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Super Regional Preview: Better Know the Beavers

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First Clemson, South Carolina... now Corvallis, Oregon... I can’t think of better motivation to book an extended stay in the vacation destination that is Omaha, Nebraska.

Nightlife in Corvallis.
Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images

The single worst narrative amongst Vanderbilt fans at the beginning of this postseason was, “Even if we win the Clemson Regional, we have to face the #1 team in baseball.” First of all, I invite you to take a look at the conference affiliation of the remaining 16 teams. 6 from the SEC (Vanderbilt, LSU, Mississippi State, Florida, Kentucky, and aTm); 1 from the Pac-12 (OSU). This is not to diminish the Beavers’ beyond impressive season, but we have played the toughest teams in the country every weekend. They... have not. Now I’m not equating OSU’s statistical dominance over the Pac-12 to St. Johns’ statistical dominance over the Big East... but I’m also not not doing that. Further, they literally got out of a Regional by only having to face Holy Cross and Yale (twice).

Second, I can recall precious few times in which the #1 overall seed entering the CWS has won the CWS. The last time this happened was when Miami did so in 1999 (which, by the way, was the year the field expanded to 64 teams, and the year in which everyone was afraid of a potential computer glitch destroying the world).

Third, I’m not convinced OSU is the consensus top team, and am certainly not convinced they would be favored in a three game series against, for example, LSU, Louisville, or even Florida.

When we play this Friday, we will be the toughest team they have faced all year. I cannot with 100% certainty say the same is true vice versa.

Are they a great team? Of course they are. Are they unbeatable? No.

Regardless, let’s better get to know these large, primarily nocturnal, semiaquatic rodents.

The Pedigree

Oregon State has been one of the most successful teams since Y2K collapsed the electrical grid, launched all the nukes, and destroyed all of civilization. *Note: See above, as no #1 overall seed has won the CWS since Y2K.

Starting in 2005, OSU has made the trip to Omaha four times (‘05, ‘06, ‘07, and ‘13) and won the whole damned thing twice (‘06 and ‘07). In their history, they have only gone to the CWS one more time (1952). All trips to Omaha between 1952 and 2005 were to visit Jacoby Ellsbury’s Great Aunt Cecilia, who always gives them hard candy.

The Coach

Pat Casey is in his 22nd year at the helm of the Beavers. Like Tim Corbin, his tenure represents pretty much all the success his school has ever had in baseball. Unlike Tim Corbin, you had to google his name to make sure I wasn’t making all of this up. Why is Casey not a nationally recognizable name? I honestly don’t know. People recognize Dave Serrano’s name, and he sucks ass.

Stat to Keep an Eye On (Pitching)

Unless you live under a rock, you have likely heard of OSU’s otherworldly pitching numbers—apologies to those in Corvallis, as I was not implying you do not know how good your pitchers are.

However, there’s filthy, and there’s sickening. OSU’s pitching numbers sicken me.

Their team ERA for the season is 1.78. Opponents are batting .197 against them.

Disgusting.

Their Friday starter, RS Jr. RHP Jake “Homer” Thompson (at Terror Lake), is 13-0 with a 1.30 ERA.

The next guy up, Saturday starter Jr. LHP Luke “The Maneuver” Heimlich, is 11-1 with a 0.76 ERA.

Needless to say, when opposing batters say, “Hello, Mr. Thompson,” and press down on his foot, he smiles and nods. Worse yet, Heimlich rarely chokes.

Video evidence of Pac-12 batters facing Thompson and Heimlich this year:

Luckily, we have The Mad Dog (Patrick Raby) and the presumptive #1 overall pick in the MLB draft (Kyle Wright) to counter. No team in America is better positioned to pair strength with strength against OSU’s two aces.

It will be important to put pressure on them early. If not, both games may go to extras before the first run is plated.

Stat to Keep an Eye On (Hitting)

If you’re looking for an area in which Vanderbilt has a distinct advantage, look no further than what chicks dig. Not our ever-lengthening perv-staches. Not the possibility that Dansby Swanson’s hair might make an appearance. Not even Matthew Ruppenthal’s Magic Curvenball.

No, think the late 90s.

No, not Mark McGrath. Oh fuck it, I’ll just tell you.

The long ball. Chicks dig the long ball.

On the season, OSU has hit just 27 balls over the fence into the neighbor’s yard. The team leader, KJ Harrison, has 6. I’m pretty sure Will Toffey’s moustache hit that many in the Clemson Regional.

The power outage in Corvallis has not hurt them yet (I mean, they have only lost four times this year), as they’ve only surrendered 18 dingers to opposing batters. Still, chicks have not been known to dig pitching and defense. I don’t make the rules.

Vandy, however, has launched 50 balls into orbit, with Will “Youth Hockey” Toffey (11), Julian “Chinfante” Infante (11), and Jeren “Somehow Never Got a Nickname” Kendall (15) leading the charge.

Player to Watch

I’ll not waste more time talking about their two ace pitchers. They are clearly the top two players on OSU’s team. However, you can’t win on pitching and defense alone, so let’s take a deeper look at OSU’s most interesting player: sophomore shortstop Nick “Mostly Madrigals” Madrigal. Other than “An Evening with Phillip Glass,” Madrigal gets top billing at the Corvallis Little Theatre.

People out in Pac-12 world have a hard-on for comparing this guy to Jose Altuve. Obviously, that’s ridiculous, but I’ll bet both of my kidneys Madrigal gets brought up every time Ro Coleman steps to the plate, and vice versa. If chicks dig the long ball, college baseball broadcast teams love the little guys.

Madrigal is a slick-fielding SS who has legitimate pro potential. Further, he has raked all year, putting up a .380/.443/.537 slash line, with 18 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, and 34 RBI. Beyond that, he has swiped 15 of 17 attempted bases, so pitchers will have to keep an eye on him when on the base paths. For comparison (though they are not the same type of players at all): Will Toffey has slashed .350/.476/.594 and Jeren Kendall’s numbers are .312/.379/.569.

How successful Raby, Wright, and the rest of the staff are at keeping Mostly Madrigals mostly off the base paths will tell the story of the series.

Vanderbilt (36-23-1) at Oregon State (52-4)

Game 1: June 9 – 8 PM CT – ESPN2

Game 2: June 10 – 8 PM CT – ESPN

Game 3 (if necessary): June 11 – 8 PM CT – ESPN2/ESPNU