Corvallis, Ore. – No. 1 in the polls. No. 1 overall seed. Limping into the postseason after losing three of four to end the season.
Since senior second baseman Andy Peterson sustained a sprained ankle at the bottom of a celebratory pile on May 17 – when Oregon State defeated Washington 1-0 on Logan Ice’s walk-off double – the Beavers have struggled to score runs.
In the five games following the injury, OSU has won twice: 3-0 to take the series from Washington and 2-0 to defeat Southern California and win the Pac-12 Conference outright. Both of those games were dominated by senior pitcher Ben Wetzler.
The Beavers have one of the finest – if not the finest – starting rotations in the country. Pitching and defense have long been a hallmark of Pat Casey’s program, combined with timely offense.
The timely offense has been lacking of late, even while the pitching has remained strong, and the defense has been in disarray with Peterson out of the lineup. Defensive miscues at Oregon and USC led to back-to-back losses.
What the Beavers did earlier in the season kept them at the top of the selection committee’s list of national seeds, but unless they return to form on Friday against North Dakota State, they could easily find themselves playing for their postseason lives the rest of the weekend.
That’s a sobering – and slightly frightening – situation for the OSU faithful who have filled Goss Stadium all season with anticipation of a return trip to the College World Series filling their starry eyes.
Here’s a look at the four teams in the Corvallis Regional based on their regional seed:
No. 1 Oregon State (42-14, 23-7 Pac-12) – Pitching is OSU’s strongsuit. Ben Wetzler, Jace Fry and Andrew Moore all have the ability to be Friday night starters. Wetzler passed up a mid-six figure signing bonus from the Philadelphia Phillies to lead OSU back to Omaha, Neb. Outfielders Michael Conforto, Dylan Davis and Jeff Hendrix are the driving forces in the offense, while 2B Andy Peterson is the quiet key that makes the infield defense – and the offense – go. Three freshmen – C Logan Ice, SS Trever Morrison, 3B/2B Caleb Hamilton – have been major contributors throughout the season.
No. 2 UNLV (35-23, 20-10 Mountain West) – It’s the Rebels first NCAA appearance since 2005, the result of an at-large bid after dropping a 4-3 decision to San Diego State in the MWC tournament championship game. UNLV was the top seed in the MWC tournament after tying with New Mexico atop the MWC regular season standings. The Rebels may be the most offensive oriented club in the regional, with seven players batting at least .302 and having played at least 31 games. Patrick Armstrong (.306) has 45 RBIs and the Rebels have 309 RBIs in 340 runs scored. Erick Fedde (8-2, 1.76 ERA) and John Richy (11-3, 2.78) lead UNLV on the mound. “It is going to be a tough bracket, but I am happy that we are a No. 2 seed,” coach Tim Chambers said. “This team has grinded it out all year long. I don’t know if there is a team in the country that has been through as much as we have been through as far as injuries are concerned.”
No. 3 UC Irvine (25-22, 15-10 Big West) – The Anteaters finished the season on a six-game losing streak after beating UCLA 10-2 on May 13. Still, this is UC Irvine’s eighth postseason appearance in the last 11 years, a sure sign of sustained ability. Junior right hander Sam Moore leads the nation in saves with 23, while Andrew Morales is 9-2 with a 1.56 ERA in 15 starts. First baseman Connor Spencer leads the offense with a .361 batting average. Spencer was the Big West’s top hitter in 2013; he finished third this year. Coach Mike Gillespie is even more of a postseason veteran than his team: he spent 20 seasons at Southern California, winning the College World Series in 1998.
No. 4 North Dakota State (25-24, 10-12 Summit) – The fourth seed in its league tournament, North Dakota State went on a three-game tear that included a 4-3 win over regular-season champ South Dakota State and 6-1 and 9-0 victories over runner-up Western Illinois to earn the NCAA bid. This is the Bison’s first NCAA appearance since 1969, so even the players’ parents are unlikely to remember the last one. Tim Colwell, Wes Satzinger and Kyle Kleinendorst all hit better than .300 this season, while Parker Trewin is 7-2 in 13 appearances – 12 starts – with a 2.58 ERA.