Thursday, June 1, 2006

Beavers dismiss slight


The team to beat in the Corvallis, Ore., baseball regional isn't wasting any energy stewing about the NCAA's decision not to award it a top-eight national seed.

Oregon State, host for a four-team regional beginning Friday, won the past two Pac-10 championships, is coming off a College World Series appearance and is ranked as high as No. 4 nationally.

Yet the NCAA selection committee didn't give the Beavers (39-14) a top-eight national seed. The top eight seeds earn the right to play host to regionals and, if they advance, get to stay home for super-regionals, too.

Initially, the Beavers expressed disappointment at the slight, but coach Pat Casey thinks reports were exaggerated.

"Everybody talks about how disappointed we are," Casey said Wednesday. "I think the club felt, if you win a conference like the Pac-10 or Big 12 or SEC, you're worthy of being a national seed. But we haven't spent a lot of time worrying about it. I think you just have to come out and play."

The Beavers get their chance soon enough. They'll face fourth-seeded Wright State (32-25) at 7 p.m. Friday. Second-seeded Kansas (42-23) and No. 3 seed Hawaii (43-15) kick off the regional at 2 p.m. Friday.

Casey claims to be wary of the Corvallis field despite - or, perhaps, because of - its relative inexperience in the NCAAs.

Kansas and Wright State are making their first appearances in the NCAAs since 1994, while Hawaii hasn't been to the tournament since 1993.

"You definitely have to be ready. Everybody has to be ready to handle that kind of energy, because they'll come out and be juiced about playing," Casey said of newcomers. "We have to match that intensity right away. Hopefully we can take away that excitement."

The Beaver faithful are sure to bring some of their own.

OSU's Goss Stadium normally holds 2,000 fans, but it will be expanded, Casey said, to close to 4,000 for regionals.

It's a stadium with a reputation.

"As far as the Pac-10 is concerned, it's considered the funnest place to play," Casey said. "It's not as big as Arizona State, but we fill it. It's a great little ballpark, and it's fun, because the fans are close."

As a team, the Beavers boast a .302 batting average and a 3.53 team earned-run average. They also have an impressive .973 fielding percentage.

"We're not an overpowering club," said Casey, two-time Pac-10 coach of the year. "We have to be consistent throughout the lineup. For us to be effective, we have to play defense and pitch."

Junior outfielder Cole Gillespie, the Pac-10 player of the year, leads OSU with a .370 batting average, 11 home runs and 50 RBIs. He also is tied for the team lead with 14 stolen bases. Shortstop Darwin Barney hits at .348 with no home runs but 29 RBIs and 14 steals.

On the mound, Dallas Buck boasts a 2.92 ERA and an 11-2 record, while Jonah Nickerson is 9-4 with a 2.61 ERA. Both are right-handers.

Left-handed closer Kevin Gunderson is 2-2 with a 2.54 ERA and 15 saves in 29 appearances.

Buck is expected to start Friday and Nickerson on Saturday.


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