Category Archives: Baseball

Future’s Bright For Beavers Baseball

Sure, the Beavers’ season ended in disappointing fashion. After beating Texas, 5-4, in their first game of their regional, they mustered a total of two runs in losses to VCU and Dallas — and were bounced from postseason play.

But that shouldn’t take away from the fact that it was a great season for the Beavers (39-18-1) , one that far exceeded expectations. Picked to finish in the middle of pack, OSU rebounded from a slow start in Pac-12 play to win their last six conference series and finish second in the standings. It arguably might have been Pat Casey’s best coaching performance, yet.

He took a squad that lost a lot of production (Michael Conforto, Ben Wetzler, Dylan Davis…) from the past season, and was short on experience, and got his players to buy into his system and believe that they could win. Slowly but surely, the wins started piling up and the Beavers climbed in the standings.

Guess what? The future is bright for the Beavers. Even if Andrew Moore and Jeff Hendrix elect to go pro, the roster is loaded with talent such as KJ Harrison and Drew Rasmussen, just to name a few. Also, don’t forget players such as Jake Thompson and Max Engelbrekt, who missed significant time this season due to injury. Combine all that talent with the experience of playing a regional on the road, and the Beavers are primed for big 2016 season.

And if Moore and Hendrix return? Well, then OSU should be overwhelming favorites to win the Pac-12 and make it to Omaha. Fingers crossed. Either way, the bottom line is that Beaver Nation has a lot to look forward to next year and beyond. The Beavers have the hitting, pitching, defense, speed, and toughness to make a deep run in the postseason.

Back to Casey. I learned a long time ago that one should never count out a Pat Casey-led team. So at the beginning of the season, even when Casey himself was wondering out loud how his squad would fare, I believed it would be just fine. Still, I marvel at the second-place finish, considering how the Beavers battled injuries and inconsistency (especially bullpen-wise) this season.

That’s why I hope the rumor about Casey being a candidate for the OSU athletic director position ends up being just that, a rumor. While I have no doubt, he would succeed in the role (especially the fund raising part), Casey is an amazing coach and it would be a damn shame if he stepped away from a squad that has so much promise. But who knows, it also would be a great situation for someone like Scott Brosius or Andy Checketts to step into.

Because it doesn’t take an expert to know things are looking bright ORANGE for Beavers baseball. So congrats on a great season and can’t wait for next season. Go Beavs! (RW)

It is OK to hate duck baseball. Really.

As we get into the swing of April, I am reminded of all the great things about spring in Oregon.  The flowering cherries, daffodils and dogwoods are out in their glory, the weather starts to have sun breaks in the rain, the days get longer, and the air feels fresher. It is also when Oregon State’s most successful major program in school history takes the field. I feel confident in saying that as no other major athletic team, to my knowledge, has two national championships.

It is also when I have to drive by that half-empty grave yard of a stadium called PK Park on my way to and from work. It is like driving by a big green and yellow middle finger daily. Duck baseball is the epitome of the part of the University of Broken Promises that I have the biggest issue with. There are amazing people that work at the big Yellow Toilet Seat, and players in all sports that are such good guys I would let my daughters marry them. In my time in Eugene, I have built a healthy respect for some of the people at Oregon, even though I would never tell them that. Heck, even one in every 43K fans I meet is a great fan (I am fortunate enough to work with… well, probably all of them. Three of whom may read this blog. So Sean, Ryan, and Matt, you are the three that come to mind).

But as a reasonably hateful Beaver fan, someone with a very strong petty streak, and a decade of dealing with being a Beaver in enemy territory, I think we all can embrace one simple fact:

Duck baseball is here because the the duck athletic department was so vain and, oddly for a program with so much recent success across the board, insecure.

They couldn’t handle the whole state being unified in appreciating an OSU sport. So they used their unprecedented resources to build an amazing stadium, hire a top tier coach, and craft some goofy uniforms while bringing back baseball to Eugene. And to their credit, they bought some early success.

Unfortunately, the whole baseball deal is forced on a community that doesn’t care. The University of Oregon is a football powerhouse, with a solid basketball team. More fans are into spring practice than spring fever. They have the league’s worst attendance for their games and this season is not going how a team picked to be one of the premier teams in the conference was supposed to. Now they could show up and sweep the Beavers and I would feel pretty silly. At least about making fun of the duck’s season.

