Please take your seats ladies and gentlemen. We are about to announce the winner from the category of, “Didn’t see it coming.” Or should we have said, “Should not have happened.”
Congratulations to the Oregon State Beavers baseball team. Understandably, nothing can be taken for granted in the game of baseball. Pitchers have to pitch, hitters have to hit and fielders have to field. Often the intricacies of baseball can only be defined by watching every player in action once the ball is put in to play. I get it, you never know how the ball bounces.
But really, the top team in the Pacific 12 Conference had to scrape out the last game of a three game series against the worst team in the league (Washington) to avoid being swept? And then eke out a 14-inning game against Seattle, who was eight games under .500 at the time. The Huskies had only nine wins all season heading in to the weekend against the Beavers. OSU was, and still is, looking toward a conference title it has not won since 2006. Is the baseball team eating lunch and dinner with the football team, who knows all too well about taking one on the chin against a team they were far superior? Do we need to go back to the recent football tilt when the OSU football squad traveled to Washington and faced an overmatched Huskies team and the team did everything they could to lose and did? Oh the memories. Or should I say headaches.
Looking back, the Beavers wasted a golden opportunity over the weekend. Second place Oregon dropped two of three to UCLA. Had OSU taken the series against Washington, winning one of the two games they lost, it would have opened up a two game lead in the loss column over the Ducks. A valuable asset clearly needed as the season heads to a finishing series on the road against the Ducks.
Why so adamant? This is Corvallis we are talking about. Not Eugene, where politics and/or dollars make a difference in deciding where one team lies in the hierarchy of sports programs. Anyone remember last season when the Beavers swept Oregon in the final series of the season, yet the Ducks still received a #5 national seed in the NCAA Tournament? Cough, fix, cough, conspiracy. In Corvallis, the Beavers need to do more than just show up. Yes, learning and enjoying your time as student athletes is part of the journey. However, another part is building or maintaining successful team environments. Make no mistake, OSU remains on the right path. Still leading the conference and in control of their own destiny.
This baseball season is taking on the eerie feeling similar to football. Massive talent. A postseason screaming in potential. Crazy losses. Dumbfounding mistakes. Surprising victories. Hope and promise. Deflating weekends. High rankings.
Despite losing a weekend series for the second time this season, OSU kept its position in the polls, holding strong at #6 in the ESPN Coaches Poll and #7 on BaseballAmerica.com. Again, the Beavers take on an opponent this weekend, at home, who sits on the lower half of league play. USC is 8-10 in conference and 16-23 overall. With Oregon playing a tough Stanford team this weekend, OSU could have opportunity knocking again. No time for slip ups.
Food for thought: North Carolina (#1 rank nationally) and LSU (#2) have lost twice and four times, respectively. Doing what they need to do. Victory awaits those who want it most. Gut check time for OSU.