A third national title? OSU is a juggernaut bordering on dynasty

A third national title? OSU is a juggernaut bordering on dynasty

OMAHA – After those back-to-back NCAA baseball championships in 2006 and 2007 I suppose it should have been no surprise when Oregon State captured another one Thursday night.

But come on, how could it not be special?

The job the Beavers have done on a national stage since Pat Casey took over the program has been incredible.

Casey has built a machine, one with a foundation made of equal parts talent, belief, recruiting, facilities, hard work and player development.

This is a full-fledged national power, as close to a dynasty as can be built in today’s college athletics.

And I’ve said it from the start, as somebody who played baseball, coached it and has written about it now for more decades than I care to remember:

I’m still not sure how you convince blue-chip players from places like California, Arizona, Nevada and other sun-belt environs to play college baseball in the often cold and wet Pacific Northwest. And even more difficult, how do you talk blue-chip players from the cold and wet Pacific Northwest into staying here for college baseball instead of fleeing to the sunshine?

It’s crazy – a story nobody would believed a couple of decades ago when players from this region dared not even dream of a trip to Omaha for anything but a visit to the city’s renowned zoo.

Some thoughts on what I saw from the Beavers during the championship finals:

  • Truly great teams win even when bad things happen to them. The Beavers didn’t get the pitching from their Big Two they’ve become accustomed to getting. They won anyway. They got some tough calls and bad breaks, too.
  • A big part of Oregon State's success has been preparation. And that means detailed and accurate scouting reports, from what I've heard. Assistant Coach Pat Bailey has been responsible for a lot of those reports and I do know when I congratulated him after the game, he smiled, shook his head and said, "There was a lot of watching video tape."
  • But when presented with the biggest break of all – a foul popup that could have closed the door on them that dropped untouched amid a Bermuda Triangle of Arkansas players – they took the game and the series away from the Pigs.
  • They found a freshman pitcher who worked miracles for them. Kevin Abel was a mystery much of the season – a freshman with great stuff who was unable to harness it. But the coaching staff and his teammates stuck with him and helped him turn into the surprise story of the tournament.
  • All Abel did was pitch the first nine-inning, two-hit shutout in championship game history. And become the first pitcher to ever win four games at the CWS. And all the while doing it on short rest and in the first nine-inning stint of his life.
  • Abel looked like a baby-faced Greg Maddux against the Razorbacks. He lost his curve ball for a few innings and continued to dominate with just his well-placed fastball and devastating change up. And he even managed to get into a Maddux-like rhythm with the home plate umpire that got him a lot of borderline strike calls.
  • Either that or catcher Adley Rutschman was stealing those strikes with his pitch framing.
  • And don’t forget the man calling that bewildering mix of pitches that kept the high-powered  Arkansas offense off balance all night. OSU pitching coach Nate Yeskie called a brilliant game from the dugout. And that’s a big part of it all.
  • And speaking of Rutschman – and who isn’t? – he owned this World Series from both sides of the plate and from behind it. The switch-hitting catcher had an on-base percentage over .500 and batting average over .400. I have every expectation that we’re going to see that Oregon State battery in the big leagues some day.
  • Trevor Larnach was terrific in the clutch in his quiet, unassuming way. What a stroke this kid has.
  • That keystone combination of Cadyn Grenier and Nick Madrigal was so fun to watch. Smart players with great hands are a necessity in the middle of the infield. I wish them luck in their professional careers and I’m not sure we’ll ever see the likes of a combo like that in Corvallis again.
  • That hamstring injury kept Steven Kwan out of most of the championship round but he was one of the best outfielders and lead-off hitters in the country. That his team won without him is testimony to its depth and resolve.'Veterans Michael Gretler and Jack Anderson were rock solid. Winning teams need solid veterans.

I don’t know what else to say about this bunch other than congratulations. Stories like theirs are the reason I got into this crazy business.

And why I’ve stayed in it.

