Harlan: Closing chapter on 2023 Beaver baseball season


Lily Middleton

Oregon State second baseman Travis Bazzana (#37) up to bat against West Carolina at Goss Stadium on May 19. The Beaver Baseball team finished the 2023 season with a record of 41-20 but were eliminated in the Baton Rouge Regional by LSU.

Ryan Harlan, Sports Columnist

Editor’s Note: This column does not represent the opinion of The Daily Barometer. This column reflects the personal opinions of the writer.

Baseball season isn’t quite over yet in Corvallis, as the Corvallis Knights take to the field at Goss Stadium. However, Beaver Baseball’s season ended in the Baton Rouge Regional in Baton Rouge, LA, to the Louisiana State University Tigers. 

Although the Beavers’ season did not end the way most fans hoped, I wanted to look back on this season as there is much to discuss.

The Beavers finished the 2023 season with a 41-20 record and an 18-12 PAC-12 Conference record, which was nearly identical to the PAC-12 Conference record from the 2022 season. 

This season for Oregon State baseball was expected to be a rebuilding year after the conclusion of the 2022 season with their loss in the Corvallis Super Regional to the Auburn University Tigers. 

I’ll admit this was a warranted expectation at the time for the Beavers. The team lost several starters and contributors from the squad, including Jacob Melton, Cooper Hjerpe, Justin Boyd, Wade Meckler, and Jacob Pfennigs. However, I think many people doubted too early how the Beavers would look without these players.  

Despite those losses, especially on the offensive side of the ball, the Beavers finished the season with 89 home runs, beating their record for most home runs in a season. The previous record was 67 home runs when the Beavers won the National Championship in 2018.  

One of the players that helped the Beavers to that mark was freshman Gavin Turley who hit 14 home runs on the season, including an inside-the-park homerun against Louisiana State University in the Baton Rouge Regional. 

Turley started out this season on a hot streak before eventually entering a cold stretch struggling against PAC-12 opponents. Turley later regained that early momentum in the season and carried it into post-season play, in both the PAC-12 Tournament and the Baton Rouge Regional. 

With his early success as a freshman, Turley is expected to be a big contributor for the Beavers once again into the 2024 season, along with Travis Bazzana. Bazzana led the team in steals with 36 stolen bases and 11 home runs this season. 

These two will likely be the focus of the offense for the Beavers in the 2024 season. This is dependent on how the baseball roster shakes out before the season opener. 

Now at the end of every season, players leave either through the transfer portal, continue their baseball careers in the professional leagues, or have run out of eligibility.

Transfer portal/MLB futures: 

The Beavers that have run out of eligibility this season are Ben Ferrer, Trent Sellers, and TJ Wheeler. Sellers and Ferrer were an important part of the Beavers pitching lineup this season, while Wheeler played sparingly in a few games for the Beavers. 

So far, the Beavers have had six players enter the transfer portal with the conclusion of the 2023 season. Those players include left-handed pitcher Justin Thorsteinson, right-handed pitchers Braiden Boisvert, David Grewe, and Victor Quinn, and infielders Ely Kennel and Kyle Dernedde. 

The noticeable trend I see so far is that the Beavers are losing a lot of arms on the pitching staff headed into the 2024 season. It’s a bit concerning, but there’s likely a plan for some of the new faces in the pitching staff to see significant playing time next season. 

I would also expect some transfers to come in, along with the addition of the incoming freshman class to replace some of the production from the transfer players. However, we won’t know who the Beavers will sign until they’re officially announced by the team. 

The other thing to look at roster-wise is which Beaver baseball players will be drafted by an MLB team and the incoming freshman class in 2024. 

Right now, there are several players that are MLB draft eligible for the Beavers, including Garret Forrester, Kyle Dernedde, Ryan Brown, and AJ Lattery. Ultimately, whether they’ll return to Oregon State will likely be how high they’ll be drafted. This will remain to be seen, and the only one with a current draft grade is Forrester. 

According to the MLB prospect ranking list, Forrester is currently ranked as the 118th-ranked prospect. 

There are two incoming freshmen for the Beavers that could get drafted early and opt to go to the MLB rather than go to Oregon State. They are left-handed pitcher Paul Wilson and infielder Trent Caraway, but we’ll have to see what their decisions are when the draft is over. 

PAC-12 Tournament: 

Let’s switch topics and get back to the 2023 Beaver baseball season, specifically the PAC-12 Tournament. I don’t want to mince words and say the PAC-12 Baseball Tournament in Arizona was a bit of a disappointing performance from the team. When you have a quick elimination from the tournament, that is to be expected when the team gave up 27 combined runs. 

This was due to injuries to starting right-handed pitchers Jacob Kmatz and Jaren Hunter. As a result, the Beavers started pitchers who played sparingly in relief appearances to play bigger roles than previously expected of them. 

I believe this was to give players the experience and to rest other players headed into the Baton Rouge Regional. On the other hand, many fans were not happy with this strategy and were calling for pitching coach Rich Dorman to be fired. 

While I understand the frustration, and I thought Dorman could’ve prepared players a little bit better, there’s not a lot that could’ve been done when you’re down two starting pitchers, and the stadium the team was playing in is very friendly to any team’s offense. 

Pitching coach 

I wanted to bring up Dorman specifically, because it seems that these past seasons the call by the fans to have him fired after a bad pitching staff performance has only grown louder. The most notable uproar was after the PAC-12 tournament. I’m going, to be honest – it’s gotten ridiculous at this point. 

Firstly, the Beavers were not the only team giving up double digits in the tournament, as head coach Mitch Canham alluded to in a media availability before the Beavers went down to Baton Rouge. 

In fact, Canham sounded very frustrated when he was talking about the team’s performance that day, and it sounded to me that he probably heard discourse from fans about firing Dorman. 

I understand why Canham was frustrated, as this was not just an issue exclusively dealt with by the Beavers. On top of that, the team was dealing with injuries headed into the postseason with injuries to their pitching staff and roster. 

For fans to completely ignore this and demand that the head coach fire his assistant coach, because of these issues, gets tiring very fast.  

Especially when you hear these calls starting since the season opener against the University of New Mexico Lobos. 

Personally, if Canham were to fire Dorman, this move would have already happened, and we would have a coach to take over as the new pitching coach for Beaver Baseball. Now, that’s not happened, as Dorman has done a solid job in developing pitchers for the Beavers, including a first-round pick in Hjerpe. 

So, Dorman isn’t going anywhere for a while, and if he does, the Beavers would move on from him either once his contract expires or if Canham goes in a different direction. 

While Dorman is in this role at Oregon State, fans must remember that just because the pitching staff may struggle in a game, it doesn’t entirely fall on the shoulders of the coach. The responsibility should be shared equally between the coaches and the players. 

I want to end this as we close the chapter on the 2023 season. While this team has high expectations each year to make it to the College World Series to win a championship, there’s a lot that must go right to compete for a National Championship. 

The Beavers are close to a return to competing for a National Championship, but they’re not a coach away from getting back to the College World Series.

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