I will never feel silly about making fun of the University of Oregon having baseball though. It arguably competes with their most successful program (track) and has its roots in the same mentality and fan-boy attitude that makes a soon to be 40-year old start a blog so that he can equate his rival school and their teams with crappy candy. You see, I recognize how shady and terrible their whole baseball fiasco is because I see myself in it.

It is the same mentality that had a young Peter Osborne put a car in neutral and push it into a fire zone, then anonymously call a tow truck — all because the operator of said vehicle had the nerve to say go ducks to him after a duck victory in the 1999 Civil War. Oh yeah, and in Eugene of all places! By the Rock N’Rodeo! Oh the humanity…

The only difference between what I did, still do, and what the ducks, or more appropriately Pat Kilkinney did, is that I am just a jerk fan. They are a school, and their decisions, for the most part, are meant to be made in order to better the lives of their student athletes. All the wrestlers from their storied, Olympian-generating wrestling program, as well as the huge number of local, Oregon high school kids that used wrestling to get into school were left holding the bag. Instead, they have an expensive program, with premium-salaried coaches, playing in front of a half-empty $20 million stadium, in one of the highest property tax areas of the city.

So yes, I find the Civil War between Oregon State and Oregon baseball to be particularly feisty because it represents one of the silliest moments in the rivalry’s history for any sport. I for one hope the Beavers sweep the ducks at PK Park amidst a sea of orange in the stands. The Beavers have their own issues, so it is definitely not a slam dunk that they will win the series or even a game, but for the sake of the rivalry and all it means, I would be happy with some big, big wins for the Beavs.

Go Beavers!  Beat the ducks!

Weekend Notes

1. Thank you to all who have served and their families.
I come from a military family.  My dad was in the Navy for 17 years as a pilot, and two of his brothers were also pilots.  My uncle Dave flew in Vietnam and was on a number of dangerous missions.  Fortunately for us, none of them lost their lives during their times of service, but they all knew many that did, and it was a very real cost that sometimes we don’t recognize. Regardless of how anyone feels, the fact that I can write this, on a blog about something so trivial as one college’s athletic teams, is a testament to all that those before us have fought for.

Heck, even our recent apathetic voting history is largely due to the complacency that or service men and women have allowed. They are so good at their jobs, of protecting us and protecting our rights, that we don’t feel the same urgency and fear in voting that our neighbors in India and Egypt (for example) feel. While I wish that would change, the great work our military services do in protecting us and our constitutional rights is amazing.

Free speech, for instance, is not a universal right in every country. People die for something we use every day without a second thought.  So thank you to all that have served and to the families of those that have lost loved ones in our name.  While it is something that we should think about more than one day a year, the fact that we need a reminder is a good sign that they are doing a great job protecting us.

2. Baseball rules
Baseball is a long season, and the victories at Washington took their toll both emotionally and physically.  With Pat Casey having to change up rotation roles, get players coming off injuries work so they are not too rusty while resting those that are dinged up so they are ready, left the team visibly less focused than they were against UW.

Which is natural.  People can worry about the bats the last seven games, and they should, but four of those games came after clinching a share of the title and the other three were against some really great pitching.  Losing is never good, but when you have the pitching that OSU has, it fixes a lot of what ails you.  Both Fry, Wetzler and Moore all worked in weird changes to their schedule and that took its toll to a degree.

But with regionals coming to town and the start of the playoffs,  one thing that Pat  Casey does an amazing job of is getting his team organized and focused in the post season. In 2006 they lost a series to ASU late and then lost the last game of the season to UCLA.  In 2007 they lost 8 of their last 12 games.  So while the slump is concerning and you want to win every game you can, there is no doubt that the focus that was lost the last week and a half will be regained if Pat Casey has to physically put it in the players.

3. Football is coming
While it is not yet June, Memorial Day weekend is my starting point in preparing for the season. This means that we will start producing some features that spotlight some key players.  I will hopefully be able to get some direct quotes, but we will see.  The other part of this is that this is the time of year that the coaches are out recruiting in full force and visiting camps.  This means that recruiting will make a huge uptick in news.

As I have made no secret of my affiliation and adoration for BeaverBlitz.  While many balk at the price tag, the information you can get there about recruiting, baseball and football in general is well worth the marginal fee. Right now they just released their initial 2015 Recruiting Guide and it has a lot of great information available.  So check it out and I think they have a gear special going right now if you do the annual order, so it is a good time to get on board!

