom of the strike zone for groundballs.
What's at stake: This weekend could prove key in both teams' chase for a Pac-12 crown. With a month remaining in conference play, OSU is one game ahead of Oregon for second place. A 2-1 series upset would tie the Ducks with the Beavers in the Pac-12 standings. An Oregon sweep would let it leapfrog OSU entirely.
Key stat for Oregon: In his last start against OSU, Tommy Thorpe went 8 innings, allowed two hits, no runs and struck out seven in Oregon's 3-0 win.
Key stat for Oregon State: The Beavers are 26-2 when leading after six innings this season.
Did you know: For the most part, the Civil War has belonged to the home team since Oregon reinstated its program in 2009. The Beavers are 9-2 at Goss Stadium over that stretch, and 4-6 at PK Park.