 

Sights and sounds from Omaha

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USA Today

Sights and sounds from Omaha

The Beavers dominated the Razorbacks in Game 3 of the College World Series to win the school's third baseball title on Thursday night. As usual, Twitter was on fire following the victory, just take a look.

Beavers win College World Series

Beavers win College World Series

For the first time since the school's back-to-back titles in 2006-2007, the Oregon State Beavers are national champions.

 

Oregon State pulled off a miracle on Wednesday to force a decisive Game 3, and all they did in that winner-take-all game was dominate from start to finish.

 

Adley Rutschman got the scoring starting for the Beavers, singling a run home in the bottom of the first inning and Kevin Abel pitched 9-innings of shut-out ball, surrendering just two hits to the Razorbacks.

 

The Beavers would put up four more runs before the game was done, but that single RBI from the catcher known as “Clutchman” was all the Beavers needed. 

 

Final Score: Beavers 5 – Razorbacks 0

 

 

 

Arkansas wins College World Series, except, they didn’t

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USA Today

Arkansas wins College World Series, except, they didn’t

The Arkansas Razorbacks beat the Oregon State Beavers in Game 2 to win the 2018 College World Series… in some alternate universe.

Twitter was on fire on Tuesday night when ESPN changed their webpage to congratulate the Razorbacks. The only problem - the game wasn't over yet.

At the time it was the top of the ninth inning and Arkansas had a 3-2 lead. However, in true Beavers fashion, Cadyn Grenier would hit a single to tie the ballgame with two outs and Trevor Larnach would follow him with a two-run shot to right field to give the Beavers the 5-3 lead.

The Beavers pulled off the miracle win to force a winner-take-all game on Wednesday. 

In baseball terms, if ESPN's homepage were a pitch it would be "just a bit outside"

Some sights and sounds from the College World Series

Some sights and sounds from the College World Series

OMAHA – A few of the sights and sounds from the College World Series…

  • TD Ameritrade Park, the CWS venue, is a beautiful downtown minor-league ballpark. But no minor-league team plays in it. The Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers have their own 9,100-seat venue called Werner Park outside of town. TD Ameritrade is the home park for the CWS and Creighton Blue Jays and seats 24,000. See how important the CWS is to Omaha?
  • TD Ameritrade was a sea of red Monday night as fans got ready for the game that was eventually postponed between Arkansas and Oregon State. With just a six-hour drive to Omaha, the Razorbacks are going to make this series look like a homestand.
  • And make no mistake, the Arkansas fans are proud to be pigs. That “Sooey Pig” thing can be heard wherever a group of three or four of their fans are hanging out.
  • That doesn’t mean the Beavers don’t have a large contingent of fans on hand, too. Oregon State baseball fans travel well.
  • The area around the ballpark in downtown Omaha is alive. And busy. This town goes out of its way to be supportive of the event and the people who attend it. The hospitality is generous and genuine.
  • Oregon State will be the home team in Game 1 of the series and also Game 3, if necessary.
  • On the lineup card OSU Coach Pat Casey turned in for the postponed game Monday, he had Steven Kwan playing center field and batting leadoff and Luke Heimlich listed as the starting pitcher. Kwan is apparently recovered from a hamstring tweak and Heimlich ready for his third start in the CWS. There is no reason to doubt it will be the same lineup Tuesday night.
  • The weather forecast for Omaha looks fine through Wednesday but showing possible thunderstorms again Thursday. I’m thinking there are some messed up trip itineraries already for OSU fans because of Monday’s rainout.

 

The rain steps up to provide the Beavers a needed CWS day off

The rain steps up to provide the Beavers a needed CWS day off

OMAHA -- Throughout the College World Series, the best friend and biggest ally of the Oregon State Beavers has been the rain.

In the Beavers’ first win here, over Washington, it was a long rain delay that got OSU’s bats going. In the win over North Carolina, a late-game mist seemed to ignite the Oregon State offense.

