Beavers’ road to Omaha begins in Arizona

Gavin Turley against Western Carolina on May 19, 2023.
Gavin Turley against Western Carolina on May 19, 2023.
Lily Middleton

A tradition unlike any other, the Oregon State baseball team making their season debut with a surprise.

Surprise, Arizona that is.

The Beavers have opened their season in Arizona dating back to the days of when Pat Casey was coaching the team. The tradition of playing in Surprise Stadium continues well after Casey’s tenure as head coach for the Beavers.

“We enjoy that opportunity down there, I think everyone loves traveling and being in the sun a little bit” said head coach Mitch Canham. “We’ll be practicing that road trip environment week one and its tradition at this point, playing some solid competition and getting it going, facing someone else for the first time. I think that players, coaches, fans, and families are all excited about it.”

One of the players that is excited about the trip down to Arizona is true freshman Trent Caraway who will be at third base this season for the Beavers. Caraway learns a new position after primarily playing shortstop in high school mentioning that the transition has been easy despite the step up in competition at the college level.

“I’m just excited to get down in the sun, I’m a California boy and I like the sun. It’s pretty cloudy right now here but I’m excited to get down in the sun and play some ball with the guys,” Caraway said.

With the team set to open their season on Friday against the University of New Mexico, there is plenty of excitement and expectations for the team in 2024.

The Beavers are ranked top ten in many preseason college baseball polls and are projected to win the PAC-12 Conference this year. With the expectations being as they are every year; making it back to the College World Series in Omaha and winning a National Championship.

Before any of that can happen, the Beavers not only need to win games but also need to be learners over the course of the season and constantly be improving as a team.

“Response to any hardship, I think that’s a good indicator of how the rest of the season is going to go, how do these guys respond to hard time?” Canham said. “There are teams that have struggled the first couple weeks and have ended up in Omaha, there are teams that have dominated and not done anything. We’ll be paying a lot of attention to guys making sure that they are able to control their emotions and go out and compete for themselves as well as the guys around them.”

Former Washington State transfer Elijah Hainline is projected to play shortstop this season for the Beavers mentioning that everyone in the locker room continues to push each other to get better every day.

“There’s a high standard that’s here. When you come here you the culture is going to be a winning program,” Hainline said. “We all expect a lot more out of each other, and I think the goal is at the end of the year is the National Championship. Everyone wants the best out of you, and everyone knows what the goal is, to have a really good end goal.”

Last time the Beavers won the College World Series was back in 2018 and they have the capability to return to Omaha with the talent with their lineup and pitching staff.

Canham mentioned that former Arizona transfer right-handed pitcher Aiden May will be the Friday starter for the Beavers.

“Friday night is a unique moment, high emotion under the lights, adrenaline and you have to have some serious attitude about you,” Canham said about naming May the starter for Friday. “He’s got electricity coming out of his arm, to go out there you have to be a little different and do it. He’s ready for that challenge and set the tone for the weekend.”

Canham mentioned that May has a mix of qualities like former Oregon State pitchers Kevin Abel and Trent Sellers.

“Aiden’s got a good blend of that; he doesn’t get too emotional. I doubt we will see him chirping at anyone else other than himself and going and attacking bats, he wants this opportunity to set the tone for the guys around him,” Canham said.

May’s high school teammate right-handed pitcher Jacob Kmatz will take over pitching duties for Saturday. According to Canham, the starting pitching spot for Sunday is currently to be determined within the next couple of days mentioning that a lot of guys are in the mix including right-hander Jaren Hunter.

The Beavers not only have a talented pitching staff but also a talented lineup as well with nine guys being able to put the ball in play. According to Hainline, he thinks that there are no holes in the hitting lineup for the Beavers this season.

The lineup in addition to Hainline and Caraway features the returning bats of Travis Bazzana, Gavin Turley, Micah McDowell, Brady Kasper, Mason Guerra, Tyce Peterson, and Tanner Smith.

As a group, the Beavers combined for 89 home runs in the 2023 season, which was a program record. The Beavers have the talent for the 2024 to likely surpass that record with the power that the hitting lineup possesses, which will be a strength for the team this season.

Guerra’s projection on the long ball total this year is “a hundred,” while Turley doesn’t have a number in mind, he thinks they will hit “more” than last year’s tally.

The anticipation continues to grow for the Beaver Baseball’s 2024 season with the level of talent returning and high expectations put on this team all of preseason.  The Beavers will get the opportunity to prove those expectations right on Friday when they take on the Lobos in the College Baseball Classic.

First pitch against the Lobos is scheduled for Friday at 11 a.m. (PT) with the game being streamed on FloBaseball.

College Baseball Classic Schedule

New Mexico – Friday, Feb. 16 (11 a.m. PT)

Minnesota – Saturday, Feb.  17 (11 a.m. PT)

CSU Bakersfield – Sunday, Feb. 18 (11 a.m. PT)

Minnesota – Monday, Feb. 19 (9 a.m., PT)

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