UCLA, Oregon, Washington State and Kansas State. These are the teams the Oregon State Beavers’ baseball team has lost to in Game 1 and went on to defeat those teams two games to one in three game series this season. Importance? This is now what is facing OSU in the College World Series as they prepare to face Mississippi State for a second time.
So the task, while facing elimination, is not daunting, however not easy either. The Bulldogs are surely brimming with confidence having beaten Oregon State already and not facing a loss which would take them out of the chase for the trophy. Whereas our beloved Beavers are in a must win situation.
After OSU lost the first game, 5-4, an uneasy feeling overwhelmed me. At that point the Beavers had to win four in row just to get to the championship series. After dismantling Louisville, 11-4, now three wins would get them there. Following the ridiculously stellar pitching performance by Matt Boyd in the 1-0 victory over the Indiana Hoosiers, the path became clearer yet still needing two wins without a loss. Only one thought should be going through anyone’s mind in Beaver nation. Beat Mississippi State once first before entertaining the idea of beating them twice. The old adage, one game at a time. See it, be it.
As I mentioned last week, I still await Oregon State to put all the pieces together at the same time. The Louisville blowout is somewhat deceptive because the Beavers scored seven runs in the unearned variety. Four errors by the Cardinals aided OSU. Andrew Moore and Ben Wetzler have pitched well enough in their outings (Moore in Game 1 and Wetzler against Louisville) and obviously Boyd’s effort is the talk of the town. Again, the Beavers need to manufacture more solid run support for their starting pitchers. Against the Hoosiers, coach Pat Casey was briefly interviewed by ESPN in the fifth inning. He mentioned the team needed to work the counts more. Not sure if the team listened, but Indiana pitcher Aaron Slegers never appeared to be laboring against the OSU hitters. Furthermore, the Beavers were only 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Should OSU get to the championship series (against either UCLA or North Carolina), they will face much stronger pitching staffs than anyone they saw on their side of the bracket in the Bruins and Tar Heels.
The Bulldogs and Hoosiers, against OSU, have been more disciplined at the plate trying to get OSU starters to reach long pitch counts. One pitch gave Mississippi State their win and Boyd was too good for Indiana. It would be nice to see OSU get opposing pitchers to struggle from the outset. On one hand, clearly the formula has worked for the Beavers. They would not be where they are without it. On the other hand, these tightrope games might tilt toward the Beavers favor with more work by opposing pitchers. OSU hitters have been swinging early and also outside the strike zone once opponents’ starters get rolling. Fine tuning at the plate and clutch hitting is the recipe for success. The Beavers have it, they need to find it.
Following tight ball games against the Ducks, Kansas State and Mississippi State, OSU has come back with offensive display games necessary for pitching relief. It would be nice to count on this, but you cannot rely on the past. Oregon State must concentrate on an overall effort in one game because right now one game is all they have.