LSU Tigers

The Beavers' control of the strike zone has been amazing

The Beavers' control of the strike zone has been amazing

Oregon State doesn't have the most experienced team in the College World Series. Certainly it didn't have the most draft picks in the recent June free agent draft.

But it owns the corners of the plate on offense and defense and that's been a major key to its success.

Beaver hitters are among the most disciplined I've ever seen at anything below the major-league level. They don't chase bad pitches. They are not afraid to hit with two strikes on them. They work counts and run up pitch counts to a degree that is wrecking pitching staffs.

Monday night against LSU, the Beavers were struggling against reliever Caleb Gilbert in the third and fourth inning. Gilbert struck out four of the first six hitters he faced. But then the Beavers dug in and started doing what they do best on offense -- grinding out at bats, fouling pitches off, taking close pitches off the plate and extending at bats and innings.

Gilbert managed to last two and two-thirds innings but needed 68 pitches to do it. He allowed a couple of unearned runs -- but as we've seen with the Beavers, if you make an error or mental mistake against them, they'll usually make you pay for it. A good part of that is their patience at the plate. And that's something so difficult to teach or coach. You can't just tell players to swing at only good pitches. That kind of discipline comes through countless hours of work -- learning the strike zone, learning the pitches you can hit and the ones you can't and simply being willing to sacrifice yourself at certain times to be willing to take more pitches than you might wish.

LSU used seven pitchers to get through the final seven innings of the game and they combined to throw a whopping 173 pitches -- yes, in seven innings! That kind of workload destroys pitching staffs. We saw OSU do the same thing to Cal-Fullerton in the first game of the CWS and to Vanderbilt in the Super Regionals -- where the Beavers broke first-round draft pick Kyle Wright's resolve with their patience.

Meanwhile, Oregon State starter Bryce Fehmel was creating another masterpiece on the mound. He used only 108 pitches through eight innings, walked three and allowed a paltry two hits. Fehmel is an artist at working the corners and changing speeds, throwing off hitters' timing and messing with their minds. He made it look easy and it wasn't. The Tigers have a terrific offensive team, loaded with speed and power, and Fehmel had them eating out of his right hand.

It was yet another spectacular game for the Beavers, who continue to pile them up. Now, with three days of rest, pitching coach Nate Yeskie will have all his arms rested and ready to go for a game Friday that could vault OSU into the best-of-three championship round. He can choose between Jake Thompson or Drew Rasmussen as his starter and has a bullpen so fresh that many of the best have yet to throw a pitch in the CWS.

And as long as the Beavers continue to control the strike zone, they're going to be a tough team to beat.

College World Series: Beavers the favorites, but the road isn't easy

College World Series: Beavers the favorites, but the road isn't easy

Pac-12 Championship. Check.

No.1 overall national seed. Check .

Advance through the Regionals. Check.

Sweep the Super Regionals, punch ticket to Omaha. Check.

Win the College World Series. To be determined.

The Oregon State Beavers (54-4) arrive in Omaha this week riding a 21-game win streak, and as heavy favorites to win the College World Series (CWS) Championship. Joining them in Nebraska will be Florida, LSU, Cal State Fullerton, Florida State, Louisville, Texas A&M, and TCU.

-- A full schedule can be found here --

The Beavers’ road to another title starts on Saturday when they take on Cal State Fullerton (39-22).  In six postseason games the Titans have outscored their opponents 35-9, and have allowed just one run over their last 25 innings. The Titans have one of the better pitching staffs in the country with a 3.57 ERA, the 23rd best in the nation. However, it pales in comparison to the incredible numbers Oregon State has put up. The Beavers lead the nation with an amazing 1.80 ERA. That’s nearly two runs better than Fullerton’s, and a full run better than Louisville’s 2.85, which is the third best in the country.

It still remains to be seen if Oregon State’s Luke Heimlich will pitch in the CWS. Heimlich holds the best ERA of any pitcher in the nation, at 0.76, but is dealing with off-the-field issues stemming from a sexual molestation charge prior to his arrival at Oregon State.

With or without Heimlich, the Oregon State pitching staff is a force to be reckoned with. Fellow starting pitcher Jake Thompson has the nation’s fifth best ERA at 1.58, and Bryce Fehmel showed he can be leaned on in Omaha after a great spot start against Vanderbilt; a complete game victory where he allowed just one earned run on five hits.

