SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The words eluded him.
As Jacob Melton lingered on the Scottsdale Stadium grass late Saturday night, sporting dirt stains on the front of his untucked jersey and Gatorade stains on the back, he tried to summarize the improbability of the Oregon State Beavers’ day. But he just couldn’t find the right words.
“I don’t think there are words for this day,” Melton said. “This was the craziest day of baseball I think I’ve ever witnessed.”
It featured two games, two walk-off wins, nine hours and 34 minutes of baseball, 62 runs, 79 hits, 875 pitches, one colossal collapse and too many twists and turns to count.
But in the end, the Beavers persevered, defeating the UCLA Bruins 8-7 in the second game of a memorable doubleheader to advance to the championship game of the inaugural Pac-12 baseball tournament. They’ll play Stanford at 7 p.m. Sunday.
But whatever happens in the debut title game, it surely won’t compare to Saturday’s mayhem, which left longtime radio and television broadcasters, tournament officials and die-hard baseball fans in disbelief, saying it was unlike anything they had seen before.
“All in all, a very wild day, to say the least,” OSU coach Mitch Canham said, adding later, “I haven’t seen anything like that.”
It started at 10 a.m. Saturday, when the Oregon State team busses pulled out of the team hotel. And it didn’t end until 12:01 a.m. Sunday, when the last of the OSU players trickled slowly out of gigantic, concealed doors along the center-field fence toward those same busses. In between, there was endless drama.
The second-seeded Beavers (44-14) entered Saturday needing one win to lock a date with No. 1 seed Stanford in Sunday night’s championship game, while the third-seeded Bruins (38-21) needed a pair of wins.
UCLA made it clear from the beginning it was not going to roll over, chasing OSU starter Jake Pfennigs in the first inning on the way to building an early 7-2 lead after two. And the fireworks were only just beginning.
With Garret Forrester hitting opposite field home runs, Gavin Logan ripping run-scoring doubles and Justin Boyd spraying the ball all over the field, the Beavers’ offense erupted, scoring four runs in the third … then three runs in the fourth … then five runs in the fifth … then three more runs in the sixth. Oregon State led 17-10 and was seemingly well on its way to the title game. By the ninth, the lead had ballooned to 21-12 and the last three outs seemed a formality.
But a trio of Oregon State relievers coughed up the lead in jaw-dropping fashion, as DJ Carpenter, Victor Quinn and closer Ryan Brown surrendered nine runs, four hits, three walks and one hit batter. Stunningly, the Bruins came all the way back, tying the game 21-21 when Jack Holman drove home Kenny Oyama with a one-out grounder to first.
The Beavers’ infield was playing in on the play and Forrester fielded the grounder cleanly and went home with the ball. But his throw veered left toward the first base side and skipped to the plate, causing Logan to lunge for the ball, scoop it up, and then whip a tag around to the third base side.
Oyama not only beat the throw, but Logan injured his hip on the play and had to leave the game.
As the meltdown was unfolding during the inning, Logan crouched behind home plate in disbelief.
“In the ninth, I was like, ‘There’s no way. There’s no way this is happening right now. There’s no way they’re going to come all the way back,’” Logan said. “I actually looked up at the scoreboard once and was like, ‘Oh, my, God. They have eight runs already.’ I was shocked.”
The Beavers responded to the collapse by scoring a run in the top of the 10th, when Boyd smacked a run-scoring single up the middle. Despite everything, they led 22-21.
But the Bruins had too much momentum. Brown, who emerged as a shut-down closer midway through the season, allowed back-to-back hits, intentionally walked the bases loaded, then balked home the tying run. One pitch later, he gave up a three-run homer to Tommy Beres, and UCLA won a stunner, 25-22, celebrating in a mob at home plate.
The game lasted five hours, 44 minutes, and was a fantasy baseball manager’s dream. The teams combined for 47 runs, 53 hits, 20 walks and 79 baserunners. Oregon State finished with a school-record 28 hits and a season-high 22 runs, as Boyd finished with a school-record six hits and four runs, Forrester blasted two home runs and recorded six RBIs, and Logan produced five hits and five RBIs.
Sixteen different pitchers made an appearance, including nine for the Beavers, and 26 different players had at least one at-bat.
Then, after the emotional marathon, the teams had to do it all over again.
In between games, it was relatively quiet in the Beavers’ clubhouse, they said, as players processed their collapse and tried to regroup. They put on fresh uniforms, guzzled fluids and, Canham said, did their best to “flush” an ending in which “we didn’t do anything well.”
“There wasn’t a whole lot said,” Melton said. “I think guys were a little delusional for sure after that six-hour game. But we just kind of used it as a mental reset and tried to get ready to come back out and play game two.”
Multiple players dealt with cramping and tight muscles because of hydration and the triple-digit Arizona heat, and some either sat out the second game or departed it early. Wade Meckler didn’t start for the first time all season and Boyd was pulled after the first inning, forcing Canham to play freshman second baseman Travis Bazzana in center field for the first time in his career. Logan missed the game because of his sore hip.
Even so, the Beavers struck first, scoring four runs in the first and one more in the second to take an early 5-0 lead. But UCLA rallied — again — and by the seventh, when Holman ripped a two-run single to center with two outs, the Bruins led the beleaguered Beavers 7-6.
But this time, the comeback was temporary.
Ben Ferrer (4-0) quieted the Bruins’ bats, allowing just two hits and striking out three, over 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. And the Beavers’ offense struck last.
Kyle Dernedde opened the bottom of the ninth with an infield single, diving head first to beat the throw, and Bazzana later blooped a double down the left-field line to put runners on second and third with one out. Forrester followed with a pop-up to second base, seemingly ending the momentum. But UCLA infielders Daylen Reyes and Jake Palmer collided on the infield in confusion and the ball hit the dirt, sending Dernedde racing home to tie the game 7-7.
One batter later, Melton ripped a 2-2 slider to left field to drive in Bazzana and end the game. This time, it was Oregon State celebrating a walk-off win, as Beavers players sprinted out of the dugout and mobbed Melton near second base.
Later, as he conducted a postgame interview on the Pac-12 Network, Bazzana and Greg Fuchs doused Melton with a bucket of Gatorade.
After nearly 10 hours of baseball, a monumental collapse and a pair of walk-off hits, the Beavers had survived to play in the first-ever Pac-12 tournament championship game.
“It takes some heart to come back and play a game like that after a Game 1 loss,” Melton said. “I think it’s a testament to who we are as a team.”
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