Beavs take Tucson

Josh Worden Senior Beat Reporter

By Josh Worden

Senior Beat Reporter

The Oregon State softball team didn’t even need to play a game this weekend to improve its NCAA RPI rankings.

Even with the bye week, the Beavers jumped from No. 27 to No. 23 in the national rankings, meaning OSU is in even better position now with just two Pac-12 series left to make the NCAA Tournament and improve its seeding.

First, OSU travels to Tucson this weekend to face No. 18 Arizona in a three-game series that starts Friday at 5 p.m.

OSU junior first baseman Natalie Hampton still vividly remembers playing Arizona her freshman year.

She helped the Beavers sweep the Wildcats in Corvallis three years ago, winning all three games by a 2-1 score. Since then, the Wildcats have won all six games against OSU by a combined 74-10 score, but Hampton isn’t worried about this weekend’s series.

“Arizona’s not the team they used to be, and even when they were the team they used to be, we swept them,” she said. “They’re definitely beatable, and this group of girls can do a lot of damage against them.”

The series is OSU’s last of the regular season on the road, ahead of only the homestand against Arizona State the following weekend.

At 27-16-1 on the season, OSU is on pace to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013. The Beavers have just six games left in the regular season, and the NCAA Regionals start May 20.

“To be honest, I don’t think a lot of the girls know that this is our last road trip,” Hampton said. “We just kind’ve play and take one weekend at a time. I think we’re going to be ready.”

“We want to put ourselves in the best position to go postseason,” added freshman catcher Kayleen Shafer. “Every pitch and every inning is a fight for the postseason.”

OSU head coach Laura Berg has plenty of familiarity with Arizona and the Wildcats’ coaching staff. Arizona head coach Mike Candrea was the head coach for the USA National Softball Team in the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games. Berg starred on both of those teams, earning gold and silver medals, respectively, with Candrea at the helm. Candrea is no novice to collegiate softball, either; he’s in his 31st year with the Wildcats with eight NCAA Championships to his name.

“Playing for Candrea, I know exactly what to expect: speed and power,” Berg said. “We’re going to have to play very quick defensively, because they’re fast.”

Berg and the Beavers have still “watched a lot of film” of the Wildcats, especially since OSU didn’t have any other games to prepare for this weekend with the bye week.

Also, the Beavers have altered their preparation specifically for Arizona’s pitchers, Danielle O’Toole and Nancy Bowling, who are both left handed. Coach Berg, who is a lefty herself, has handled a higher amount of the pitching duties during batting practice sessions this week.


Presidential Prank


Speaking of the 2008 Olympic Games and Candrea, one of coach Berg’s most notable practical jokes comes from Beijing that year with coach Candrea looking on.

Berg was playing center field for the USA National Softball Team and the team met then-President George W. Bush during a practice.

“We were warming up, getting ready and his entourage shows up,” Berg said. “They bring all of us together and he’s there talking to us. Then he goes down the line and starts shaking everybody’s hand. He started on the other side of where I was standing, so I walked over, got some chalk on my hand and went back to my spot. When it came to my turn, I shook his hand and brought him closer to me for a semi-handshake, and that’s when I put the handprint on his back. I told my teammate I was going to do it, and she was like, ‘You’re not going to do it.’ I’m like, ‘Oh yes, I’m going to do it. When am I ever going to have the opportunity to do this again?’ So I saw the opportunity and I took it.”

It took President Bush a moment to realize the practical joke Berg had pulled, but in the end, he handled the prank with a laugh.

“First he didn’t know, and then one of my teammates told him and said ‘You got Bergied.’ That’s my nickname: Bergie,” coach Berg said. “He laughed it off. He had a great sense of humor about it, took a picture with me and had a great time.”

On Twitter @BrightTies

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