Trevor Larnach was overdue to break out of a mini-slump.
With the bases loaded in the sixth inning of Sunday’s series finale, the Oregon State left-handed slugger entered the batter’s box with just one hit in his last 15 at-bats against Hartford’s crafty pitching. It was the perfect opportunity to get back on track.
Larnach went the other way on a 1-1 offering from reliever Drew Farkas, sending the baseball over the 14-foot fence in left field for a grand slam. The blast gave Grant Gambrell some insurance as the second-ranked Beavers collected a 5-0 victory over the Hawks to sweep the four-game nonconference set at Goss Stadium.
“It felt similar to the ones I had in Arizona, so I wasn’t sure (it would go out) because of the wall and because the ball doesn’t fly as much in Oregon,” said Larnach, who launched two opposite-field homers at Surprise Stadium in February. “But I had a feeling, and I was hoping for the best.”
The one-out drive ended up clearing the wall by a wide margin to put OSU (12-0) up 5-0. It was Larnach’s team-leading fifth homer of the year.
“That ball was a no-doubter,” coach Pat Casey said. “I think he got a little anxious early in the series and maybe swang at some pitches that down (in Arizona) he was taking. When you’re the guy, everybody tries to get you out and they did a good job of pitching to him.”
Gambrell improved to 2-0 after throwing seven shutout innings. The right-hander gave up just four hits and struck out six with one walk.
Last Sunday against Ohio State, Gambrell also tossed seven shutout innings and struck out a career-best 12 in a 6-1 win.
“He locates all three pitches and he has a presence to him on the mound,” Larnach said. “When he keeps that rolling, it really helps our team out a lot. I have all the confidence in the world with him from facing him the past two years. I know he has some pretty big stuff.”
Gambrell, who did plunk two batters in the game, missed Larnach’s blast.
The hard-throwing sophomore was using the restroom as Larnach cleared the bases. When Gambrell returned to the dugout, OSU’s one-run lead had swelled to five.
“I didn’t even get to see it,” Gambrell said of the grand slam. “That was unfortunate. I was like, ‘maybe I should stay in the bathroom and wait for my team to put up some runs every inning.’”
Gambrell said changeup command was the biggest factor in Sunday’s dominant performance. He was also able to locate his fastball and breaking ball for the majority of the afternoon.
The Beavers were spectacular defensively for the third consecutive game as Adley Rutschman, Steven Kwan, Cadyn Grenier, Jack Anderson and Larnach all made highlight plays.
Larnach threw out a Hartford (1-7) baserunner at the plate from right field to end the seventh.
“We play good defense, so we just need guys to throw strikes where they want,” Casey said.
Hartford starter Nathan Florence (0-2) took the loss after giving up four runs (three earned) on four hits with four strikeouts and two walks in 5⅓ innings.
Kwan was 2 for 4 at the plate to lead the OSU attack.
Gambrell wiggled off the hook in the third after Hartford put runners on second and third with one out. The sophomore fanned leadoff batter John Thrasher and got TJ Ward to pop up for out No. 3.
One inning later, the Beavers were gifted their first run when Rutschman drew a one-out walk and later scored on a passed ball. Rutschman alertly swiped second on a wild pitch and a Larnach groundout allowed him to reach third.
Hartford stranded two more runners in the sixth before Larnach broke it open.
The Beavers, who will host Portland for a single game at 5:05 p.m. Tuesday, are off to their best start since winning 15 straight games to open the 2013 season. OSU has won 20 consecutive home games, the longest active streak in the country, and was one of just seven unbeaten teams entering Sunday.