The championship team that almost wasn’t

Stephanie Kutcher Orange Media Network
Scott Santschi, Brett Casey, Joe Patterson, Eddie Kunz, and Greg Keim signing autographs before Friday’s game against Utah. 

Brian Rathbone News/Sports Chief

2007 national champion team returns to OSU, is honored at Goss Stadium

Jack Anderson hooked a triple into the right-field corner and brought home the tying run in the 16th inning against Utah on Saturday. Two batters later, the junior scored the winning run to give Oregon State the 5-4 victory, extending the Beavers’ win streak to 22 games.

It was an important day for the Lake Oswego High School graduate, who had grown up rooting for and dreaming about being a part of the team he is currently playing for.

“Wearing these jerseys,” Anderson said, pointing to the jersey he was wearing and to the mural next to the entrance of the locker room, “that I see almost every day and being able to contribute in a way that makes those guys proud is pretty cool.”

The jerseys Anderson is talking about are the gray, pinstriped jerseys that were worn in 2007. The guys he is referring to are the 2007 national championship team, who returned for their 10-year anniversary Saturday.

Ten players—Erik Ammon, Mark Grbavac, Greg Keim, Eddie Kunz, Joe Patterson, Scott Santschi, Ryan Ortiz, Brett Casey, Blake Keizman and John Wallace—from that team returned to Goss Stadium. They signed autographs, took photos with fans and were honored before the game. Patterson, who struck out the final North Carolina batter to win the College World Series, delivered the first pitch of Saturday’s game

The top-ranked Beavers welcomed the ’07 team with a come-from-behind victory in the 16th inning that head coach Pat Casey said would have made that team proud.

Mother Nature welcomed the team home with a healthy dose of rain and even a hail storm—a fitting forecast for a team dubbed “Reign Makers” on the cover of The Oregonian after Oregon State captured its second consecutive national championship.

It was beautiful early in Saturday’s game, followed by ugly, then beautiful once again when the sun finally broke through late in the game. Much like the 2007 season.

Unlike the 2006 championship team, who had to fight their way through six elimination games to capture the program’s first title, the ’07 squad dominated in Omaha, Neb. They beat each of the four teams they faced—including a sweep of North Carolina, the team they also beat the year before, in the three-game championship series.

That story almost didn’t happened. With a losing record in conference play and having dropped eight of the final 12 games of the season, Casey and the Beavers were cautiously optimistic about their chances of reaching the postseason.


Oregon State was reeling going into the final series of the 2007 season against UCLA. OSU’s chances of repeating as national champions, let alone making a return trip to the postseason, were quickly slipping away with each conference loss.

The team needed a spark.

It took all of two batters into the top of the first inning to jump-start the team.

John Wallace had legged out an infield single, or so he and Casey thought. The first-base umpire did not agree and called Wallace out. Casey and the ump each voiced their views on the play. When neither could come to an agreement, Casey was ejected. The team would be without their head coach for the 8 2/3 innings left in the game.

Exiting the field, Casey passed through the bullpen where Kunz and several other pitchers were. Casey didn’t say a word to his players. He didn’t have to. Casey’s actions were all that was needed to reignite his club. He walked right past his players and continued to walk from the field back to the team hotel.

“I was actually impressed that he got tossed because that doesn’t happen very often with Casey,” Kunz said. “When he did that, he put a little fire under us and let us know that our coach is battling for us to get these.”

“I had to do something; I couldn’t coach them,” Casey said. “We had just gotten swept by Arizona State, so I had to say, ‘Hey you guys, take it on.’”

That gambit worked. Oregon State took two of three in the series in Los Angeles. Even with the series win to cap off the season, few inside the clubhouse, including Casey, felt comfortable going into the selection for the NCAA Tournament on Memorial Day.

“I thought this was 50-50,” Casey said. “I knew we were good enough to get in; it was whether you got in or not. It was a tight day.”

Sixty-three teams had been called. Oregon State was team No. 64. The last team announced.

The Run

The Beavers were in. Despite the losing conference record, despite losing eight of their final 12 games. OSU’s chances of repeating as champions were still a reality. The road back to Omaha started with an East Coast trip to Charlottesville, Va., for the regional round.

A victory over Rutgers in their opening game was followed by a loss to Virginia. Suddenly, the Beavers found themselves one loss away from being sent home.

There was no panic after the loss. There was still plenty of carryover from the ’06 team that won six elimination games—the team felt their 13-inning loss to the Cavaliers would be the final defeat of the year.

“It was just really an odd time. We just got on this tear,” Casey said. “I don’t know why I had that feeling. It was just our club was ready to go.”

“We were tested and we knew that it was now or never, and it was time to show up,” Wallace said. “I really think we built on that mentality and once we got in the playoffs, a lot of the veterans stepped up and said, ‘It’s go time, whatever happened during the season doesn’t matter.’”

Oregon State was slated to play in the Super Regionals against Vanderbilt, the No. 1 seed that had eventual top MLB Draft pick and Cy Young winner David Price leading the way. Luckily, Michigan had knocked off the Commodores.

Another dose of good fortune helped out the Beavers. Michigan had started to renovate its stadium, meaning the Super Regionals would be played in Corvallis, rather than Ann Arbor, Mich.

“As soon as we brought it back home,” Kunz said, “there is no shot for them whatsoever.”

OSU would go on to sweep Michigan at Goss Stadium, earning a third straight trip to the College World Series. Four players from the team would be playing at Rosenblatt Stadium for the third time, with several players being part of the ’06 championship team. The confidence was was already there.

“By then, we knew what we had to do,” Kunz said. “We walked in there like, ‘Hey, we know what we’re doing. Let’s go in and get this ring.’ And that’s exactly what we did.”

The Beavers would march their way through to capture the second title. After winning their first game by one run against UC Irvine, they would go on to win their remaining four games by an average of more than six runs.

The team put it all together for 12-game stretch when it mattered most.

For the second time in two years, the Beavers dogpiled in middle of the field, celebrating a championship season. Patterson, who got the final out, found himself at the bottom of the pile.

“You can’t reenact that,” Patterson said. “There’s so much adrenaline, so much happiness. It’s a release of all this stress. If I could relive that moment, or mimic that in any way, I would do it every day because that’s a pretty cool feeling.”

10 years later

A lot has changed in the 10 years since the team won it all. Players had to reintroduce themselves in the autograph lines because they are no longer the 20-somethings that fans recognize.

The Goss Stadium today isn’t the same stadium that the ’07 team played in. It’s in the same spot, but it looks different. Artificial turf has since replaced the grass and dirt, renovations to grandstands occurred, alumni centers and new clubhouses were built on the success of those championship teams.

Two things remained constant: the support for Oregon State baseball that started when trips to the College World Series became a regular occurrence, and teams with dreams of winning on College Baseball’s grandest stage.

In 2013, OSU won the Pac-12 title while making it all the way to Omaha, but came up short. A year later, the Beavers were the No. 1 overall seed, but couldn’t make it out of the regional round.

The ’07 team remains the last OSU team of any sport to win a national championship.

On Sunday, Oregon State completed the sweep of Utah with a 5-1 victory. The team remained perfect in conference play and tied the Pac-12 record for consecutive wins, reaching 23.

As successful as the team has been, they are still chasing the dream that the ’07 team was able to capture.

“It was special,” Anderson said recalling the team from 10 years ago. “I didn’t understand how difficult it was until I got here and really understood how hard it is to do it once. Then (to) do it again, that was something special.”

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