Oregon State baseball suffers blowout loss to Kentucky in Game 1 of Lexington Super Regional

The Oregon State Beavers arrived in Lexington this week with hopes of making a statement in their biggest series of the season thus far.

Instead, they fell flat and are now facing an uphill battle to keep their season alive.

Kentucky trounced Oregon State, 10-0, to kick off the Lexington Super Regional at Kentucky Proud Park on Saturday. The Beavers managed just one hit, and their bullpen imploded during a disastrous seventh inning.

OSU will look to bounce back during Sunday's elimination game with Jacob Kmatz on the mound.

Until then, here are three takeaways from Oregon State's shaky super regional showing.

Oregon State Beavers infielder Travis Bazzana (37) reacts to a strike during the third inning against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kentucky Proud Park June 8, 2024, in Lexington, Kentucky.
Oregon State Beavers infielder Travis Bazzana (37) reacts to a strike during the third inning against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kentucky Proud Park June 8, 2024, in Lexington, Kentucky.

Oregon State's bullpen struggles

Coming into the weekend, Mitch Canham and the Beavers were well aware of the challenges that Kentucky would present. The Wildcats are one of the best small-ball teams in the country. They are aggressive on the base paths, are fundamentally sound, and feature a deep, well-rounded lineup.

Once Kentucky ratcheted up the pressure in the middle innings, though, the Beavers had no answer.

Oregon State starter Aiden May didn't necessarily have his best stuff for much of Saturday's outing, but he trudged through five difficult innings and held the Wildcats to three runs during that time. May allowed a pair of hard-hit singles to open the sixth, and pitching coach Rich Dorman quickly turned to veteran reliever Joey Mundt. The fifth-year senior deftly worked his way out of the jam to hold Kentucky scoreless.

Oregon State Beavers infielder Jabin Trosky (2) hands the ball to pitcher Aiden May (24) during the third inning against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kentucky Proud Park June 8, 2024, in Lexington, Kentucky.
Oregon State Beavers infielder Jabin Trosky (2) hands the ball to pitcher Aiden May (24) during the third inning against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kentucky Proud Park June 8, 2024, in Lexington, Kentucky.

From there, though, the wheels fell off.

Mundt issued a leadoff walk, and then a single to begin the seventh. He struck out Kentucky cleanup hitter Nick Lopez to get the first out, and Dorman then turned to side-winding right-hander A.J. Hutcheson.

The sophomore failed to record an out.

Hutcheson's inability to find the strike zone, a flurry of Oregon State defensive mishaps, and a savvy approach from Kentucky's hitters led to four Wildcat runs over the next 15 pitches. Noah Ferguson replaced Hutcheson and didn't fare any better; he walked two batters, threw three wild pitches, and also failed to record an out.

At long last, Laif Palmer came on and recorded two quick outs to escape the inning. But the damage was already done at that point as Oregon State found itself in a 10-0 hole.

"I'm not very happy with my performance," May said during Oregon State's postgame press conference. "I think I made a lot of dumb mistake pitches and they capitalized. They're a good team and I shouldn't have made some of the pitches that I did. I wanted to stay in that ballgame, but it is what it is, and I think we're going to bounce back tomorrow.

"I have a lot of faith in our pitching staff, and just one of those games, I guess."

A meeting at the pitcher’s mound with Oregon State Beavers pitcher Aiden May (24) during the sixth inning against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kentucky Proud Park June 8, 2024, in Lexington, Kentucky.
A meeting at the pitcher’s mound with Oregon State Beavers pitcher Aiden May (24) during the sixth inning against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kentucky Proud Park June 8, 2024, in Lexington, Kentucky.

Oregon State's 'what if?' moment

Although Saturday's opener ended in blowout fashion, it isn't difficult to imagine a scenario where the game might have unfolded in a vastly different fashion.

In the top of the seventh, with Kentucky leading 3-0, the Beavers had a runner at first base with two outs and star second baseman Travis Bazzana at the plate. The Pac-12 player of the year scorched an 0-1 fastball to left field for what would have been an RBI double.

But Kentucky left-fielder Ryan Waldschmidt made an incredible leaping catch at the warning track to rob Bazzana and end the inning. With Oregon State standout senior Micah McDowell on deck, and sophomore slugger Gavin Turley in the hole, the Beavers had a chance to string together a rally and capture some much-needed momentum.

Instead, they ended the top of the seventh with nothing to show and then watched their bullpen crumble in the bottom half of the inning.

A ball bounces over Oregon State Beavers infielder Dallas Macias (4) in the outfield during the eighth inning against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kentucky Proud Park June 8, 2024, in Lexington, Kentucky.
A ball bounces over Oregon State Beavers infielder Dallas Macias (4) in the outfield during the eighth inning against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kentucky Proud Park June 8, 2024, in Lexington, Kentucky.

Bazzana's loud out was one of the few instances all evening where the Beavers hit Kentucky starter Trey Pooser hard. The senior right-hander kept OSU handcuffed with a three-pitch mix and struck out eight during 7.0 innings of work.

"(Pooser) throws quality strikes," Canham said. "He doesn't really dabble around. He still walked a handful of guys, which allowed us to get in those situations. But when runners are in scoring position or we had guys on base, they were able to minimize. We didn't get a bunt down at one point, then we end up walking the bases loaded with one out, unable to draw any across."

Oregon State Beavers pitcher Aiden May (24) throws a pitch during the second inning against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kentucky Proud Park June 8, 2024, in Lexington, Kentucky.
Oregon State Beavers pitcher Aiden May (24) throws a pitch during the second inning against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kentucky Proud Park June 8, 2024, in Lexington, Kentucky.

What now for Oregon State?

The Beavers will be in win-or-go-home mode when they take the field on Sunday at 6 p.m. PT (ESPNU).

Although they hardly could have imagined a worse start to the super regional, they'll have plenty of reason for optimism over the next 24 hours. Jacob Kmatz, a veteran, all-conference right-hander who has pitched in his fair share of big games, will get the starting nod. Oregon State's two top relief pitchers, Nelson Keljo and Bridger Holmes, will be fully rested as they did not pitch on Saturday.

In terms of lineup construction, Canham will have plenty of options at his disposal. The Beavers' skipper opted for a defense-first approach in the opener; he started slick-fielding sophomore Jabin Trosky at third and Tanner Smith at catcher. If he's looking for more pop at the bottom of the batting order, Canham could potentially insert Trent Caraway or Wilson Weber into the starting lineup. Both made late-inning cameos on Saturday.

Ultimately, Oregon State is going to have to find a way to bounce back quickly if it hopes to keep its College World Series hopes alive.

"We've been responding all year," May said. "We've gone through some rough patches and we found a way to respond. Like I said earlier, what choice do we have? We don't want this to be the last game of the season tomorrow. So we're going to go out and we are going to punch back and do everything we can to win the ballgame."

Oregon State Beavers infielder Trent Caraway (44) celebrates after being walked during the seventh inning against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kentucky Proud Park June 8, 2024, in Lexington, Kentucky.
Oregon State Beavers infielder Trent Caraway (44) celebrates after being walked during the seventh inning against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kentucky Proud Park June 8, 2024, in Lexington, Kentucky.

Jarrid Denney covers high school sports and Oregon State for the Statesman Journal. He can be reached at JDenney@salem.gannett.com or on X @jarrid_denney

This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: OSU baseball suffers blowout loss to Kentucky in Lexington Super Regional

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