What better way to get a feel for the visiting Oregon St. Beavers than for AOG to hit up Building the Dam's ConnorOSU for some inside deets (that's "details" to those of you not in the blogosphere).
A quick note: This is all TrainIsland's handiwork. He just forgot to post it before heading off to some friend's magical wedding fairyland for the weekend. Wish him luck. And plenty of booze. Or let him hear it on Twitter. Your call.
It is certainly a possibility, but I highly doubt the Beavers will win both of the first two games. In game one of the UCLA series, the Beavers had a six-run fifth inning. Without that, UCLA would have won in a blowout. The key in that inning for Oregon State was simple: They just strung together extra-base hits. Cole got nervous, left some balls hanging up in the zone, and the Beavers took advantage. If they string together some hits against Gray, watch out.
And like you said above, it's hard to lose a game when your pitcher throws a no-hitter.
Q: OSU ran through a tough Regional to get here, but before that the Beavers hit a 1-5 rough patch that cost the team the Pac-10 title. Any concerns that a road trip to Nashville might re-ignite some of the problems that hurt the team down the stretch in the regular season?
I don't have any concerns. The main problem in that 1-5 stretch was the hitting (Only scoring 15 runs in the final 6 games). But as you can see from the scores in last week's regional, the Beavers have obviously found their bats.
The main difference in my mind was the team's approach at the plate. In the final series of the year against Oregon, the Beavers would find themselves in multiple 0-2 and 1-2 counts because they were watching too many strikes go by. Sometimes they wouldn't even swing at the third strike. But last weekend, there was definitely a change. The Beavers came out swinging and making contact with the ball, igniting the bats and team morale once again.
Q: Between starting pitchers Josh Osich and Sam Gaviglio, who should the Commodores fear most in a playoff atmosphere? Who is more likely to implode on the mound? Anyone you're terrified of seeing enter the game to pitch in a clutch situation?
Osich is actually out for the weekend with tendinitis and a stiff back. So the answer to the first two questions would be Gaviglio. The only pitcher my confidence is lacking in right now is Ben Wetzler. Wetzler is a talented pitcher, but struggled mightily down the stretch, including a performance against USC in which he gave up 5 earned runs in 0.1 innings. Fortunately for Vanderbilt, Wetzler will most likely get the start in Sunday's "If Necessary" game since Osich is out.
Q: You mentioned that Oregon State's team is full of young players. How important is the legacy of the 06-07 National Championship squads to the team and to the OSU fans? Are those teams the baseline comparison for this (and future) OSU baseball teams?
Recruiting-wise, the legacy is huge. Playing baseball in a cold-weather city like Corvallis isn't a huge draw to most of the top players in the nation, but when you can walk into a living room with two championship rings on your fingers, people are automatically going to listen.
To the fans, of course the championship runs were great and will never be forgotten, but we always want more. Personally though, I don't like comparing the championship teams with other teams. I think it's kind of silly. Take last year for example. We had one of the most talented teams in the last decade, but they didn't play together as a team and were more focused on making the MLB than winning a College World Series. Because of that, the team didn't even make it out of regionals.
Q: Direct follow-up to that last question - how does the 2011 team compare to those NCAA Champion teams?
I'd say right in-between. The 2006 team was a lot better, with players like Cole Gillespie, Tyler Graham, Dallas Buck, Kevin Gunderson, and Jonah Nickerson. The 2007 team featured players that Vanderbilt fans have probably heard of (Joe Paterson, Eddie Kunz, and Darwin Barney), but after those three, the talent dropped off. Still, that team had more heart and passion than any team I have seen in a while, and that was the key to the Championship.
So, I'd say that this team definitely has the talent to get to Omaha, but I don't know if we have the starting pitching to win another title. Our bullpen has been great, whether it's Tony Bryant, Matt Boyd, Adam Duke, or Scott Shultz, but we only have one starter that we can count on night in and night out.
Q: On a team without a major power threat but several solid batters 1-9, who are the biggest threats for the 'Dores to worry about?
I'd say Andrew Susac and Kavin Keyes. Susac went in the 2nd Round of Tuesday's MLB Draft and will almost surely leave Corvallis after this season. He's still getting into the swing of things after sitting out a little more than a month with a broken Hamate bone, and he hasn't had a breakout game since the injury. He's shown glimpses of his old self, but I'd expect him to have a big game sometime this weekend.
Kavin Keyes should be graduating from Alta High School in Sandy, Utah' state this weekend, but instead he will be in Nashville trying to lead the Beavers to Omaha. Keyes decided to skip his Senior year of High School and come to Corvallis, and he has arguably been the Beavers most solid hitter throughout the year.
Q: Any idea on what the Oregon State fan presence will be like in Nashville? Any country music fans coming down?
As of Wednesday, the Oregon State Ticket Office said that they only sold a few tickets. Not surprising, since there are few hotel rooms and no flights directly from Portland to Nashville. However, the Beavers always travel well and you should expect to see some orange amongst all the cowboy hats this weekend in Nashville.
Q: In case I get lazy or just forget to run a legitimate series preview, what's the one thing that casual fans should know about Oregon State in 2011?
Watch out for our bullpen. Like I mentioned above, Bryant, Boyd, Shultz, and Duke are usually lights out. Otherwise, just expect the Beavers to come out swinging and not afraid of the hostile environment.
Q: Your prediction?
Vanderbilt in three. I think that Sam Gaviglio mows down the Vandy hitters on Friday night. Gray should be great as well, but I think the Beavers win it 2-0 or 2-1.
The Commodores come out and nail James Nygren early on in Saturday's game. The Beavers turn to their bullpen, but Duke shows that he truly is a Freshman and struggles as well.
That sets up a third game to go to Omaha, and Ben Wetzler gets absolutely shelled in a USC-like beating. It's 4-0 by the time he leaves the game, and despite a great performance by the Beaver bullpen, Oregon State can only score three runs and loses a 4-3 heartbreaker.