Beavers host Texas State
Published: Friday, March 8, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 8, 2013 01:03
No. 4 Oregon State will put its 12-0 undefeated start to the test tonight as the Beavers begin a three-game series with Texas State at Goss Stadium.
The Bobcats have a mediocre 5-7 record to start the season, but could be Oregon State’s (12-0) toughest opponent thus far in 2013.
Texas State has two pitchers on its roster that have the ability to dominate in right-handers Kyle Finnegan and Taylor Black.
Finnegan — tonight’s projected starter — is 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA. Black, the projected Saturday starter, has a 0.41 ERA in three starts this season.
“[Texas State] has two big, big arms coming in Friday and Saturday,” said head coach Pat Casey. “They throw in the mid-90s with good command.”
With the way OSU has pitched so far — the bullpen has been particularly good, having allowed zero earned runs this season — the Beavers expect to be competitive regardless of what the offense does.
But Casey still hopes for increased production at the plate as well.
“We’ve got to step it up,” Casey said. “Hopefully, we’ll have a little better plan of attack and we’ll be aggressive and relaxed a little more.”
Oregon State has averaged a healthy 6.75 runs scored per game, but have gotten 37 of their 81 runs in only three of its 12 games. While the Beavers have lacked consistency at the plate, they expect the offense to even out with time.
“It’s still early and we’re going to come around,” said senior first baseman Danny Hayes. “We’ve got guys that can absolutely bang it, so I’m not worried about the offense. The more at bats we get the better we’ll be.”
Oregon State also hopes to get more production out of Hayes. The senior was second behind sophomore left fielder Michael Conforto in homeruns for OSU last year with five, despite missing 20 games with a shoulder injury.
Hayes is hitting for average this — 10 hits in 30 at bats — but has only two doubles and has yet to hit his first homerun.
“I’m not really thinking about it right now,” Hayes said. “I’m just going to stick with the approach. I’ve hit balls hard, I’ve just hit balls right at guys. If I stay in the middle of the field, homeruns will come.”
Oregon State also gets a lift from the return of senior outfielder Ryan Barnes. Barnes missed the first 11 games with a wrist injury, but has been cleared to play and is expected to be in the lineup this weekend.
“Pitching and defense wins games, so hopefully our offense will come around,” Barnes said. “I’m just going to do what I’ve done in the past, seeing pitches, getting on base and doing what I can.”
While OSU has had mild struggles at times offensively, the pitching has experienced nothing of the sort. It’s good timing for OSU, because the Beavers only have one day off before back-to-back games with San Francisco on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Freshman right-hander Andrew Moore, in particular, has been a pleasant surprise for the Beavers. With junior left-hander Ben Wetzler’s back injury during the first two weeks, Moore was thrust into a bigger role.
With only one earned run in three starts, it’s safe to say Moore has filled in nicely, reminiscent of Jace Fry last year as a freshman.
“He’s been lights out,” Wetzler said. “He comes in every day and works his butt off. He just goes out and competes. He’s way more mature than a lot of freshmen are. Him and [Fry] came in with that same mindset that, ‘Hey, I’m good enough to pitch here and step in and take a role.’”
“He’s been fantastic, he really has, and I’m looking forward to him continuing it” Casey added.
Even with a staff as deep as Oregon State’s, six games in five days is no easy task.
Luckily for OSU, Wetzler and senior right-hander Taylor Starr are once again healthy.
“We went down to [Palm Springs, Calif.] and played eight games in a short period of time and got through it without Starr and Wetzler,” Casey said. “Now we’ve got both those guys, so I like that we have pitching depth.”
Oregon State will look to continue the hot pitching and hopes for improved production at the plate in the series opener tonight at 5:35.
Andrew Kilstrom, sports editor
On Twitter @AndrewKilstrom