Beavers beat Pilots, but defense leaves Casey grumbling
CORVALLIS -- It wasn't that long ago that Pat Casey was bubbling with enthusiasm over the defense being play by his infield.
Not so much lately. Oregon State rallied, then held on to beat Portland 7-5 Tuesday night at Goss Stadium. But a ninth-inning error by shortstop Andy Peterson led to three unearned runs and had Casey grousing afterward.
"The defense has not been good lately," the 19th-year OSU skipper said. "There's no reason not to make routine plays. We didn't do the thing right defensively. We're happy we won, but disappointed we didn't play the game to the finish."
Peterson, a second baseman subbing for the injured Tyler Smith at shortstop, made a pair of errors in each of Oregon State's two losses in a three-game series at San Diego last weekend. Kavin Keyes also had four errors in the series while playing second base, and third baseman Jerad Casper had two errors in the opening 7-4 loss.
In the two losses, 14 of the 20 runs scored by the Toreros were unearned.
"If we pick up the ball in San Diego routinely, we win all three games," Casey said. "We have to play better defense, no question about it."
The sixth-ranked Beavers (23-4) trailed 2-1 going into the sixth inning Tuesday night, then got the bats going. They scored a pair of runs in the sixth -- Peterson knocking in the go-ahead run with a single on a perfectly executed safety squeeze -- and got four more in the seventh, with Jake Rodriguez's two-run homer the big blow.
The Beavers took a 7-2 lead into the ninth, but Peterson's throwing error gave the Pilots life. They scored three runs and had the tying run at the plate before Jeff Melby bounced into a force play to end the game.
OSU's defense "was fine until the ninth, but you play the game for nine innings," Casey said. "Whatever you play, you have to play the whole game."
Smith -- who suffered a hairline fracture in his hand and has missed the last three weeks -- is Oregon State's second-best player and hitter behind outfielder Michael Conforto. Smith isn't expected to be cleared for duty in this weekend's three-game series at UCLA expect for perhaps late-inning defensive purposes.
Portland starter Matt McCallister -- who beat Washington on March 19, then held Oregon to one run through seven innings on March 26 -- limited the Beavers to three hits through five innings before they finally broke through.
It was Oregon State's 16th straight victory over Portland dating to a 20-13 loss in 2006. For awhile Tuesday night, it appeared the Pilots were going to end the streak.
Portland (11-17) had swept a three-game West Coast Conference series with Santa Clara last weekend.
"Any time you're ranked, everybody's going to give you their best shot," Casey said. "They certainly did. They're a good club. They'd won (three) in a row. We have to play better baseball down at UCLA.
"We're swinging the bat well enough to win. You got to play defense, got to pitch."
Closer Scott Schultz worked the final three innings to earn his sixth save of the season. The junior right-hander yielded three hits but had his pitch count extended to 56 to Peterson's ninth-inning blunder.
"It's ridiculous Schultzie had to throw that many pitches," Casey said.
The Pilots were in position to win until the Beavers played a little small ball, then a little long ball.
"It was a good game there for awhile," said Chris Sperry, in his 16th season at the UP helm. The Beavers "do a great job of executing when they need to. They have a long history of doing that against us. They did it tonight. They waited for us to make mistakes, and that's what happened."
The mistakes, evidently, came on the pitching end, because the Pilots played errorless ball. It was their 11th game against ranked teams, including Mississippi State, Cal Irvine and Oregon -- all on the road.
"We've had a brutal schedule," Sperry said. "We've been tested. When you're not getting the results you want, it can be frustrating.
"Over the last week, we've played very competitively. Hopefully, we're starting to turn the corner. We seem to have gotten our starting pitching squared away, but we need to be more productive with the bats when guys are in scoring position."