As Eric Sorenson of D1Baseball.com pointed out on Monday’s edition of Talkin’ Ball, this early matchup with the Titans holds a lot of intrigue. These are two teams that could match up in the finals if they were in opposite brackets. So right out of the gate Oregon State will be tested. 

As noted above, Oregon State by far has the better pitching staff, and as Sorenson notes, they also are the better hitting team. All things on paper point to Oregon State getting past Fullerton, but as we all know, games aren’t played on paper, they are played on a diamond.

Depending on if they win or lose, Oregon State will play either LSU (48-17) or Florida State (45-21).

LSU is riding an Oregon State-esque hot streak. The Tigers have won 16 games in a row, outscoring opponents 136-45 in that stretch, and overall has won 21 of its last 23. LSU reminds you a lot of this Beavers squad: Great pitching (3.53 team ERA), great hitting (2.94 team batting average), and lots of grit. Could the Tigers be the ones to take out OSU?

Facing off againt LSU: The Florida State Seminoles. Florida State falls in line with many of the teams heading to Omaha in that they got their on the backs of their pitching staff. Returning to the CWS for the first time since 2012, the Seminoles have the 36th best ERA in the nation at 3.72. The team has allowed 18 runs this postseason, with their starters allowing just nine runs in 48 innings pitched. Strong pitching is definitely a theme this year in Omaha.

On the other side of the CWS bracket are Florida (47-18), Louisville (52-10), Texas A&M (41-21), and TCU (47-16).

Florida returns to Omaha for the third season in a row, but is still looking for that elusive championship.  Could this be the year for the Gators? Florida leads the nation in one run victories, with 18, and has already played three extra inning games this postseason. The Gators have a flair for the dramatic and like to keep things interesting to say the least.  Their team 3.22 ERA, the 22nd best in the country, helps them out, but they will need a little more from their offense for the Gators fan base to breath a little.

Their first opponent, TCU, has quickly become one of the best programs in the nation. The Horned Frogs are appearing in their fourth straight College Worlds Series, and fifth in program history. Their pitching staff has the worst ERA of any team in the CWS (3.99), but their .272 team batting average is one of the best in the CWS. Their solid hitters should make for some good matchups with the better pitching staffs in Omaha.

Moving on, we have Texas A&M. The Aggies return to the CWS for the first time since 2011, and behind some solid arms could make it all the way. A&M has the 15th best ERA in the nation at 3.42, and starting pitcher Brigham Hill has been a stud this postseason. The Aggies have a good baseball team, however, their first game is against a very tough Louisville team. It will be a great chance to see if A&M will sink or swim.

Speaking of Louisville, the Cardinals, like Oregon State, are heavy favorites to get through their bracket and play in the championship. Much like the Beavers, the Cardinals are extremely balanced both in the batter's box and on the mound. They have the third best ERA in the country (2.85), and the 67th best batting average (.289). The 67th best average may not sound like much, but that is the third best average of the eight teams in the CWS.

Louisville vs. Oregon State in the CWS championship seems like a good bet. Not only would it be the matchup we all want to see, it would make for some of the best baseball games you can imagine. But this is Omaha. This is the College World Series. You never know what will happen at TD Ameritrade Park.

--Schedule update per the press release from the NCAA--

 “The first game this Saturday is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. CT, and will feature Cal State Fullerton (39-22) against No. 1 national seed Oregon State (54-4). Saturday’s second game features No. 4 national seed LSU (48-17) against Florida State (45-21), and is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. CT.

The Sunday doubleheader features the No. 7 national seed Louisville (52-10) vs. Texas A&M (41-21) at 1 p.m. CT. In the evening game starting at 6 p.m. CT, No. 6 national seed TCU (47-16) will be squaring off against No. 3 national seed Florida (47-18).

The losers of Saturday’s two games will play at 1 p.m. CT Monday, June 19. While Saturday’s winners face off at 6 p.m. CT Monday, June 19.

The losers of Sunday’s games will play each other at 1 p.m. CT Tuesday, June 20. Sunday’s winners will meet Tuesday, June 20 at 6 p.m. CT. The winners of the two brackets will play a best-of-three College World Series Finals, with the first game set for 6 p.m. CT Monday, June 26. The second game is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT Tuesday, June 27, while the third and deciding game (if necessary) is slated for 7 p.m. CT Wednesday, June 28.”

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