And now, when needed most, the rain has stepped up and given the Beavers their biggest break yet. Of course it took a long time to get here as Game 1 of the championship round of the CWS was delayed for a couple of hours before finally postponed.

A rainout – another day off for this team’s tired pitching staff -- should be a huge break for OSU as it moves into its best-of-three national championship series against Arkansas.

It began raining early Monday and didn’t stop until a couple of hours prior to gametime. The teams took infield practice under mostly clear skies and the grounds crew actually watered the infield but the smart guys who run the tournament had their eyes glued to the local radar. And it didn’t look good.

When the rain hit, it brought thunder and lightning with it and it became apparent that the weather wasn’t going to allow a Monday night start to the series.

And thus beleaguered OSU starting pitchers Luke Heimlich and Bryce Fehmel will get an extra day’s rest. So will the OSU bullpen, which has had to work overtime because of the team’s lack of quality starts from its Big Two.

Heimlich will now get another day of rest before being the expected starter Tuesday night at 4 o'clock, PDT.

The forecast is bright for at least the next three days here and the rain has certainly done enough for the Beavers. The rest will be up to them.

 

Beavers face big challenge vs. Razorbacks in CWS

Beavers face big challenge vs. Razorbacks in CWS

OMAHA – Oregon State finally has that elimination-game monkey off its back as it opens the best-of-three championship round in the College World Series Monday (4 p.m.) against Arkansas.

But it’s not going to be easy to avoid defeat against the Razorbacks.

Arkansas survived the Southeastern Conference and won three out of five from defending national champ Florida, including eliminating the Gators last week.

Arkansas is deep, dangerous and rested – having had to play just three games to get to this point and with its talented pitching staff rested and rotated back around to the top.

The Beavers are expected to face the Arkansas ace, unbeaten right-hander Blaine Knight (13-0, 2.88 ERA) in the first game of the series. The Razorbacks have a 3.55 team earned run average that’s 29th in the country.

On top of that, it’s going to be difficult to keep their hitters in the ballpark. Arkansas was third nationally in home runs with 98, paced by sophomore outfielder Dominic Fletcher, who is 8 for 14 with two homers and eight RBIs in three games here. He is the only California recruit on the Razorback roster.

It could be an interesting series because the high-powered OSU offense is likely going to have to get a little more help from its starting pitchers in order to win.

The ‘Backs are 33-3 when they score six or more runs in a game but only 14-16 when they tally fewer than that.

The Beavers had to win four straight elimination games to make it this far and their pitching staff is showing signs of stress – especially the top two starters, Luke Heimlich (16-2) and Bryce Fehmel (10-1).

The Beavers have yet to get anything close to a quality start in the CWS and need at least one to give the over-used bullpen a rest.

So far, Coach Pat Casey has been coy about who will be his Game 1 starter but he needs someone to step up and give him at least five innings.

“Now we haven’t got one quality start out of our two best guys in four starts for them,” he said. “And so therefore – I’m being up front – that’s puzzling to me. I’m not positive how we got to that point to where we can continue to play when the freshman gives us the big start we’ve had.”

The way the Beavers have been scoring, the pitching hasn’t had to be flawless – but it’s going to have to be adequate in the final series.

And expect OSU to continue to score, especially if second baseman Nick Madrigal can snap out of a mild slump. The No. 4 pick in the recent big-league draft is hitting only .257 here – far below his season average of .395.

But don’t expect the Beavers to be the darlings of the home crowd. Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn coached at Nebraska for five seasons and is still very popular in these parts.

GAME NOTES: Casey will likely choose between Heimlich, Brandon Eisert and Christian Chamberlain on the mound in the opener of the series. … Centerfielder Steven Kwan, who has been out with hamstring strain, got an at bat and played an inning in the field in the Saturday game vs. Mississippi State but Casey would not pronounce him ready to go Monday. “You know, last night I probably allowed my trust in the players to get to me,” Casey said Sunday. “He wanted to get an at bat and go into the game and he was 100 percent and it was probably against my better judgment that I allowed that to happen. And so thank God nothing was hit to him.”

