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Better Know A Regional Opponent: The Oregon State Beavers

The host team is one of a handful of favorites coming into the tourney. They will have to get through the Diamond Dores first.

Oregon State v Oregon Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The School: The Oregon State Peltin’ Beavers. Though it’s been around in some form or other since 1856, it did not become Oregon State University until 1961. In all, it has changed its name, and, presumably, it’s mission, an astounding eleven different times, starting as a primary and preparatory school developed by the Freemasons known as the Corvallis Academy:

1856 Corvallis Academy

1858 Corvallis College*

1868 Corvallis State Agricultural College

1876 State Agricultural College

1881 Corvallis State Agricultural College

1882 Oregon State Agricultural College

1886 State Agricultural College of Oregon

1890 Oregon Agricultural College

1927 Oregon State Agricultural College

1937 Oregon State College

1961 Oregon State University

Currently, it has the rare honor of being a sea grant, space grant, and sun grant institution, which means it should change its name once more to The Oregon Neptune, Cthulu, and Helios Institute of Corvallis. Come on (pokes Oregon Freemasons of the 19th century), change the name again...

Location: Corvallis, Oregon. If you dig just a little into the history of the town, it’s not surprising the school would have changed its name eleventy billion times. According to The Oregon Encyclopedia:

Originally called Marysville and then renamed Corvallis (a Latin compound meaning “heart of the valley”) to avoid confusion with Marysville, California, the town was named the seat for Benton County government in 1851 and was incorporated in 1857.

Well, I’m glad they cleared that up.

The Mascot: Benny Beaver. Speaking of probably needing another name change... you’ve had 11 different institutional monikers, and the best you can come up with is Benny Beaver? That’s “Hip Hop” of the Philadelphia 76ers mascot name level horrible.

Record: 44-15 (20-10 Pac 12).

How’d they get here? At large bid (#2 RPI). Though the Beavers lost the Pac 12 tourney to a red hot Stansbury team 9-5, there was never a doubt they would get an at large bid, nor that they would be a National Seed. Of course, even though they would get to the Pac 12 Finals, the Beavers had an unexpected late season swoon, as Oregon State lost their last two Pac 12 series to Arizona and UCLA. It’s worth noting, at least, seeing as the Diamond Dores limped towards the postseason, as well.

Best win: Is it weird to say the #2 team in the RPI doesn’t really have a signature series win? Because they really don’t. The best teams they’ve beaten this year are taking 3 of 4 against Gonzaga (27 RPI) and sweeping all 5 games against Oregon (28 RPI).

Worst loss: They really don’t have a bad loss, either. Really, their worst series losses were the last two in the regular season—losing 2 of 3 to Arizona (38 RPI) and UCLA (48 RPI), respectively. UCLA also beat the Beavers 25-22 on Saturday in the Pac 12 tourney, which is a reminder that after you get past their Friday night Ace, their pitching staff is vulnerable.

Player to Watch: #29 Jr. OF Jacob “Polar Ice Caps” Melton (.375/.439/.694 with 21 2B, 4 3B, 15 HR, 77 RBI, and 20-21 steals). Melton is about as complete a player as you can get, as he hits for average, power, and can run. He’s one of the main reasons the Beavers are a top team heading into the postseason. Most MLB prognosticators have him at or near being a top 50 prospect, and he even was chosen in the back half of the first round of Jonathan Mayo’s most recent mock draft.

He’s the #54 ranked player, and here is his mlb.com scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 60 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50

After a stellar high school career at South Bedford High School in Oregon, Melton began his college career at Linn-Benton Community College, also in the Beaver State. From there, Melton moved on to Oregon State and after barely playing in the shortened 2020 season, he hit .404 over 32 games in 2021. He’s continued to swing the bat well in 2022 while becoming the everyday center fielder.

Melton has the chance to do some damage from the left side of the plate. He has an advanced approach at the plate and makes a ton of contact. He also has a good amount of juice to his pull side, and he’s tapped into that power even more in 2022, leading some scouts to think he might have better than average pop in the future. A plus runner, Melton can take the extra base and is an efficient basestealer as well.

In 2021, Melton showed that not only is he capable of playing center and the outfield corners, but he saw a good amount of time at first base as well. He has a good chance of sticking up the middle now, however, with a strong enough arm for right should the need arise.

Anchor of Gold Tiger Beat Hottest Pitcher: #26 So. LHP Cooper “Hjerpes” Hjerpe (10-2 2.33 ERA). Hjerpes was also chosen in the back half of the first round of Jonathan Mayo’s most recent mock draft.

The sophomore draft eligible southpaw is the #32 ranked player, and here is his mlb.com scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 50 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55 | Overall: 50

Hjerpe was a talented lefty from the California prep ranks who didn’t get much attention from Major League teams, and he headed to Oregon State. After pitching out of the bullpen briefly as a freshman in the shortened 2020 season, he moved into the Beavers’ weekend rotation, pitching on Saturdays for a team that made the NCAA Regionals. The southpaw has moved into the Friday night role this year and seen his stock improve greatly as one of the more consistent starters in the country.

While Hjerpe doesn’t light up radar guns, he does a have a full starter’s repertoire, a ton of deception and a huge competitive streak. His fastball will typically sit in the 91-93 mph range, occasionally touching a bit higher. It plays up because of a funky, cross-fire delivery that makes the ball hard for even right-handed hitters to pick up, and because he combines it with his breaking ball so well. It’s kind of a Laredo, coming from a low three-quarters slot, and Hjerpe can vary its shape. One is more of a slow sweeping curve, thrown in the mid-70s, and the other is tighter with more slider characteristics, thrown up around 80 mph. His average changeup features good fade and should be a weapon for him in the future.

Even with the funk in his delivery, Hjerpe tends to always finish online, leading to a belief that he’s going to throw more than enough strikes in the future, and he is fearless on the mound. His ceiling is a bit limited, but mid-rotation southpaws who perform well in big college conferences tend to do decently when the Draft comes around.

I’d write a lot more about him, but Beavers HC Mitch “Canned Ham” Canham has already tabbed Hjerpe as his starter for game one against New Mexico State, so we won’t have to worry about him.

Best NCAA Tournament result: Whereas the Dores are arguably the most successful team of the past decade, the Beavers are arguably the most successful team of the last 20 years. The kids from Corvallis have won it thrice—2006, 2007, and 2018—and are one of a handful of teams with favorable odds to take the crown in 2022. Of course, all of that was under the stewardship of Hall of Fame Head Coach Pat Casey, who retired after the 2018 title (and ignominious decision made to play that one starting pitcher). Current HC Mitch “Canned Ham” Canham looks to have the Beavers back to where Casey had them this year, but he has yet to win a Regional in his brief tenure at the helm of this powerhouse program (though, in fairness, he has only had one bite at that particular apple).

Should Vanderbilt be scared? I mean... yeah, probably. The Beavers are arguably the best team out West (though Stansbury’s certainly putting up a late season charge to challenge that notion), and we’ll be in their home stadium dam. Here’s the thing: if you plan to go deep into the NCAA Tourney, you’re going to be tested. Knock the Beavers out here and you won’t have to worry about playing them in Omaha. Get knocked out, and you don’t have to worry about going to Omaha.