A home run weekend for OSU

A walk-off homer to beat No. 11 Oklahoma headlines another strong weekend for the Beaver softball squad in California

Three weeks into the season and there are no signs of stopping for the Oregon State softball team.

The Beavers went 4-1 this weekend at the Mary Nutter Classic in Cathedral City, Calif. to reach a 14-2 record on the season, highlighted by a dramatic victory Thursday over No. 11 Oklahoma.

Down 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh and final inning to the Sooners, junior third baseman Madison Anthony lined a three-run home run to left field to give the Beavers a walk-off 6-4 win. All six of OSU’s runs in the game were against Oklahoma’s star pitcher Paige Parker, who earned National Freshman of the Year honors last season.

OSU then beat Northwestern and lost to Loyola Marymount on Friday before sweeping Bethune Cookman and New Mexico State on Saturday. Freshman pitcher Meehra Nelson (9-1, 1.50 earned run average) and senior Bev Miller (5-1, 2.31 ERA) have been in the circle for 101 2/3 of the 103 innings this season, allowing just a .172 batting average.

Offensively, the Beavers are batting .397 on the year. The school record, set last season, is .298. Eight of the Beavers’ nine players with the most at bats are batting .347 or above, led by a .517 average from sophomore shortstop McKenna Arriola.

Junior first baseman Natalie Hampton came into Saturday’s action as the only player in the nation with more than 20 runs batted in. She had 25 then and added four more on the day. She already owns OSU’s single-season record for RBIs with 50 from her freshman year and she’s on pace for 92 this season.

As a team, the Beavers have hit for power this season with a .594 slugging percentage. The team set a program record last year, recording a .462 slugging percentage. In the Oklahoma win, for example, all eight the Beavers’ hits went for extra bases, including five of the season’s 39 doubles. Opponents have only 12 doubles against OSU this year.

With an 8-0 shutout over No. 18 Kentucky earlier in the season, OSU is 2-0 against top-25 teams. The Beavers received votes in the most recent poll but finished outside the top 25. At 14-2 currently with 11 nonconference games remaining, OSU has a prime opportunity to improve on last year’s 20 wins outside of the Pac-12.

A winning overall record at the end of the difficult Pac-12 schedule would likely push OSU to its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2013; the Beavers narrowly missed out last year with a 26-26 mark and 6-18 in conference. If OSU can surpass 20 wins in nonconference games this year, even a tumultuous Pac-12 slate may not keep the Beavers out of the postseason. Either way, OSU has already shown it can play up to tough competition, especially with the Oklahoma and Kentucky victories.

OSU will have more opportunities to prove that trend this weekend, when the Beavers will play No. 2 Michigan, No. 20 Fresno State, No. 24 Baylor, Wisconsin and North Carolina in the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif. OSU head coach Laura Berg was a four-time First Team All-American outfielder at Fresno State from 1994-1998.