In theory, the difference between one and two is exactly the same as that between two and three.
In practice, though, the difference was enormous Friday, at least as it applied to Oregon State’s efforts to get the third. Vanderbilt scored all but one of its runs with two outs as it rolled to an 11-1 victory before 3,349 Hawkins Field in the opener of the best-of-three NCAA super regional.
“It kind of felt like every inning was a replay,” OSU catcher Andrew Susac said. “We’d get two quick outs and then the merry-go-round kind of went.”
The Commodores equaled their highest run total and matched their largest margin of victory in NCAA tournament history. In so doing, they ran their win streak in this year’s event to four games and have outscored the opposition by a combined 37-4.
Now it is Vanderbilt (51-10) that needs just one — victory, that is — in order to reach the College World Series for the first time.
“With two outs, all you’re trying to do is put the ball in play,” right fielder Mike Yastrzemski said. “So when you see a good pitch to hit, all you have to do is be aggressive. That’s what everyone did. We’ve been doing that a lot this year. It’s a key to our consistency and that’s how we’ve been scoring a lot of our runs.”
The problems started early for Oregon State (41-18), which yielded a pair of two-out walks in the first. That opened the door to a four-run inning, which began with Yastzemsi’s RBI single.
The Beavers’ starting pitcher, Sam Gaviligio, lasted just 5.1 innings, during which he gave up nine hits and walked six. Four of the hits and all but one of the walks came with two outs. VU’s first run and the game-winner came from runners who reached on two-out walks.
“They played very, very well. They’re very talented and you can’t give them extra outs,” Oregon State coach Pat Casey said. “Two-out walks will hurt you in Little League, they’ll hurt you in high school and they’ll really hurt you in college.
“Sam doesn’t walk a lot of people. Why he missed with two guys in a row in the first inning … .”
Yastrzemski broke open the contest with a three-run, two-out home run in the fourth that made it 8-0. He finished the night 2-for-4 with two runs scored and four RBIs.
Jason Esposito drove in three runs — all with two outs — including a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth and also scored two.
The lone exception to the two-out run tally was when Curt Casali drove in Tony Kemp with a one-out groundout. Yastrzemski followed that with his home run on the very next pitch.
“We just try to pick each other up,” Esposito said. “… I just think we have each other’s back.”
The third-out conundrum has, in fact, plagued Vanderbilt opponents all season.
Coming into the game, the Commodores had outscored their opponents by 82 runs with two-outs — an average of 1.4 per game. Their 135 two-out runs account for 31.8 percent of their total and are not far off the total number of runs they have allowed overall (171).
They average slightly more than two two-out runs per game, which accounts for basically half of their average margin of victory.
“They just try to keep the line going,” coach Tim Corbin said. “They understand that just because you have two outs doesn’t mean that you can't score in an inning; they’re talented enough that if you do get a runner on base, you can move guys along.
“It has been a trend throughout the year. It has been a good trend. Two-out hitting sometimes is difficult, but these guys don’t seem to make it difficult. … We’ve been very fortunate to have that kind of output this year.”