MORAGA, Calif. — It was almost a historic victory for the Saint Mary’s baseball team Tuesday, who held a lead over the No. 1 team in the country for 8 2/3 innings. But like the Gaels have done so many times themselves early this season, it was Oregon State who came from behind to win, scoring three runs with two outs in the top of the ninth to erase a 3-1 deficit and win 4-3 at Louis Guisto Field.
The Gaels (17-7) were one out away in the top of the ninth from ending Oregon State’s (21-1) 15-game winning streak and earning a win over the consensus No. 1 ranked team. Saint Mary’s closer Kevin Milam (1-1) worked full counts to each of the next three batters, OSU’s 7-8-9 hitters at the bottom of the order. But a single and back-to-back walks loaded the bases and brought home the Beavers’ first run since the fourth inning, making it 3-2.
Now back at the top of the order, preseason All-American Nick Madrigal, brother to SMC’s Ty Madrigal, drove a 3-1 pitch back up the middle to score two runs and give Oregon State the lead for good. Steven Kwan followed with another single, but Brett Rasso threw out Andy Atwood at home plate to end the inning. The damage had been done, however, after six straight Beavers reached safely, five after two outs had been recorded.
“We’ve got the best team in the land here and I felt we outplayed them all the way through,” said Saint Mary’s head coach Eric Valenzuela. “The ninth inning, like I told the team, Kevin Milam has been picking us up all year long and he gives his heart and soul. We’ve used him so much that I need to do a better job of managing him better, that way he’s more fresh.”
Saint Mary’s wasn’t without its own opportunities Tuesday. The Gaels stranded 10 runners in the game, seven in scoring position. They left at least one runner on base in seven of nine innings.
Oregon State scored all four of its runs during the game with two outs. They tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the fourth with a two-out RBI single from Michael Gretler. The Beavers were 3 for 7 (.429) with runners in scoring position. The Gaels went 2 for 11 (.182).
Saint Mary’s took the lead in the second inning on an opposite-field solo home run from Milam. The Gaels answered OSU’s tying run in the top of the fourth with two of their own in the bottom half. A sacrifice fly from Charles Zaloumis and a two-out RBI single from Joey Fiske gave SMC a 3-1 lead.
SMC starter Conner Loeprich went five innings with just one run allowed on four scattered hits. He did not allow a hit until the third while setting a new career high with four strikeouts. Madrigal relieved him with three straight shutout frames from the sixth to the eighth, logging five Ks along the way. He didn’t surrender a run until the top of the ninth when he walked leadoff hitter Trevor Larnach, who later scored the Beavers’ first run of their game-winning rally.
Saint Mary’s next travels to BYU for its first road West Coast Conference series of the year. The series begins on Thursday and runs through Saturday. All three games will be televised on BYU.tv.
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