CORVALLIS -- When Oregon State baseball coach Pat Casey talks about his team, it's usually in the old-school manner of the sport. He talks about his "club." Which, of course, is short for his "ball club."
Remember, this is a sport where players don't dress in a locker room. They dress -- and hang out -- in their clubhouse.
And make no mistake, what Casey has created at Oregon State really is a club. A very exclusive one, at that. It's obviously a fraternity of players who are close and dedicated to one another and to a common goal.
I believe, in all honesty, OSU baseball is the most astounding ongoing story I've witnessed in my decades of living and working in this state. I once coached college baseball, as an assistant, and know what it's like to try to get a team ready without benefit of dependable weather. Of trying to recruit players from outside Oregon to come play their most important amateur seasons in this climate. And I know how difficult it is to overcome those teams with the preparation and recruiting advantages of the sun-belt states.
I have also known Casey since he was a very good freshman basketball player at the University of Portland. And -- bias admitted -- he once recruited my son, Will, to come play for him at his previous job, George Fox College. He is a special person and special coach.
After watching on TV as the Beavers pounded out an 8-1 win over Minnesota Friday night in Game 1 of their super-regional matchup, I just had to be in Goss Stadium Saturday night. It was too late to request a media credential though and unfair to even ask for one that late. And the game, of course, was sold out. So to the secondary market I went and bought two tickets -- one for my brother -- at a ridiculous price that would most certainly get me booted out of the "if-it's-free-it's-me" media fraternity.
Games, I figured, like this one don't come along very often. And as it turned out, I've never been more correct. It was a magical night.
The Beavers did what the Beavers do. They are an extremely talented group, as befitting the No. 3 national seed, but they are also grinders. They are relentless in their approach at the plate and spectacular with their defense.
But quite honestly, when the Gophers brought freshman All-America reliever Max Meyer into the game, with his 12 saves and 1.70 earned run average, I had to get up from my seat on the third-base line and check him out from behind the plate. My first thought was, "They aren't going to hit this guy." He has a terrific slider and a live fastball. But he was in the game too early and by the time he exited, OSU had worked 80 pitches out of him -- way above his capabilities.
Oregon State scored a run in the eighth to tie the game and three more in the ninth to take a 6-3 lead. The bullpen -- shaky at times during the season but suddenly lights out -- finished Minnesota off with a flurry of strikeouts over the final three innings. Kyle Nobach's two-out, line-drive single to right drove in the tying run and Adley Rutschman's two-out, two-strike liner up the middle drove in the go-ahead runs.
Clutch hitting is not a big deal to this bunch. These guys just hit. From the top of the order to the bottom and from the first inning to the last.
The record crowd of 4,025 in Goss went crazy and the Beavers, after a victory lap to salute the loyalists, were once again on their way to Omaha for the College World Series. Whatever happens after this is a product of talent, emotion, grit and pure luck. Win it or not, I can't help but admire what the Mighty Casey has created in Corvallis.
He is the head man of a very elite and impressive club. And he's been doing it for a long time.