Oregon State Strong Pitching Too Much For Sun Devil Baseball In 4-1 Defeat

March 25, 2001

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Senior left-handed starting pitcher Scott Nicholson threw his fourth complete game of the year and improved to 5-1 with a stellar six-hit, one-run performance leading the Oregon State Beavers to a 4-1 Pac-10 victory over the No. 3/5 Arizona State Sun Devils on a cold and wet Sunday afternoon at Goss Stadium at Coleman Field.

The win evened the Beavers Pac-10 record 1-1 after dropping the series opener 10-2 Saturday vs. the Sun Devils. OSU is now 17-10 on the year, having won six of its last seven games. Arizona State fell to 3-2 in Pac-10 play and is now 20-6-1 on the year. The Sun Devils and Beavers will conclude the three-game conference set Monday with the rubber game of the series at 1 p.m. in Corvallis.

'We pitched every bit as well as they did today and Esposito was once again great out there. They just got the hits when they counted and were clutch,' said ASU head coach Pat Murphy after the loss. 'You have to give a lot of credit to Oregon State for putting themselves in position to win the game. We made some mistakes out there that proved to be costly and that is just the way baseball is sometimes.'

Nicholson, a senior from Longview, Wash., and a 15th round draft choice of the Texas Rangers last June, was phenomenal in his eighth start of the year, striking out four. He went the distance for the ninth time in his career and continued his dominance vs. the Sun Devils in his brief two-year career. Nicholson (5-1) allowed only one earned run in seven innings last year in picking up OSU's only win over ASU in 2000. Five of ASU's six losses this year have come when a left-handed pitcher starts on the mound for the opposing team.

Nicholson cruised through the first four innings, having his no-hit bid erased in the top of the fourth when Sun Devil junior center fielder Chris Duffy extended his hitting streak to 17 games with a bloop single to left field. Duffy was stranded at third base when junior second baseman Brooks Conrad grounded out sharply to shortstop to keep the game deadlocked at 0-0. ASU starter Mike Esposito (Las Vegas) was likewise in cruise control, keeping the Beaver bats in check through the first four innings, allowing only one hit and striking out six.

The Sun Devils finally got to Nicholson by manufacturing a run in the top of the fifth to take the 1-0 lead. Freshman designated hitter Rod Allen led off the inning with a hit by pitch. He advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by senior Mike Lopez and later came around to score on a single that pasted the right field foul line by sophomore shortstop Dennis Wyrick to break the 0-0 tie. But that was all that Nicholson would allow on the afternoon.

After relinquishing the lead in the top of the inning, the Beavers fought back with two runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a 2-1 lead. Brian Barden tabbed his second hit of the game to lead off the inning and then a walk to pinch-hitter Pat Stevens chased Esposito from the game. Freshman pinch-hitter Seth Pietsch then came up with a clutch single through the left side to tie the game at 1-1. With two outs and ASU ace reliever Drew Friedberg on the mound, leadoff hitter Eric Stark delivered a single up the middle to give OSU the 2-1 lead.

The Beavers added to their lead with two more unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth. A two-out error by Lopez at third base opened the flood gates, allowing the Beavers to extend the inning. After a single through the left side by catcher Bryan Ingram, second baseman Stephen Copeland delivered OSU's third clutch hit of the game with a single up the middle to plate two runs, giving the Beavers a 4-1 lead. All four of the Beavers' runs in the game came with two outs.

Despite having the two runs credited to him, Esposito was once again stellar in the starting role. Only three starts back from Tommy John surgery (March 2000), the hard-throwing right-hander allowed two hits and two runs in 4.1 innings while striking out six. The loss was the first of his college career. Friedberg was touched for two runs, both unearned, and struck out five in just 2.2 innings of work. He lowered his season ERA to an impressive 0.74 with his outing.

ASU mounted a potential rally in the top of the ninth, bringing the tying run to the plate in Sun Devil home run leader Jeremy West. With runners on first and second, West lined into a double play to shortstop, catching Conrad off second base to record the double play. Wyrick flew out to right field to seal the complete-game victory for Nicholson.

Offensively, Wyrick was 2-for-4 to raise his season batting average to .412. Senior All-American catcher Casey Myers broke out of a 0-for-12 slump with a 2-for-3 game. The Sun Devils were limited to a season-low six hits. The Beavers were led by Barden's two hits (both off Esposito) and the three clutch hits that delivered the game-winning runs.

The Sun Devils have now scored in 344 consecutive games, now just six short of breaking the all-time NCAA record of 349 games set by Coastal Carolina. ASU is on pace to break the record the same day they started the streak, April 7, against the same USC Trojans. Including today, ASU has scored only one run during that streak six times, including the last two coming against Oregon State.

Oregon State 4, Arizona State 1 (Mar 25, 2001 at Corvallis, Ore.)----------------------------------------------------------------------Arizona State....... 000 010 000  -  1  6  2      (20-6-1, 3-2 PAC-10)Oregon State........ 000 022 00X  -  4  7  0      (17-10, 1-1 PAC-10)----------------------------------------------------------------------Pitchers: Arizona State - Esposito, Friedberg(5), Klusman(8). Oregon State - Nicholson.Win-Nicholson(5-1)  Loss-Esposito(1-1)  T-2:45  A-419Game notes:Game delayed at start 35 minutes due to rainy conditions in Corvallis.Duffy's hitting streak extended to 17 games in fourth inning.ASU has now scored in 344 straight games, five away from NCAA record of 349.

--Sun Devil Baseball--

Copy By Jeff R. Evans
ASU Media Relations

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