What a difference a few weeks makes

Three weeks ago, I was planning on writing a few stories about baseball before pushing headfirst into summer football excitement. There would have been an article about how amazing the baseball season was and how much I was looking forward to football.

Now, as we are on the cusp of Oregon State hiring Wayne Tinkle this morning as its head coach, we are also on the verge of the Beavers getting a National Seed and winning the Pac-12 in baseball after an amazing series against the University of Washington this weekend.

So while I will still post about football in the near future, the national momentum of the Beavers baseball team, coupled with the excitement of a new basketball coach has me a little distracted.

Wayne Tinkle:
This name may not be super familiar to many of you, but here is his resume:

– 158–89 in 8 seasons at his Alma-mater Montana
– Three NCAA Tournament Invites in the last five years
– 1 CBI Tournament Invite
– 2 times advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament
– His teams have finished 3rd or higher in the Big Sky conference 7 of his 8 years at Montana.
– He has finished 1st or second in four of the last five
– He has had four 20 win seasons
– He has only had one losing season, and never had below a .500 conference record.

Wayne has experience as a college player and played 12 years in Europe. He also has been able to get JC talent to Montana and get the occasional 3-star prospect to come to Missoula and play for him. The biggest part of Tinkle’s resume that sticks out to me is his teams making the second round of the NCAA tournament twice. It is not just that he made it in, but as a team that was an 8 seed or below, that means his teams beat upper seed teams twice.  While wins in division are all relative, it is the wins you get when you step out that show how your team is stacking up nationally. In 2010, his Grizzlies beat UCLA in L.A. and beat Oregon State.

The biggest issue is not if he can coach, it is if he can get top talent to come to Oregon State and can win enough to put butts in seats.  This is not a sexy hire, despite him winning Sexiest Coach in America. People are not going to bombard the ticket office like they would have for Ben Howland. Fortunately, Craig Robinson left Tinkle with a program that makes money, and every win that Tinkle hopefully gets, will bring a few people at a time to the games. And every one of those people is pure profit.

I think Tinkle is a good hire, as hires go. I don’t think it is a home run in terms of instant credibility, but it is probably a double or triple. Assuming he can recruit, I am confident that this is a coach that can get them to the NCAA tournament. That is a big if, and like every hire OSU has had since Ralph Miller left, there is excitement, hope, and apprehension. As the last few hires have come and gone, the apprehension is stronger than the hope and excitement combined.

Hopefully Wayne Tinkle is ready to roll up his sleeves and get rolling because the cheers of Gill have not died, they just need a reason to be heard again.

Baseball:
This weekend was a dominating series by the Beavers pitchers. While OSU did drop the first game, the huskies were held scoreless for 19 innings and didn’t get an RBI the whole weekend.  Mistakes plagued the Beavers on Friday and Saturday, though the electric walk off double by Logan Ice erased any bad feelings left over from the miscues.

The big takeaways from this weekend, in my mind, is that Washington is the best team that OSU has faced and that OSU has enough weapons to beat anyone. While the offense was sloppy, and potential runs were left on base, picked off, or left on due to great pitching and poor execution of hit and runs, the arms of the Beavers were more than enough to make sure that even one run was enough to get the job done. Last week, the bats came alive late in games. The week before it was a combo deal with timely hitting and solid pitching.

Against UW, it was an arm battle on both sides and OSU showed that they have the arms to get it done even against top talent. From here on out, it is not about dominance, it is about wins — and the Beavers have all the tools to win big or eek them out. Overall, it looks like a great time to be hitting your stride.  For those that are not sure, winning 15 of 16 games is the definition of hitting your stride.

Baseball: UW Preview and other Musings

At a Glance:

  • Matchup: No. 5 Washington at No. 2 Oregon State
  • When: 4:05 p.m. Friday; 4 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday
  • Where: Coleman Field at Goss Stadium, Corvallis, Ore.
  • Records: UW (37-11-1 overall, 19-5 Pac-12), OSU (39-8, 20-4)
  • Last time: Ben Wetzler threw a complete game shutout — leading the Beavers to an 8-0 win over the Huskies on April 21, 2013. He was backed up at the plate by Dylan Davis and Andy Peterson, who both drove in two runs.
  • Series history: Beavers lead 320-189. There also have been two ties. The 230 wins are the Beavers’ most against any one opponent.
  • Notable: OSU has a chance this weekend to win 40 games or more for the fourth consecutive season; OSU is ranked in the top-5 in every poll for the fifth consecutive week;  OSU is 31-0 this season when it records more hits than its opponent; OSU is allowing an average of just 1.8 runs per game at home this season.

