With her Oregon State softball team deadlocked with Utah at a run apiece in the bottom of the seventh inning, coach Laura Berg had one easy to follow message: Keep it simple.
That’s what the Beavers did.
Jessica Garcia's bases-loaded single into right-center field drove home Maia Rader with the game-winner as the Beavers opened the three-game Pac-12 series with a 2-1 victory over the Utes on Thursday evening.
“It was an ugly win, but a win is a win,” Berg said.
Berg said the Beavers were “a little off” during the game. They seemed to lack energy and didn’t make the adjustments Berg wanted to see.
“I think they can come out tomorrow relaxed,” Berg said of Friday’s 3 p.m. game. “They were a little uptight today. I think they know the importance of this weekend and it was big getting that first one under our belts.”
While the win may have been “ugly,” the Beavers (25-18, 7-13) will certainly take it as they look to solidify a berth to the postseason. The NCAA tournament field will be announced Sunday night and Oregon State can’t afford to give the selection committee a chance to leave them out.
“Postseason is on the line for us and we really want to make sure we get in and we know that we can beat them,” Garcia said. “That was a good, safe win for have under our belts.”
Rader walked with one out in the seventh before pinch hitter Fallon Molnar did the same to put runners at first and second for the top of the order.
Shelby Weeks, coming off a huge series at Oregon two weeks ago, reached when the second baseman was unable to come up with the ball to load the bases.
Garcia then placed a 1-1 pitch in the outfield grass and Rader sprinted home to end it.
For Garcia, it was possibly her first walk-off hit. She said she was confident when she stepped to the plate.
“My coach just said make it simple and just barrel something up,” Garcia said. “I mentally prepared myself beforehand. I knew she was throwing a lot of changeups so I made sure I stayed back in my legs and crushed it when she threw it.”
The Utes looked to take the early lead after a two-out double by Ellessa Bonstrom in the first. But she was thrown out at the plate by Weeks on a single up the middle by Alyssa Barrera.
Oregon State broke the scoring ice in the third. Ashton Phillips had a long at-bat before drawing a leadoff walk. Weeks then singled up the middle and Garcia’s successful sacrifice bunt advanced the runners to second and third with one out.
After Camryn Ybarra went down swinging, Frankie Hammoude chopped one over third that drove home Phillips for a 1-0 lead.
In the fourth, shortstop Rader made a nice defensive play as Barrera’s liner went off her glove but she made the catch with her bare hand for the first out.
It proved to be huge as a hit batter, an error and a walk loaded the bases for the Utes.
Mariah Mazon got a big strikeout looking for the second out then escaped the jam when pinch hitter Makayla Hurst hit one back at Mazon, who got her glove on it and deflected it to Rader at short who touched second for the final out.
Utah tied the game in the sixth with a solo homer to right from pitcher Hailey Hilburn.
The Utes had three runners thrown out on the base paths in the first three innings.
“Our defense made a lot of great plays,” Garcia said. “Our shortstop Maia, she made a lot of great plays that really kept everybody together.”
It was the first home win of the season for the Beavers, who were 0-7 before Thursday’s victory.
“It’s good for them, it’s good for our fans,” Berg said. “The other games that we’ve had at home we haven’t quite been ourselves. The Oregon series is what we truly are. To be able to show our fans that and get them a win is big.”
Added Garcia: “I think it’s really special. These are my last few games I’m going to be able to play here so having the first win and the senior weekend is all a perfect combination and I couldn’t ask for a better win.”