The road to Omaha goes through Corvallis

Benny the Beaver accompanies baseball players Trevor Larnach, Mitchell Verburg, Jack Anderson and Grant Gambrell (left to right) as they wait to learn who their opponents will be in the upcoming NCAA tournament.  The watch party took place at the Club Level of Reser Stadium Monday morning. 

Brian Rathbone, News/Sports Chief

Goss Stadium to host regional round of NCAA tournament

For the Oregon State University baseball team, Memorial Day could not have been more different in 2017 compared to last year. 

Three hundred sixty-five days ago, there was a melancholy vibe as the 2016 Beavers watched in an empty room as they got passed over by

the selection committee for the NCAA tournament. This year, they saw their names called as the No. 1 overall seed in the Club Level of a Reser Stadium full of Beaver fans.

“Not making the tournament last year was frustrating and disappointing,” sophomore right-hander Drew Rasmussen said. “All of the returners wanted to guarantee that missing the tournament wasn’t going to happen again. At practice, in the weight room and in the classroom we just pushed a little bit more and a little bit harder to ensure that we wouldn’t have the same feeling again.”

“It was a much better feeling for our guys walking away,” head coach Pat Casey said. “I feel for those guys last year who didn’t get in and probably should have. I know how that feels.”

OSU has not advanced past the regional round since they last went to the College World Series in 2013. It will be up to Holy Cross, Nebraska or Yale to knock off the Beavers, who ran roughshod through the regular season, including going 26-1 at Goss Stadium. 

“I’m very happy that we are hosting,” Casey said. “It really didn’t matter who they brought in, because we knew we were going to get good clubs.”

Nebraska, Yale and Holy Cross may indeed be good teams. But OSU turned into the Orange and Black Machine en route to the best regular season in program history, according to Casey.

“I can’t tell that I’ve ever thought someone should be 49-4,” Casey said. “We get that, we are aware of that, it’s impressive, but it means nothing from here on forward. We just need to prepare for our next opponent.”

OSU lost their sixth game of the season, then went on to reel off  23 consecutive wins—a school record. The team won their final 16 games of the regular season, finishing with a 0.925 winning percentage—yet another school record. The Beavers walked off six times, five during Pac-12, and have been the consensus No. 1 team since March 27.

Luke Heimlich would post a 0.81 earned run average in 111 1/3 innings pitched, Jake Thompson went a perfect 12-0 while flirting with a sub-1.0 ERA last in the season. Nick Madrigal batted .377 on the year, and seven different OSU batters finished with over 25 RBIs on the year. 

“This team hates losing a lot,” sophomore shortstop Cadyn Grenier said.  “It doesn’t matter what the situation is, if we lose we are like, ‘This sucks, let’s not let this happen again.’”

“Everyone brought their lunch box with them, and we are ready to come to work,” Rasmussen said. “There was a blue-collar mentality when it came to working up to this point, and I don’t expect that to change.”

Should the Beavers win three games in their regional, they will eclipse the school record of 52 wins in a season—a mark set by the 2013 team that played four games in Omaha, Neb. in the College World Series. 

“We’ve accomplished something very special in the regular season,” Casey said. “We got to quit talking about that and start worrying about what we need to do next game.”

It’s not the first time that OSU has earned the No. 1 seed. In 2014, despite being seeded, the Michael Conforto and Ben Wetzler-led Beavers could not advance past the regional round. 

“Everything’s different,” Casey said. “I never go back and say ‘Hey, we were the No. 1 seed, and we did this and didn’t do that,’ because everything’s different. We went to Virginia (in 2007) and weren’t supposed to do anything, and we went on to win the National Championship.”

“What the ‘14 team did has no bearing on we need to do here,” Casey said.

Having been left out of the tournament last season, key players such as Madrigal and Grenier will get their first taste of postseason play. Madrigal was named one of the three hitters to watch in the tournament during the selection show.

It’s been a historic year, and Casey wants his team to enjoy the moment, but before closing down the festivities, Casey had one final message to his team and fans in attendance:

“We need to be ready to kick someone’s ass.”