Bottom line: First place is on the line this weekend as the Beavers host the surprising Huskies (Seriously, where did they come from this year?). OSU enters the series with one-game lead over UW in the Pac-12 standings. Adding to the excitement is the fact that both teams are ranked in the top 5 nationally. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Keys to the series:

  1. Continued dominance from the starting pitchers: Enough said. But it’s especially important for Ben Wetzler, after all the distractions this week.
  2. Score first: The Beavers are 32-4 this season when they get on the scoreboard before their opponent. Plus, it’s a surefire way to get the crowd into it early, and also provide breathing room for the starting pitchers.
  3. Execute with runners in scoring position: They might be a mystery to me, but there’s no doubt the Huskies are legit. So the Beavers need to take advantage of every opportunity they get to score. Otherwise, it could be a long series.
  4. Scoreless performance from the bullpen: Whether the Beavers are winning or not, the bullpen needs to turn in a scoreless performance in at least one game — to build momentum heading into the postseason.
  5. Be active on the basepaths: One of the ways the Beavers can get off to fast starts against UW is to be aggressive and put pressure on the Huskies’ pitchers and infielders by stealing a base here and there, or at least giving the impression that they will.

Here are some other OSU baseball thoughts:

Wetzler: The senior ace will play this weekend in what might be considered a mild surprise. What Wetzler did was stupid, but nobody got hurt. I covered Pat Casey for several years, I know he’s a man of integrity and has high expectations for his players on and off the field. I trust his judgement, and he can handle any heat he gets for the decision. However, I hope this distraction doesn’t get to Wetzler. The team needs him to lead them down the stretch. Plus, he came back to get to Omaha. A good Friday outing would be huge for Wetzler and the Beavers moving forward.

Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz Part 2?: Speaking of pitching, Wetzler, Andrew Moore, and Jace Fry have been a three-headed monster for opposing batters all season. Just like those 90s Braves teams, the Beavers have excellent starting pitching and a shaky bullpen. How crazy is it when your best pitcher arguably is your Sunday starter? All three pitchers have their own style and strengths. When all is said and done I think they will be the best trlo of pitchers the Beavers have had — even better than Dallas Buck, Jonah Nickerson, and Anton Maxwell. Of course, that team had a lights-out closer in Kevin Gunderson.

Stepping up: Michael Conforto is raking again this season. He’s one of, if not the top, hitters in the nation. While the Beavers were dealt a blow when Kavin Keyes went down earlier this season, his teammates picked up the slack. Most recently, Gabe Clark and local product Jeff Hendrix have been coming up big for the Beavers. Others such as Trevor Morrison and Logan Ice have delivered key hits as well. The timing couldn’t be better as it appears Keyes could be returning soon! A thriving lineup would help take pressure off the starting pitchers, and more importantly, allow them to pitch shorter outings.

Concerns down the stretch: Can the starters hold up? Due to the bullpen’s struggles throughout the season, they’ve pitched deep into a lot of their starts. It would be nice if someone outside of Scott Schultz could emerge as a reliable reliever. How effective will Keyes be when he returns? Not just at the plate, but in the field. Can players such as Clark and Hendrix keep up their performances? If this weekend doesn’t go well for the Beavers, how will they respond in their final series of the season at USC?

Vintage Casey: Expectations were high going into this season. And while the Beavers have lived up to the hype, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. The bullpen has been inconsistent, some hitters haven’t been able to get hot all season, etc. But here the Beavers are again looking primed to make another run to the College World Series. Pat Casey has done a masterful job. But is it really surprising. The Beavers under his leadership have become one of the best teams in the nation the past decade. It’s much deserved for a guy who’s pored a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into the program.

Go Beavers!

Baseball Galleries

Check out our Galleries section to see the latest baseball photos from Dave McLean (Eugene Dave).  You will be able to see more on BeaverBlitz.com soon.

Great work Dave and Go Beavers!  Beat the ducks!

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