The most anticipated nonconference series at Goss Stadium in ages lived up to its lofty expectations.
Trevor Larnach’s leaping catch at the wall in right field put a bow on the highly-competitive three-game set, clinching a 5-4 victory for the second-ranked Oregon State baseball team in Sunday’s finale with Cal State Fullerton. The Beavers (15-1) overcame a Game 1 loss to win the series, 2-1.
“They are a really good team and they do stuff right,” said OSU closer Jake Mulholland, who pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save of the year. “They never settle and they never give you anything for free. You’ve got to earn everything with them, and that’s how a lot of the teams in the Pac-12 are going to be.”
At last June’s College World Series, the Beavers defeated Fullerton 6-5 to open the tournament. The Titans (4-10) are still expected to contend for the Big West Conference title despite a rough start to the 2018 season.
Fullerton nearly tied the game with two outs in the ninth when Hank LoForte roped a 1-1 Mulholland pitch to straight away right. Larnach got a good jump on the ball and made a difficult play look easy before a sun-baked crowd of 3,542.
Larnach, a 6-foot-4 junior, did not believe he robbed a home run.
“I wish I could’ve said it was going to be out to make it sound cooler, but it would’ve hit the wall,” he said. “I hadn’t gotten a ball all game and I was ready to make a play at some point.”
Larnach’s grab sealed the win in a series that was decided by the slimmest of margins. The Beavers outscored Fullerton 14-13 over the course of three games.
In Sunday’s finale, OSU recorded just one hit after the second inning — an Andy Armstrong double to lead off the fourth — but leaned on its bullpen to protect an early lead.
Christian Chamberlain (2-0) gave up one run on one hit in two innings to pick up the win. Dylan Pearce threw 1⅔ innings of scoreless relief before giving way to Mulholland.
Beavers starter Grant Gambrell was wild in 4⅓ innings of work, surrendering three runs on three hits while walking five and striking out five.
LoForte gave Fullerton a quick 1-0 lead by singling home Sahid Valenzuela, who reached on a dropped third strike to open the game.
OSU exploded for four runs in the bottom of the frame and chased Titans starter Blake Workman (0-3) before the junior right-hander could record an out.
A Cadyn Grenier single was sandwiched between walks drawn by Steven Kwan and Adley Rutschman to load the bases. Left fielder Chris Prescott then misplayed a rocket off the bat of Larnach, turning a would-be sacrifice fly into a run-scoring error. Michael Gretler followed with a two-RBI single to right, and Tyler Malone later worked a bases-loaded walk against reliever Dillon Brown to put the Beavers up 4-1.
Workman left the game after six batters and was charged with all four runs (three earned). He surrendered three hits and two free passes.
The lead grew to 5-1 in the fourth when Armstrong led off with a double down the left-field line, was bunted to third by Kwan and scored on a Grenier sac fly.
OSU was shut down for the remainder of the afternoon by the Titans’ relievers.
“One word: frustrating,” associate head coach Pat Bailey said. “I thought we got a little impatient at times and swung at some pitches we shouldn’t have swung at.”
Fullerton got back in it with a two-run fifth, cutting the deficit in half on Jace Chamberlin’s single up the middle that plated Prescott and Valenzuela. The duo reached on Gambrell free passes.
The Titans scratched across another run in the seventh on a Chamberlin groundout, but Pearce limited the damage by striking out Zach Weisz to end the inning. Pearce then worked around a leadoff walk in the eighth to retire the side.
During the game, OSU announced that coach Pat Casey was handed a four-game suspension for contacting an umpire in the seventh inning of Friday’s 5-3 loss. Video of the incident indicates that the bill of Casey’s hat touched umpire Mark Buchanan during an argument over a check-swing call. Casey was ejected and addressed the media after the game.
The NCAA rulebook states that ejection for physical contact with an umpire triggers an automatic four-game ban. Per an OSU spokesperson, there is no appeal process.
The suspension began Saturday and will include the first two games of next week’s Pac-12-opening series at California. Casey will return to the dugout for next Sunday’s finale in Berkeley.