Down nine runs to open the bottom of the ninth, it seemed like the Bruins' trip to Scottsdale was going to be cut short Saturday afternoon.
In a blink, the blue and gold had forced extra innings. Singles, doubles, walks and hit-by-pitches got them within striking distance of the Beavers before an out was even recorded in the frame, and then graduate left fielder Kenny Oyama dashed home on a grounder to first to finally tie things up.
UCLA had to stage another comeback in the 10th inning, but the one-run deficit was nothing compared to the nine-run hole they had to dig out of just minutes earlier.
After tying the score once again on a bases-loaded balk, redshirt sophomore catcher Tommy Beres stayed in the batter's box and launched one deep over the left field wall for a walk-off dinger to close it out. On top of that, Beres' game-winning shot was also the first home run of his career.
No. 3 seed UCLA baseball (37-22, 19-11 Pac-12) stayed alive at the Pac-12 tournament by beating No. 2 seed Oregon State (44-13, 20-10) by a football-esque score of 25-22. The Bruins and Beavers will play again Saturday night to decide which team goes to the Pac-12 Championship Game on Sunday.
Beres wasn't even in the starting lineup, but he finished the game 3-for-4 with a team-high seven RBIs. Oyama led the way with five hits and ranked second with five RBIs, with the game-saving duo ultimately driving in half of their team's runs.
UCLA's No. 2 through 5 hitters did plenty of damage as well, with sophomore second baseman Daylen Reyes, junior right fielder Michael Curialle, freshman shortstop Ethan Gourson and sophomore third baseman Kyle Karros combining to go 15-for-24 with seven RBIs. All four players from the meat of the Bruins' lineup scored in the pivotal ninth inning, coming through when failing to do so would have marked an end to their pursuit of a conference title.
The fact that the Bruins even forced extras – down their top five starting pitchers and two freshman phenoms in the lineup – was the cherry on top of one of the weirdest back-and-forth contests in recent memory, as the six-hour showdown featured 47 runs, 53 hits and 527 combined pitches.
It wasn’t as if UCLA’s arms had been shutdown through the first few rounds of the tournament – they allowed eight and seven runs in their two wins Thursday and Friday. Things went from bad to worse against the Beavers, though, even if their opponent used nine pitchers and the offensive onslaught was enough to make up for it.
Oregon State started things off with a two-run home run in the first inning off of freshman right-hander James Hepp, who entered the game with a 9.00 ERA in 4.0 innings pitched on the season. Hepp settled down and pitched a scoreless second, but was replaced by junior left-hander Josh Hahn.
Hahn didn't pitch a single inning until the start of May, and he also ended the regular season with a 9.00 ERA in 4.0 innings. The two-way player only got two outs before getting pulled in favor of junior left-hander Jake Saum, who came in with the bases loaded and immediately gave up a three-RBI double.
Saum allowed another bases-clearing, three-RBI double in the fourth, and senior left-hander Daniel Colwell didn't fare any better in the fifth. Three singles, two doubles and a homer made it a five-spot for the Beavers, seeming to knock the Bruins out in the process by stretching the gap to 14-8.
That didn't stop Oregon State from keeping its foot on the gas, as they tacked on another three in the sixth off of redshirt freshman right-hander Chris Aldrich. Coach John Savage let Aldrich stay on the mound for the seventh, when he recovered with a bounce-back scoreless frame, and he almost made it through the eighth unscathed as well before a two-out, bases loaded single that gave the Beavers two more.
And if that weren't enough, Oregon State scored two more off of freshman right-hander Nate Leibold – who owned a 20.25 ERA in 1.1 innings on the year – in the ninth to climb all the way up to 21 runs.
Only after UCLA forced extra-innings with its nine-run ninth did Savage turn to a staple of his bullpen, freshman right-hander Alonzo Tredwell. Even the typically shutdown closer gave up a run, although it only came to be after an error put the runner on base to begin with.
Of course, the Bruins overcame that 10th-inning RBI single and plenty more of mishaps on the mound, and they'll have a chance to bury the Beavers for good just 45 minutes removed from the conclusion of the unprecedented comeback. UCLA and Oregon State played in Corvallis to cap off the regular season just a week ago, and the Bruins took two out of three in that series.
If UCLA can win a fourth game over Oregon State in five tries, they'll face Stanford for the Pac-12 crown Sunday.