The Beavers take a break from conference play

The Oregon State baseball team takes a break from Pac-12 competition to host a three-game weekend series against Central Arkansas from the Southland Conference.

Entering the series the Beavers (19-7, 5-4 Pac-12) will try and duplicate the pitching performance against the Bears (12-14, 5-7 Southland) that they had against Washington, where the pitching staff allowed a total of eight runs in 30 total innings of work. Despite being without their Ace, sophomore Drew Rasmussen.

On Sunday against Washington, OSU went with sophomore lefty Luke Heimlich as it’s starter and he went six innings, allowed one run on four hits in the Beavers 3-2 loss to the Huskies in 12 innings.

When it comes time to name a starter, Heimlich has demonstrated that he can fill in and provide quality innings when called upon.

“We sometimes play by what we feel is comfortable,” pitching coach Nate Yeskie said. “Luke has shown a good feel in that spot for us, he could very well stay there.”

“What we are looking for in any starter is consistency,” he said. “If he is going to give us good starts like he did (on Sunday against Washington) then I guess that’s what we are looking for.”

Fortunately for the Beaver’s pitching staff, who tops the Pac-12 in strikeouts and wins, they are facing a Bear offense that ranks 12 out of the 13 Southland teams in batting average (.252) and eighth in runs scored (108).

KJ’s back on track

As a freshman last season, KJ Harrison led the Pac-12 with 60 runs batted in. High expectations were put on the Freshman All-American for a big encore in his sophomore season.

Through the Beaver’s first 13 games, he wasn’t driving runners home at the same rate he had the previous season. He had more strikeouts than RBI’s (10 K’s to 9 RBI’s) while hitting .192 with runners in scoring position (RISP) and ranked fourth on the team in RBIs.

Over the next 13 games, nine of which were against Pac-12 opponents, Harrison found his stroke in the batter’s box. He has raised his RISP average from .192 to .250 with 14 RBIs. He has also cut down his strikeouts from 10 in the first 13 games to three the next 13. As of now, Harrison is tied with junior catcher Logan Ice with 23 RBIs — good for fourth in the Pac-12.

Harrison’s resurgence in the middle of the lineup can be attributed to him laying off “pitcher’s pitches” and remaining patient when runners are in scoring position.

“He is swinging at better pitches,” said Ice. “That’s the biggest thing for any good hitter, especially that hit in the middle of the order, they are hitting that way because they are getting the pitches that they want…he’s been swinging at a lot of good pitches and hitting them well.”

Pac-12’s top pitcher

Senior Travis Eckert was named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week for his performance in the Beavers’ 10-1 win against Washington last Friday.

Eckert, the team’s regular Sunday starter, was called upon to make the move into the Friday rotation spot, upon finding out that usual friday starter, Rasmussen would be out for the remainder of the season with torn ulnar collateral ligament which requires Tommy John surgery.

Deciding to return for his senior year after being drafted by the San Francisco Giants, Eckert delivered five innings of shutout baseball, allowing only three hits and three walks, while striking out a career-high nine batters.

“It’s really neat, it’s the first time for me, it’s pretty cool,” said Eckert.  “I’ll be happy about it for a little bit, and forget it, and keep staying with the routine.”

Home vs. Away: Advantage home team

In the series against Washington the average attendance was 3,156 people, with a high of 3,319 people on Saturday the day that the 2006 College World Series Champs. On the season the Beavers have an 8-3 record in the friendly confines of Goss Stadium.

OSU welcomes a Bears team that has not had much success away from home. Central Arkansas has a 1-11 record away from their home at Bear Stadium.

DamCity Showcase

Friday and Sunday’s contents will be held at Goss Stadium while Saturday’s game will be played at Hillsboro Ballpark as part of the DamCity Showcase

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