Oregon State baseball outlasts ejections, delays, cold hitting in comeback win over North Dakota State

Oregon State vs. Auburn, Game 1

Oregon State and second baseman Travis Bazzana beat the North Dakota State Bison 6-5 Friday in a wild college baseball game at Goss Stadium in Corvallis.Leon Neuschwander for The Oregonian/OregonLive

CORVALLIS — Had someone made their way inside Goss Stadium Friday morning, they would have stumbled upon a stunning sight:

A baseball field covered in snow.

And things only grew weirder from there.

The Oregon State baseball team rallied for a 6-5 victory over the North Dakota State Bison Friday night, overcoming the elements, an out-of-sorts offense and a wild and wacky series of events in Corvallis.

“It was weird,” Travis Bazzana said. “Just weird, like, things were just happening. And then it just comes down to fight, really, and being able to kind of separate the weird stuff that’s happening and just go up and have a good at-bat or make a play or throw strikes. It’s just kind of putting that stuff behind and going and locking in.”

The snow cleared hours before the first pitch, but the wackiness was just starting.

The game featured two strange, long delays, two ejections and a winning team that was out-hit 10-4. The home plate umpire had to leave because of an injury. So, too, did a player from each team. And it all happened under a steady rainfall, with a biting wind, as temperatures dipped into the 30s.

“It was,” OSU coach Mitch Canham said, “a weird one.”

The first sign the game would be different came at 4:44 p.m., in the bottom of the third inning, when power at Goss surged, the stadium lights flickered and then cut out. It sparked a 17-minute delay.

Two innings later, the Bison (2-7) seized control, touching up reliever Nelson Keljo for three runs on four hits.

Cadyn Schwabe led off with a single through the right side and James Dunlap followed with a towering home run over the left field bullpen, giving North Dakota State a surprising 4-0 lead. And the Bison weren’t finished. The next batter, Colten Becker, ripped a triple to left-center field and Jack Steil followed with an RBI single to left, pushing the lead to 5-0.

Worst of all for sixth-ranked Oregon State (9-1), it’s fearsome lineup — which entered the game averaging 10.4 runs and 11.0 hits — had managed one measly hit heading into the fifth inning, as crafty left-hander Nolan Johnson befuddled the Beavers with a nasty changeup.

The Beavers finally broke the drought in the fifth, however, when Tanner Smith ripped a two-out double to left and Johnson inexplicably lost his touch, walking three consecutive batters. When Canon Reeder drew an eight-pitch walk with the bases loaded, the Beavers had their first run of the game. The Bison escaped further damage after Mason Guerra grounded out to first to end the inning, but they lost more than just a run from their five-run lead — they also lost a coach and a catcher.

Home plate umpire Matt McMahon ejected assistant coach Trent Keefer and starting catcher Will Busch for complaining during the walkathon.

By the seventh inning, the game added a new layer of absurd. Oregon State designated hitter Jacob Krieg was plunked to lead off the inning — the fourth time he has been hit by a pitch in the series — and Elijah Hainline walked on five pitches to put OSU runners on first and second with no outs. That sent Bazzana, one of college baseball’s best hitters, to the plate. And, suddenly, in a game it had managed just two hits, Oregon State was threatening.

But on the fourth pitch of the at-bat, Bison reliever Skyler Riedinger fired a fastball short of the plate and the ball skipped awkwardly past the catcher, slamming into the McMahon’s right hand. He shouted in pain, waved his hand repeatedly and, after trying to gather himself, called it a night. The teams retreated into their respective clubhouses for the second time in four innings and the umpires went to their locker room, where third base umpire Jake Uhlenhopp donned pads to finish the game behind the plate.

The delay lasted 23 minutes.

All the while, Bazzana faced a 2-2 count with runners in scoring position.

The Golden Spikes Award candidate initially took a few swings to stay warm. But as the delay dragged on, Bazzana sat down to decompress, turning his focus to the clubhouse television, which was airing a game between Arizona State and Texas A&M. The vibe was loose, Bazzana said, as everyone joked and tried to pass the time, even though every five minutes he asked: “Hey, is the umpire coming back? When are we starting?”

Bazzana ultimately shifted his focus to his at-bat and contemplated what pitch he might face whenever the game resumed. Riedinger had tossed four consecutive fast balls in the at-bat. Might he mix things up with a slider next?

“I was like, I guess I might see a slider,” Bazzana said. “I was kind of just preparing for the (at-bat) and just staying relaxed not letting the situation be big.”

Bazzana, it turns out, was prophetic. When play finally resumed, Riedinger tried to beat the Beavers’ leadoff hitter with a “slurvy slider” and Bazzana made him pay, blasting the pitch into the right field bleachers to trim Oregon State’s deficit to 5-4. He screamed and punched the air multiple times as he left the batter’s box, roared again as he approached home plate and erupted in emotion as he was mobbed by teammates outside the home dugout.

“That felt like a big moment to me,” said Bazzana, who has six homers and 14 RBIs this season. “So I just let it out.”

Oregon State finally completed the comeback later in the inning. After a walk and a North Dakota State error loaded the bases again, Gavin Turley drew a full-count walk to tie the game 5-5. Then, two batters later, Krieg hit a slow roller to shortstop, which Jake Schaffner booted, sending Guerra home with the go-ahead run.

The game had been flipped with four walks, a hit batter, two errors — and one monster Bazzana blast.

OSU reliever Bridger Holmes took over from there, facing the minimum over the final two innings to improve to 2-0 this season. The sidewinder hit the first two batters he faced in the seventh, but closed strong, striking out four during a hitless 2 1/3 innings.

And a weird night ended in a completely normal manner — with an Oregon State victory.

“We’d like to swing it,” Bazzana said. “We expect to score a lot of runs and it can be a funky feeling when you’re not putting up runs. It’s cool to fight and win a close ballgame … but we expect more than that from our offense, especially against a Saturday guy that’s not blowing the doors off. But it happens. We can’t score 10 (runs) every game.”

Next up: The Beavers and Bison continue their four-game series Saturday at 1:05 p.m. at Goss Stadium.

Joe Freeman | jfreeman@oregonian.com | 503-294-5183 | @BlazerFreeman | Subscribe to The Oregonian/OregonLive newsletters and podcasts for the latest news and top stories.

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