CORVALLIS — The winning streak is alive and well. The pitching remains dominant. The late-inning heroics have become routine.
“The job’s not done,” right-hander Kevin Abel said. “BYU is going to get the gauntlet Saturday and Sunday.”
Abel took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, Wade Meckler provided another dose of late-game offensive magic and second-year coach Mitch Canham earned his first win at Goss Stadium as the Beavers (8-1) extended their winning streak to eight games.
Abel, who made his first start at Goss since March 1, 2019, was efficient and untouchable through five innings, cruising through the BYU (3-6) lineup with little resistance. But he ran into trouble in the top of the sixth inning, allowing a leadoff double to No. 9 hitter Peyton Cole and then walking back-to-back hitters to load the bases with no outs.
Suddenly, after a near-flawless five innings, Abel was in trouble and the Beavers — who couldn’t touch starter Easton Walker — looked like they were heading toward their first loss since the season opener.
Amid the turmoil, catcher Troy Claunch strolled to the mound for a quick chat with the Beavers’ ace right-hander.
“I’m really excited for you to get the next three guys out,” Claunch said, according to Abel, before retreating back behind the plate.
Sure enough, Abel suddenly rediscovered his mojo, striking out the heart of the Cougars’ batting order to work out of the jam in jaw-dropping fashion. After he whiffed Jacob Wilk on a 2-2 changeup to end the inning, Abel bellowed out a scream as he strolled to the third base dugout. It was the second time this season Abel has ended a bases-loaded threat with three consecutive strikeouts.
Two innings later, Oregon State’s offense orchestrated another late-game rally. It started innocently, after Ryan Ober reached on an error, but ended dramatically. After Joe Casey flied out to right field and Claunch struck out, Jake Dukart was beaned and Kyler McMahan drew a walk to load the bases.
Two pitches later, Meckler laced a 1-0 fastball into left field, scoring Ober and providing all the cushion Oregon State’s pitching staff would need. Reid Sebby (1-1) pitched two scoreless innings of relief to earn his first win of the season and Jake Mulholland shook off a leadoff walk to earn his third save of the season on his 24th birthday.
It was the third time in the last four games the never-say-die Beavers have overcome a deficit in the eighth or ninth inning to win.
“There’s just no panic,” Meckler said. “We’ll be down. We’ll be tied late in the game. There’s no panic. There’s no what-ifs or anything like that. We just know late in the game someone will get the job done.”
And while Abel did not factor into the decision, the ace right-hander had another electric outing as roughly 15 Major League Baseball scouts watched from behind home plate in an otherwise empty Goss Stadium. He finished with eight strikeouts, four walks and that one sixth inning hit, lowering his ERA to 0.57 on the season.
Abel said he struggled to locate his off-speed pitches early in the count most of the night and briefly let his mechanics slip in the sixth inning, which led to that bases-loaded jam. But all in all, it was another encouraging performance for a player making just his third start since recovering from Tommy John surgery.
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “Obviously not throwing the ball exactly how I want to. Still a lot of room for improvement. But my body has taken it really well. Each week, I’m feeling better and better going into the next day. It’s recovering better each time. So hopefully this means we can go really strong in May and June.”
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