Social media reacts to the Comeback Kings

Social media reacts to the Comeback Kings

Another elimination game, another huge comeback win for the No. 3 Oregon State Beavers at the College World Series. Backs against the wall, the Beavers fell into a 6-3 hole against North Carolina heading into the eighth inning. Then, at the blink of an eye, the comeback had started.

Then, it seemed all too familiar, like an eerie night in Corvallis, Oregon as the rain started to drizzle.

The Beavers will face Mississippi State at 12 PM (PT) on Friday in Omaha, NB.

 

 

How the CWS works

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USA Today

How the CWS works

The College World Series beings this weekend, and Oregon State is a favorite to win it all. The Beavers are heading to Omaha along with the North Carolina Tar Heels, Washington Huskies, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Texas Longhorns, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Arkansas Razorbacks, and Florida Gators.

For those of you don’t follow college baseball, or don’t understand how the College World Series works, here is a quick breakdown for you.

The Road to Omaha starts with the best 64 teams in the nation coming together to create 16 four-team Regionals. These four-team brackets each play a double-elimination tournament, with the winner of each bracket moving on to the Super Regionals.

The Super Regionals will seed the final 16 teams to create eight best-of-three series.  The winner of each series advances to Omaha.

The final eight teams are divided into two four-team brackets, where like the Regionals, the four teams will play a double-elimination tournament. The winner of these brackets will then play each other in one final best-of-three series to determine the National Champion.

Bracket 1 will be Oregon State, North Carolina, Washington, and Mississippi State.

Bracket 2 will be Arkansas, Texas, Texas Tech and Florida.

Oregon State's first game will be against North Caroline on Saturday. First pitch is set for noon Pacific.

For Beavers, the end was disappointing but the season certainly wasn't

For Beavers, the end was disappointing but the season certainly wasn't

The glorious Oregon State baseball season ended in very disappointing fashion Saturday. But it wasn't a disappointing season.

It was still a season to be proud of -- a regular season that likely will never be matched at that school or any other. Baseball isn't the kind of game that leads to such seasons. Anybody can beat anybody on a given day. And we saw that in the College World Series, when a whole lot of things went wrong at the same time for the Beavers.

On Friday, OSU could have put away LSU had an umpire not mistakenly called a foul ball on a long drive off the left-field wall by Stephen Kwan. Yes, Pat Casey should have asked for a replay of it, but managing  a game is tough enough without having to umpire it, too. I still cannot understand how an umpire, standing on the foul line, could have possibly missed that call. It couldn't happen one in a hundred times. Seemingly the entire CWS went downhill after that for Oregon State.

On Saturday, the Beavers allowed the Tigers too many runs early in what was an elimination game. Getting down by a couple of runs is one thing, but any more than that in a pressurized game is too difficult to overcome. And yes, there was the umpiring again. The plate umpire had no idea where the outside corner of the plate was and LSU took much more advantage of his poor eyesight than did the Beavers. Constantly, the OSU hitters were called out on third strikes that challenged the batter's box on the other side of the plate. Even in the ninth inning, when the first two players reached base and it appeared Oregon State -- if any team in the country could do it -- was poised for a miracle rally, the umpire's urge to make the dramatic "strike three" call popped up again.

I'm seeing Oregon State fans rising up in anger at everyone over their team's elimination but I'd advise them to calm down a bit. Remember, this team didn't show up in Omaha with the same squad that was responsible for the sparkling regular-season record. The coaching staff did a remarkable job of juggling its pitching staff and lineup to make up for absences. And there is no doubt this program has a real chance to have an even better team next season.

Not a better record, though. That just can't happen again. But it could be a better team and I'm sure Casey will have a terrific recruiting year built on this season's success.

It was an incredible season and should be remembered that way -- regardless of the ending.