Rathbone: Baseball end of season superlatives

Joshua Lucas Daily Barometer

Brian Rathbone Senior Beat Reporter

It’s time to hand out some awards!

I’m with you, that exclamation point seems forced. To be honest, I’m not super excited to be giving out these superlatives. Not because it’s a drag, or because these players don’t deserve them, but because it’s way too early to be handing these outs.

The Oregon State baseball team should be prepping for their regional round game, hoping to keeping their current hot-streak alive that started two weeks ago into the postseason. But, they were denied their chance by the College World Series committee.

Instead, they–along with everyone else on campus–are anxiously waiting to pick up the third-to-last issue of the Daily Barometer of the year, just wanting to know who had the best walkup music, or who is destined to break out next year.

That, or they will read this and think to themselves “did this guy even watch a game this year?”

So without further ado, your 2016 Beaver Baseball Superlatives

Most Valuable Player: Logan Ice

Ice has always been a great defensive catcher and managed the pitching staff well in his first two seasons as the team’s starting catcher. In 2016, he continued to be a wall behind the dish and stabilized inconsistent pitching staff and helped turn them into one of the Pac-12’s best. On top of that he turned into a force in the batter’s box hitting seven home runs, batting .310, driving in 37 runs while remaining patient at the plate with a BB/K rate of 37/25. You can’t take Ice off the field, making him the team’s most valuable player.

Pitcher of the Year: Travis Eckert

The senior righty went from an inconsistent Sunday starter as a junior to the Friday Ace when Drew Rasmussen fell victim to Tommy John surgery. Once he took over Friday duties, Eckert’s game elevated, earning Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week twice. He set the tone for the young and inexperienced pitching staff. In his final two starts of the year in must-win situations on the road against USC and the final series against UCLA, Eckert went a combined 15 2/3 innings, allowing only one run on nine hits, while striking out 10 batters.

Freshman of the Year: Nick Madrigal

If you didn’t get a chance to see Madrigal play this season, watch the highlights of Game 1 of the UCLA series. It was his first game back from an shoulder injury that kept him out for six games, but he nearly won the game by himself with his defensive play and timely hitting. The second baseman led the Beavers in batting average during conference play hitting .316 (the only OSU player with an average above .300). Madrigal’s performance in his freshman campaign earned him a spot on Team USA for the summer. It’s a bright future ahead for Madrigal in the orange and black.

Surprise of the Year: Bryce Fehmel

Who would have thought Fehmel—who did not make a start in high school as a pitcher, who came to OSU as a hybrid infielder—would lead the team in wins (10) and earned run average (2.31)? If you thought that was going to happen when OSU opened play in February, I’m calling BS. I imagine even Fehmel sits back and wonders “did that just happen?” when reflecting on his freshman season. Mostly used out of the bullpen, Fehmel cracked the weekend rotation the final two series of the year where he allowed only one run on 11 hits over 16 1/3 innings of work, which included a shutout against UCLA. Not bad, Bryce, not bad.

Biggest Jump: Christian Donahue

C-Boy had a good freshman season in 2015 he made 47 starts (mostly at second base) and hit .287 with 14 runs batted in. Donahue then upped his game this year bumping his batting average up to a team-high .339 while doubling his RBI total from a year ago, going from 14 to 29. With Madrigal taking over the second base duties, Donahue shifted to playing left field where he quickly became comfortable making several Web Gems throughout the year.

Gold Glove: Cadyn Grenier

There is a lot of candidates for this gold glove, the entire infield could all make their case as well as a couple of outfielders. But when I watched games, whenever the ball was hit in Grenier’s direction, I never worried. Grenier had the range of shortstop and the arm of a third baseman. He is also versatile, when he shifted to second base for the USC series when Madrigal was still coming back from injury, it looked as though he had played that position the entire year.

Breakout for 2017: Elliott Cary

Remember Elliott Cary, the sweet-swinging lefty who emerged in the middle of the order in 2015? Well he missed the entire 2016 season recovering from Tommy John surgery that he had over the summer. He was rumored to at least be able to bat this season, but he never did. Nevertheless, Cary should be a big-time performer next year. We can throw in fellow Tommy John-ers Sam Tweedt and Drew Rasmussen in this category as well.

Best Walkup Music: Steven Kwan

This was a no-brainer. Whenever the freshman centerfielder walked up to bat the iLoveMemphis’’ “Hit the Quan” blasts over speakers at Goss Stadium. Unlike Logan Ice, Kwan went with a song that features his name in the lyrics. This raises a couple questions for me: does he use this song as a reminder to “get down low and swing your arms” when up to bat? Or is Kwan egging on the pitchers to “Hit the Kwan” so he can get on base? Should we start referring Steven as “The Kwan” on a day-to-day basis? Whatever it may be, Kwan hit his walkup song out of the park.

High Point:

The Beavers finished the regular season on about the highest note possible. For three straight games, the Beavers’ pitching staff shutout the Bruins, not allowing a single run for 27 straight innings. It was the first time in program history that had happened. Not only did they pitch well in that series, the defense stepped up and the offense came up with timely hits. They looked like a team hitting their stride at the right time before the postseason, but…

Low Point:

Less than 24 hours after a shutout sweep against UCLA, the College World Series committee in their infinite wisdom (eye roll) decided to leave Oregon State out of the field. It came as a shock to players, coaches and national media alike. What separates this from their loss to Portland or a dropping their first home series loss to Oregon, is that the they don’t have a chance to bounce back or climb their way out. They have to wait until next season to do so.

And that should put a wrap on 2016 season for Beaver baseball team; a season filled with obstacles to overcome, players stepping in and stepping up that ultimately ended sooner than many hoped for or wanted.

Until next year.