SAN DIEGO—One of Week Two's best pitching matchups was a Thursday night showdown between Oregon State junior righthander Dan Child and San Diego State sophomore righty Michael Cederoth. And while Cederoth showed the much more impressive stuff, Child made big pitches in big spots to earn the win. The Beavers broke open a 2-1 game with five runs in the seventh en route to an 8-1 win, keeping them unbeaten at 5-0.
Cederoth worked comfortably in the 94-98 mph range in the first few innings, before settling in at 93-95 in the middle innings. But the Beavers made him work—he issued five walks while striking out six and allowing just two hits over six innings, yielding two runs. He walked the bases loaded in the third, but managed to escape after allowing just one run on a sacrifice fly—but that inning helped drive his pitch count up. He was at 80 pitches after four innings, and he finished with 111.
"We've got guys that just will battle out at-bats, and I think that's what we did today," Oregon State shortstop Tyler Smith said. "He was throwing hard; it's tough when the other guy's throwing that hard to really square balls up. You've just got to be ready for that fastball. I think we only got a couple hits off him, but I think we really battled against him. He wasn't commanding his secondary pitches too well, walking some guys. So we just had good at-bats; guys got on and executed."
It's clear that Cederoth has special ability, and his feel for pitching is improving. At times he showed a better curveball Thursday in the 75-77 range, and he got some swings and misses with his 80-82 slider. He just needs to avoid those innings where his command abandons him for a few batters.
"He did a good job; his problem tonight was the pitch count," San Diego State coach Tony Gwynn said. "He settled in, he had a couple innings where he threw a lot of pitches, but all in all he did a good job managing the game. USD was pretty patient (last week), Oregon State tonight, the guys at the top of the lineup were pretty patient. You've just got to get a feel for your stuff and you've got to trust it. For me, that's his next hurdle, just trusting that his stuff is good enough to get people out."
Leadoff man Max Gordon set the tone for the Beavers with walks in his first two at-bats, followed by an RBI single in Oregon State's five-run seventh.
"He's a guy, I keep asking, 'Why is this guy playing?' If you just tooled him out, you say, 'Nah,'" Beavers coach Pat Casey said. "But he just battles, does little things, finds ways to get on base. He's a good player."
Smith followed Gordon's RBI single with a two-run double into the left-center gap in the fifth, as the Beavers sent nine batters to the plate and knocked around righthander Ethan Miller, who was outstanding in a long relief stint Saturday against San Diego.
Child, meanwhile, didn't have his best stuff. He worked in the 91-94 mph range for Team USA last summer, but Thursday he sat at 88-90 and bumped 91, although his fastball did have solid arm-side life. His go-to out pitch was his 78-81 slider, which helped him strike out six over 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball. He allowed seven hits but did not walk anybody.
"I've seen him better, because his velo wasn't where I think it should be—I didn't think he had very good stuff," Casey said. "But one thing he did do is he got himself out of some jams by making some big pitches in some big times. I thought he really competed well, and early when you're not sharp, sometimes that's what you've got to do."
The Beavers also got stellar work out of their bullpen. Sidearming lefthander Max Engelbrecht entered with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth, and he escaped the jam with an RBI fielder's choice and a flyout, stranding runners at the corners. He retired all seven batters he faced before handing off to righty Cole Brocker, who set down the final four hitters in order. Brocker attacked hitters with an 88-91 fastball and a low-80s slider with sharp tilt.
Oregon State's bullpen has been brilliant so far this season, working 21 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just five hits and six walks. The 'pen will have to continue to shoulder a significant load while starters Ben Wetzler and Taylor Starr work their way back from minor injuries; both threw good bullpen sessions Thursday, and Casey said Wetzler will likely throw an inning or two this weekend.
Meanwhile, Casey said lefthander Jace Fry is progressing nicely in his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery, and he said "it wouldn't shock me if he threw sometime during the year."
The Beavers are also a bit banged up in the lineup, as Ryan Barnes—whom Casey called "possibly our best all-around player—is out with a broken hamate bone suffered three weeks ago, and Danny Hayes isn't at full strength after pulling his hamstring (though he did play Thursday).
But the Beavers have so much experience and toughness that they are formidable even when they are less than 100 percent. Oregon State excels at hitting situationally, and so many of their outs are productive. That's how they were able to scratch out a pair of runs against Cederoth, even though they mustered just two hits over six innings. Both runs came on sacrifice flies.
But as the year progresses and Michael Conforto and Hayes and Dylan Davis find their strides, this lineup figures to be fearsome as well as persistent.
"I think we'll get going offensively," Casey said, "and I think we have a chance to be a better offensive club than we were last year."
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