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Another win for the Beavers' defense


Pitching, offense contribute, but Oregon State's strength up the middle shows against error-prone Louisville

OMAHA, Neb. -- The Rev. Pat Casey's sermon often begins and ends with one subject.

"We preach pitching and defense," Oregon State's baseball coach said after the Beavers' 11-4 victory over Louisville Monday in a College World Series elimination game at TD Ameritrade Park. "I'm happy our guys saw that come to fruition."

The Cardinals kicked the ball around, making four errors in the first four innings. By that time, Oregon State (51-12) was ahead 10-0 and well on its way to victory in the highest-scoring CWS game in the tournament's three years in Omaha's new ballpark. Seven of the Beavers' runs were unearned. If that's not a CWS record, it has to be close.

"We were the recipient of some extra runs," Casey said. The Cardinals "didn't defend up the middle as well as they have."

The Beavers took care of business defensively, took advantage of Louisville's defensive mistakes and began the long climb through the losers' bracket to what they hope is a spot in the CWS championship series. Next up is Indiana at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

"There are times when you talk about that, and talk about it, and talk about it," Casey said. "It's kind of like, 'Shoot your free throws,' when guys want to go out and practice shooting the 3-pointer. But the fundamentals are going to win most of the games.

"I like the fact we did the little things today. The little things on the other end made a big difference for us."

PETERSONSome of it came on offense. Second baseman Andy Peterson -- who had twice failed to get down sacrifice bunts in Saturday's 5-4 loss to Mississippi State -- got one down successfully in the first inning and then laid down a beauty that went for a base hit in Oregon State's three-run third inning.

But most of it was defense. In Louisville's case, the lack thereof.

In the third, two errors led to the Beavers' three runs. Cardinal catcher Kyle Gibson failed to catch Michael Conforto's pop-up in foul territory. Conforto then walked. Two batters later, Danny Hayes' bases-loaded ground ball to second was fielded by Louisville second baseman Zach Lucas, whose errant backhand flip to shortstop Sutton Whiting went into left field, allowing two runs to score.

With the bases loaded and Oregon State ahead 5-0 in the fourth, Whiting threw away a ground ball by Kavin Keyes, gifting the Beavers with two more runs on their way to a seven-run inning.

"We didn't play clean there in the third and fourth innings, and it got out of hand," Louisville coach Dan McDonnell said. "It was 10-1 in the blink of an eye."

Actually, 10-0.

"Ever since we started in the fall, we talk about how much defense has to do with winning games," Oregon State shortstop Tyler Smith said. "It was huge for us in this game, and it hurt them."

The Beavers didn't have an error until Keyes' poor throw to first on a slow roller to third base. By that time, it didn't matter. Smith and Peterson turned a pair of pretty double plays in the fifth and sixth innings to help OSU starter Ben Wetzler run his record to 10-1 this season.

SMITH"Incredible," Wetzler said of the middle-infield pair. "Louisville has been a great defense all year. Something happened to (the Cardinals) today, maybe because of the pressure on them. They didn't make the plays (Smith and Peterson) made every single time. Those guys turned a couple of double plays to keep them out of big innings."

Strong play up the middle is the key to any defense. Oregon State's ranks with any in the country in that regard with Smith, Peterson, center fielder Max Gordon -- who made another diving catch of a fly ball in the ninth inning -- and catcher Jake Rodriguez.

"It's unbelievable how important it is to have good defense up the middle," OSU left

fielder Michael Conforto said. "Max has solidified us in center field, and Tyler and Andy have been solid all year long. They have so much range, and they both have great hands to turn double plays.

"And Jake has been so good behind the plate. (The Cardinals) had a crazy amount of stolen bases, and they didn't even try to run on us."

Louisville (51-14) came into the game ranked second in the nation with 150 stolen bases. The Cardinals' No. 2 hitter, Cole Sturgeon, was caught in a rundown after singling in the first inning when Wetzler threw to first base. The Cardinals never ran again, in part due to being in such a big hole early.

"It's a lot easier to be aggressive when you're up a few runs," McDonnell said.

But the Beavers, with Rodriguez behind the plate most of the way, have allowed only 23 stolen bases all season. They seemed determined to prevent Louisville's running game from taking hold Monday. The Cardinals never got a chance to put that to a test.

Oregon State had great keystone combinations on its national championship teams of 2006 and '07 -- Darwin Barney and Chris Kunda in '06, Barney and Joey Wong in '07. Casey includes Smith and Peterson, is his first season at OSU after transferring from Santa Ana (Calif.) College, in the conversation.

Smith and Peterson "fall in line with those other duos," Casey said. "Petey's only been here for one year, so he hasn't had the opportunity to be in the program as long, but he sure has played well. They already have very good chemistry."

Smith said when he first arrived in Corvallis, "Everybody was saying, 'Smitty has all this swag.' I asked, 'How can an infielder have swag?'

"But you watch him play, the kid is unreal," said Smith, a senior. "He's so smooth and confident. He exudes what I want to be as an infielder. I'm following his lead. We look at each other, and we're thinking, 'Come on, let's get this double play.' He gives me a lot of confidence."

Smith feels he has bonded with Peterson, who will likely move over to shortstop next year for his senior season when Smith is gone.

"He's a great kid," Smith said. "He works real hard. I think we're a great double-play combo, and we're doing the job up at the top of the lineup hitting."

Smith, who is hitting .315 this season, had two safeties in the leadoff spot Monday. Peterson, batting .335 in the two-hole, went 3 for 4 and scored three runs along with a sacrifice and as perfect a bunt single as you'll see. Even if they didn't hit, Wetzler knew he could count on them at the other end.

"They don't take at-bats to the field with them like a lot of guys do,' he said. "If they have a couple of bad ABs, other guys might not be as focused. These guys take defense as a separate part of their game."

After his junior year, Smith was bypassed in the 2012 major league draft.

"I just used it for motivation," he said. "I wanted to get as good as I possibly could get. I worked hard all last summer. I knew this could be the last year I'd ever play. I wanted to either go out with a bang or hopefully (a major-league team) would believe in me."

That's what happened. Smith was taken by Seattle in the eighth round of the recent draft.

"I kept telling Smitty the best thing that ever happened last year was that he didn't get drafted," Casey said. "I knew it would be a different role for him, that he'd come back and be more of a leader, more possessed to prove to people he can play.

"Smitty does a lot of things for us. When he first came, he was unsure. He didn't have the swagger and confidence he has now. And he's going to take that to professional baseball. He's the guy anybody in the country would want in the middle of the diamond and hitting in the one-hole."

The Beavers live to play another game. Their defensive play up the middle -- and Louisville's lack of it -- is the biggest reason.

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