Maddux-like control has worked well for Oregon State's ace
CORVALLIS - It might have been his final pitching performance before the Beaver faithful at Goss Stadium.
If it was, it was a doozy.
Sam Gaviglio painted the corners like Rembrandt - better yet, like Greg Maddux - in pitching Oregon State to a 5-1 victory over Creighton Saturday night in the NCAA regionals.
Gaviglio threw a five-hit, complete-game masterpiece to give the Beavers (40-17) a 2-0 record in this four-team, double-elimination tournament and move them within one triumph of a spot in next weekend's super regionals.
The Bluejays (45-15) have some potent bats in the lineup that won the Missouri Valley Conference championship this spring, but Gaviglio - who improved to 12-2 this season - tamed them with some of the best work of his career.
'Sammy set the tone,' Oregon State coach Pat Casey said. 'He was outstanding. He has been that way all year long.'
Gaviglio tied his career high by throwing 136 pitches, matching the number he needed in a 5-3 win over Arizona State on April 8.
'My arm felt great,' said Gaviglio, an all-Pac-10 and second-team All-America choice this season. 'Andrew (Susac) did a great job behind the plate; (pitching coach Nate) Yeskie did an excellent job calling the game.
'I wanted to get the infield the ball. They played great defense behind me.'
Gaviglio gave his infielders plenty of chances, all right.
There are 27 outs in a nine-inning game. Gaviglio registered 11 strikeouts and 16 ground-outs against Creighton on Saturday.
That's right. Other than their five hits, the Bluejays hit no balls to the outfield. In all my years of watching baseball, I don't believe I've ever seen that before.
'I haven't had that happen before,' Gaviglio said with a smile. 'I knew I wanted to get a lot of groundballs to keep my pitch count down. Strikeouts just kind of came along.'
Well, so much for the pitch count.
But Gaviglio had the Bluejays either whiffing or hitting the ball into the ground all night long.
'He was able to throw all of his pitches for strikes when he needed to,' said Creighton center fielder Mike Gerber, who deposited Gaviglio's lone mistake for a home run over the right-field fence in the fifth inning. 'And for the most part, he kept his stuff down. When he got ahead, he got us to chase.'
'He's a real good pitcher,' said Creighton first baseman Nick Judkins, who had two hits. 'He had real good control of all three of his pitches. He put them wherever he wanted. He had his stuff tonight.'
When the Bluejays were able to get their bat on the ball, the Beavers fielded flawlessly, especially first baseman Parker Berberet. The converted catcher, who struggled at first base in the final regular-season series against Oregon, handled the position superbly Saturday night.
'(Ryan) Dunn played well at short, and Parker made some great plays at first base,' Casey said.
The guy setting it all up was Gaviglio, who wiggled out of a major jam in the seventh inning after Creighton, trailing 3-1, opened the frame with a pair of singles. After a sacrifice advanced the runners to second and third, Gaviglio struck out Scott Thornburg. After an intentional walk to Gerber, Gaviglio induced a ground out and the inning was over.
'(Gaviglio) did an outstanding job, especially when we got runners on base and in scoring position,' Creighton coach Scott Servais said. 'That's when he made some of his best pitches.
'Give him a lot of credit. He gets out of (the seventh) inning with no runs - huge momentum for Oregon State.'
Whenever I watch Gaviglio, I think of Maddux, who used savvy and sensational control to fashion a Hall-of-Fame career.
'I've heard (the comparison) before,' said Gaviglio, whose two walks Saturday were both intentional passes. 'He had such a great career - how can you not like that? Later in his career, he was about what I am right now - high 80s with his fastball.'
At some point Monday, Gaviglio will be taken in the major league draft. It's likely the team that drafts him will think enough of him to come up with the necessary bonus money to sign him, meaning Gaviglio's OSU career will be over when the season ends.
Suddenly, it appears as if that might not happen for awhile.
After ending the regular season with five straight losses while not being able to hit their way out of a paper sack, the Beavers have regained their mojo in Regional victories over Arkansas-Little Rock and Creighton.
After collecting two runs and 13 hits in the three-game sweep by the Ducks, Oregon State has scored 12 runs on 23 hits in the two regional wins.
Garrett Nash - 0 for 26 in Pac-10 play this season - has blasted home runs in consecutive games. The sophomore outfielder, who entered Saturday's game hitting .200, had one homer in 94 at-bats in the regular season. His round-tripper in the ninth inning was the first one Creighton pitching has yielded in 18 games.
While Creighton and Georgia battle it out in a 1 p.m. elimination game Sunday, using up pitching along the way, Oregon State's Josh Osich will be preparing to wrap up the regional title in a 6 p.m. contest against the survivor.
Creighton or Georgia must now win three games - one against the other, then two against OSU - to move on to the super regionals.
Casey expects his players to be ready.
'Our club has done a great job playing them one game at a time - not getting too far ahead and not looking back,' he said. 'They make windshields 50 times bigger than rear-view mirrors.'
So they do.
I'll bet Gaviglio had that in mind when he took the mound Saturday night, with nothing but Bluejay hitters in view.