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Beavers answer, set up Sunday rubber match with Ducks

Moore's pitching, OSU long balls lead to 9-0 win over Oregon at PK Park


EUGENE -- Oregon State needed something -- anything -- to get the motor ticking.

To find a pulse in a Civil War series that had started badly with a 3-0 Friday night loss to Oregon and wasn't looking all that much more promising on Saturday.

After 14 straight scoreless innings over two days, Michael Conforto obliged.

The sophomore left fielder came through with a solo opposite-field home run in the sixth inning Saturday, breaking a scoreless tie and opening the floodgates to the Beavers' 9-0 rout at PK Park.

"Michael's bomb is definitely what got us going," said second baseman Andy Peterson, who had four of Oregon State's 12 hits. "He got a good swing on the pitch. We really responded after that."

The victory pushed sixth-ranked Oregon State (42-9 overall, 21-5 in Pac-12) back into first place in the Pac-12 standings, a game ahead of 10th-ranked Oregon (43-12, 20-6).

It sets up a crucial Sunday noon game between the Civil War rivals, with OSU junior southpaw Ben Wetzler (6-1, 1.46 ERA) dueling against UO right-hander Jake Reed (6-3, 3.00) with the series -- and much more -- on the line.

Each team has another three-game series to play -- the Beavers entertain Washington State while the Ducks visit Utah -- but Sunday's game will go a long way toward deciding the Pac-12 championship.

"The team that wins (Sunday) is in the driver's seat with three more to play," Oregon coach George Horton offered.

That's particularly true if Oregon State wins. The Beavers would have a two-game advantage on the Ducks. If Oregon prevails, it'll be a dead heat heading into the final weekend of regular-season play along with Tuesday's non-conference tilt between the rivals at Corvallis.

A day after Oregon sophomore Tommy Thorpe stoned the Beavers on two hits, Oregon State freshman Andrew Moore followed suit, stopping the Ducks on two safeties in just another gem in a sensational first collegiate campaign for the North Eugene High grad.

Ho hum, deadpanned Peterson.

"Nothing new," he said. "He does it every time he goes out. Every week. It's not even interesting to watch anymore."

It was sweet redemption for the Beavers and a welcome homecoming for Moore, who had a ready-made cheering section among the crowd of 3,892 and became the first 11-game winner in the Pac-12 this season.

Moore walked leadoff hitter Tyler Baumgartner on four pitches.

"I was a little too amped up," Moore said. "I had a lot of friends and family in the stands."

From that point, Moore pitched like a steely veteran, with no more walks, two strikeouts and only 92 pitches against the seemingly hapless Ducks.

"I needed to take a deep breath and compose myself," the 5-11, 180-pound right-hander said. "I told myself, 'I got here with the stuff I have.' I just needed to attack them.

"After that first batter, it was back to business and doing all the same stuff I've done all year."

Moore was, in the words of OSU coach Pat Casey, "lights out."

"Andrew Moore was as advertised," Horton agreed. "He was spectacular. He had command with three pitches and didn't make many mistakes."

Moore could have been a Duck.

"It was between Oregon and Oregon State," said Moore, at 11-1 tied for seventh on the school's single-season list for pitching victories. "It was the toughest decision I've ever had to make.

"All the respect in the world to Coach Horton and what he's done with that program. I just felt like Oregon State was the better fit for me. Playing under (pitching coach Nate) Yeskie and Casey was the best place for me."

Yeskie saw Moore's slider working during warmups in the bullpen.

"We were trying to make a decision, 'Shoot, which one do we use today, slider or curveball?' " Yeskie said. "They were both effective. His stuff was crisp. His breaking ball was as good it's been all year. He had his slider going. His curveball was really sharp."

Yeskie was pleased with the way Moore went about his pre-game mental preparation.

"He kept himself dialed in with what he needed to do," Yeskie said. "It wasn't a matter of him pitching in front of family and friends and having to prove himself.

"We talked all week about, 'You've already proven yourself. Just go out and be exactly who you are and have fun with it.' He embraced the moment, went out and made pitches, and our guys played their asses off behind him."

It took Conforto's blast to get the Oregon State offense rolling, though. Through five innings, Moore and Oregon left-hander Cole Irvin -- last week's Pac-12 pitcher of the week after a six-hit shutout against Ohio State -- were locked in a scoreless duel.

"But we were hitting balls hard," Peterson said. "We were able to not panic at all, because we were hitting them right at guys. We knew it was a matter of time before we started finding some zones."

The left-handed-hitting Conforto unlocked the OSU offense by swatting an Irvin pitch over the left-field fence in the sixth. It was Conforto's eighth home run of the season but only his second since March 17.

An inning later, Ryan Barnes followed suit in nearly the same place and it was 2-0. "I didn't think right away (Conforto's homer) was hit that well, but obviously, it was," Casey said. "Then 'Barnesy' hit one and we got a little excited."

Said Horton: "Conforto's home run the other way was a good pitch. When a guy can hit an opposite-field home run in this ballpark … but that didn't sneak up on me. I know he's pretty good. Barnes hit a pretty good pitch as well, and that kind of got them going."

Oregon State sent 11 men to the plate in the eighth, scoring five runs, and got two more in the ninth to send Oregon to only its third loss in 14 home Pac-12 contests this season.

"We got outplayed," Horton said. "Tip the cap to the Beavers. What you do when things don't go your way, you get up off the deck and do something about it.

"They were extremely good. (Peterson) is a scrappy little guy who hit a variety of pitches in location to get innings going. They were really good offensively."

The Beavers had been 1-6 in their last seven appearances at PK Park dating to 2009.

"We knew we'd get a good start out of (Moore)," Casey said. "We didn't know if we'd be able to score a run in this ballpark. Good for us that we got on the board. Hopefully, that loosened us up a little bit. It's hard to beat Oregon down here. I'm proud of our guys for the way they responded."

Casey delivered a stirring talk to his players on the bus ride home to Corvallis after Friday night's opener.

"My thought on athletics is about competition," said Casey, in his 19th year as OSU mentor. "It doesn't matter if it's swimming or basketball or baseball. If you don't compete for me, that's the only time when I really feel like I have to challenge you. Our guys challenged themselves after last night."

Peterson said as much later.

"We had a long bus ride back to think about it (after Friday's loss)," the junior second baseman said. "That was not our team, the way we've played all year. We had a little something in our chest today that we wanted to get a big 'W.'

"We're going to come out (Sunday) and use the momentum we have right now and put (the Ducks) in their place."

Meaning?

"We really feel we're the best team in this league," Peterson said, "but we have to show it. Five games left. We have to come out and get a little rhythm going into the playoffs."

Peterson said he likes the Beavers' chances with Wetzler on the mound.

"He's experienced, been there, done it," Peterson said. "I'm really excited to come out and see if our offense can help him out a little bit."

Casey isn't taken anything for granted.

"That's a good club over there," he said with a nod to the Oregon dugout. "Both clubs are capable of playing with anybody in the country."

Sunday's showdown features "two super regional types -- maybe national seeds," Horton said. "They had their way with us today. We got one Friday. I would imagine our guys will go out there (Sunday) like it's an opportunity to go to Omaha. On the other side, I'm sure they will, too."

Should be fun.

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