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.