OSU Baseball second-half season preview

Oregon State Beavers Baseball anxiously watching from the bullpen. Despite the lack of crowds in Goss Stadium due to Covid-19, the teams cheers were heard loud and clear.

Ben Pahl, Sports Contributor

Oregon State Beavers Baseball got their season off to an 21-8 start and are currently ranked 21st in the country, but still have plenty of conference games ahead of them before the college baseball season concludes.

But before beginning their PAC-12 games, the Beavers started off the 2021 season hot in out-of-conference play by going 4-1 in Surprise, Ariz., a stretch that included a 14-1 victory over New Mexico and a 20-4 victory over Gonzaga.  The Beavers followed this up with a four-game sweep of Grand Canyon University and a three-game sweep of BYU, before losing two of three to the Oregon Ducks against their first PAC-12 opponent.  

After dropping two games against the Ducks, the Beavers continued a cold stretch during their season by losing their 5-2 against Washington State the following week. The Beavers quickly regained their fire, however, and have gone 7-1 since then. 

Pitching appears to be a weapon for the Beavers this year, and Oregon State will be hoping that it continues to be for the remainder of the year.  Freshman left-hander Cooper Hjerpe leads the team with a 1.69 ERA and a 2-2record.  Sophomore Kevin Abel, the hero of the 2018 College World Series who pitched a shutout to send the Beavers to the championship, currently holds a 2.74 ERA.  Sophomore Jake Pfennigs holds a 2.49 ERA and a 2-0 record.    As a team, the Beavers currently hold a combined ERA of 2.36, good for first  in the country among all Division 1 teams.  

The Beavers have gotten off to a comparatively slower start offensively, and had a stretch of scoring just three runs in three games in the series loss to Oregon.  However, the bats have started to heat up as of late against Washington State and Washington, with a combined 45 runs in those six games.  

Senior Andy Armstrong is having a breakout year with a .378 batting average and two home runs, after never averaging above .286 in his college career up until this point.  True Freshman Garrett Forrester is off to a strong start as well with a .306 batting average and also has five home runs.  Senior Preston Jones currently holds a .293 batting average and has also taken 13 walks.  Joe Casey, son of former Oregon State coach Pat Casey, is batting .271 and has four home runs of his own.

But Oregon State will need to combine their consistency on the mound with their recent batting success as the team moves into PAC-12 play. In general, the conference has been off to a strong start in 2021.  Other than the Beavers, three teams are ranked in the top 25, being the 21st-ranked UCLA Bruins, the 22nd-ranked Arizona Wildcats and 19th-ranked Oregon Ducks. 

Besides the ranked teams, numerous other ball clubs within the conference have had strong seasons. The Arizona State Sun Devils are off to a 17-8 start, the Stanford Cardinal are 19-5, and even the Washington State Cougars, picked to finish last in the media’s preseason poll, are above .500 with a current record of 15-10.  

Even with a conference of strong teams, the Beavers were fortunate enough to get a break from PAC-12 play to start April, hosting the Gonzaga Bulldogs for a two-game series on April 5 and 6, a team that Oregon State beat 20-4 earlier this season. The Bulldogs did get their revenge, however, splitting the series 1-1.

The schedule ramped up after this, however.  From April 9-12 the Beavers hosted the 19th ranked Oregon Ducks, before welcoming Cal for a three-game series.  Following this home stretch, Oregon State will head to L.A. to take on the UCLA Bruins.  The conference season also includes series’ against USC, Arizona State, Arizona and Stanford. 

Oregon State is off to their best start since 2018, their last national championship year. But even with a highly-ranked group of pitchers, a strong PAC-12 conference stands as an obstacle between them and another run in the College World Series.