Bryce Fehmel is renowned for turning in his best performances against the stiffest competition.
Oregon State’s veteran right-hander has stymied the likes of LSU, Vanderbilt and Arizona over his three years in Corvallis, relying on supreme command and a play-making defense behind him to extinguish dangerous lineups. Fehmel was at it against Saturday against No. 2 Stanford, dealing eight innings of three-hit, shutout baseball in a 10-0 Pac-12 romp before another Goss Stadium-record crowd of 3,864.
The third-ranked Beavers (38-7-1, 16-6-1), who also cruised past Stanford (38-8, 17-6) in Friday’s opener, will go for the three-game Pac-12 series sweep at 12:05 p.m. Sunday.
“I guess it’s the crowd,” Fehmel said of the key to his performances on the big stage. “They keep me into it, they keep me energized and they really keep me going.”
Fehmel (7-1) faced just three over the minimum, striking out four with one walk. The junior delivered first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 27 batters he faced before giving way to Brandon Eisert.
Luke Heimlich was also dominant in eight innings Friday as the Beavers collected a 6-2 victory. Heimlich struck out a career-high 14 while surrendering three hits.
“Lights-out, man. (Fehmel) and Luke, both days,” Trevor Larnach said. “That’s got to be rough to face when both guys are on like that.”
Fehmel went the distance to close out last year’s Corvallis Super Regional against Vanderbilt, giving up just five hits with no walks and 10 strikeouts in a 9-2 OSU victory. He also worked eight two-hit innings as the Beavers trounced LSU at the College World Series.
For whatever reason, Fehmel routinely pitches his best against elite competition.
“I don’t know if there’s anything to that other than the fact that maybe he gets himself jacked up or prepared,” coach Pat Casey said. “I just think he comes out ready to go all the time, I really do. I think there are some times he’s not as good as he needs to be, and he’s not a guy that’s going to blow you away with stuff.”
Fehmel also benefitted from terrific infield and outfield defense by the Beavers. After Beau Branton opened the sixth with a double, Nick Madrigal called a pickoff play at second base that was executed to perfection by the duo.
“I didn’t really ask (Madrigal) what he saw, but I always trust him since he’s the best player in the country,” Fehmel said. “So if he calls something, I’m doing it.”
OSU has now won eight straight series against Stanford and is 21-2 overall in the last 23 games between the teams. The Cardinal lead the second-place Beavers by half a game in the Pac-12 standings.
“They are on top and we’re chasing them, and we’re playing like it,” Larnach said. “We are playing like we’re behind and we’re chasing them, and that’s exactly how it should be.”
Casey said freshman righty Kevin Abel (3-0, 4.46 ERA) will start Sunday’s finale for OSU. Abel was terrific in his last two outings against Oregon and Washington State, going a combined 12 innings with 15 strikeouts and just two runs allowed.
Fellow freshman Brendan Beck (6-0, 1.42), the younger brother of Friday starter Tristan Beck, will start for Stanford.
Larnach went 3 for 4 with a two-run homer, his team-leading 15th of the season. Larnach is tied with Al Hunsinger (1981) for the second-most single-season homers in school history behind Jim Wilson’s 21 in 1982.
Cadyn Grenier extended his hitting streak to 22 games with a sixth-inning bunt single.
The Beavers got off to a slow offensive start as Adley Rutschman was stranded at third base in the second after working a one-out walk. The sophomore took second on a passed ball and headed to third on a Michael Gretler flyout, but Stanford starter Kris Bubic (7-1) got out of trouble with a grounder to first.
Stanford backup catcher Bryce Carter had more trouble in the third as the Beavers broke through.
With one out and nobody on, Carter dropped a perfect 2-2 Bubic pitch that likely would’ve been a called third strike. Zak Taylor went on to walk and Steven Kwan followed with a single before Madrigal plated both with a triple off the wall in right-center.
Madrigal then scored on another passed ball to put OSU up 3-0.
Carter was starting in place of Maverick Handley, who is out for the series with an arm injury sustained during a skateboard crash earlier in the week. Handley, a sophomore, has thrown out a Pac-12-best 17 of 26 base-stealers this season with four pickoffs.
Christian Molfetta replaced Carter the next inning.
Larnach chased Bubic in the fifth with his two-run screamer to left-center.
After Madrigal walked on four pitches, Larnach smashed a 2-1 fastball that just cleared the wall for a 5-0 lead. It was the last pitch of the day for Bubic, a junior lefty who allowed five runs on four hits with five strikeouts and four walks in 4⅓ innings.
“You can kind of narrow down on one pitch, really,” Larnach said of his at-bat. “He couldn’t really locate his curveball in the last two innings he was out there … and even the fastball. Changeup was a good pitch, but as a lefty I wasn’t really going to face that. So I was just zoning in on the fastball, and he was leaving a lot of pitches up.”
One inning later, Kwan singled home Tyler Malone to make it 6-0.
The Beavers kept pouring it on in the eighth behind run-scoring hits from Malone (single), Taylor (double) and a Grenier sacrifice fly. Taylor later scored on a wild pitch for a 10-0 lead.
Stanford, which scored 43 total runs last week while sweeping Utah in Salt Lake City, has just seven hits in 18 innings at Goss Stadium.