Column: OSU baseball takes care of business
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 02:02
A lot of hype left with the Oregon State baseball team when they went down to the Palm Springs Tournament prior to last weekend.
The Beavers came into the 2013 season ranked No. 6 in the nation, which was high praise for a team that didn’t make it out of the regional round last year.
OSU returned eight of its nine starters around the diamond, as well as two of three starters in the rotation. There were already high expectations for the Beavers before they even threw their first pitch.
So going into a tournament in which OSU would face three unranked teams over four games, it was clear what needed to happen for the Beavers to justify such a high ranking: win out.
That’s exactly what Oregon State did down in Palm Springs, Calif., over the weekend. And it wasn’t just winning all four games OSU needed to do — it was winning them convincingly.
OSU went in and beat Utah Valley by three runs, Gonzaga by seven and UC Riverside by 11. It wasn’t until Monday’s 10-inning win — a rematch with UC Riverside — that the Beavers faced a real challenge in the tournament. But they are 4-0 heading into a road series at San Diego State, and have looked the part of a top-10 team.
Here are the most important observations from yesterday’s close call and the rest of the weekend games:
• The bullpen had been flawless in the first three games of the season, throwing 7 2/3 scoreless innings. Once again, the bullpen came up clutch in Monday’s game. Dylan Davis gave up two earned runs in the first inning and was yanked by head coach Pat Casey. The bullpen went on to throw 10 innings, far more than should ever be expected, allowing no earned runs.
• Freshman Max Engelbrekt, in particular, has been a factor out of the OSU bullpen in the early going. Engelbrekt threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings in Friday’s season-opener, picking up the save. Engelbrekt was called on again in a crunch-time situation for the Beavers, and once again delivered. He pitched 2 2/3 perfect innings in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings Monday to pick up his first career win.
• It’s becoming clear that junior Jerad Casper is going to be an everyday player for the Beavers. Casper, the transfer from Bellevue College, has started in all four games thus far for OSU — starting two times apiece at first and third base. While he’s only recorded three hits in 14 at-bats so far, he’s hit between fifth and seventh in the lineup.
• Dylan Davis’ role for this team remains a mystery after Monday. In three games, he’s hitting .375 with a triple and three runs batted in over eight at-bats. Davis also pitches, but did not fair well Monday, only lasting an inning, while walking two batters, allowing three hits and two earned runs against UC Riverside. This will be a story to watch leading up to Pac-12 play, as it’s unsure how much he’ll be in the lineup and how much he’ll throw out of the bullpen. There’s potential there, but whether that potential gets utilized remains to be seen.
• Utility man extraordinaire Jake Rodriguez has started three of four games at catcher, and one at third base. Not only is Rodriguez valuable for his versatility, but he also has been the team’s best hitter in the first four games. Rodriguez is hitting .463 in 13 at-bats and has gotten at least one hit in all four games.
• Oregon State’s upcoming four-game series at San Diego State, which begins Thursday, will prove to be quite the early-season test. The Aztecs are still unranked, which comes as a surprise considering they just swept intercity rival San Diego over the weekend. San Diego was ranked No. 25 by the preseason poll, but the Aztecs outscored them by 11 runs in the three-game sweep. This weekend’s Palm Springs Tournament held up to expectations for the No. 6 Beavers, but how they fare against San Diego State on the road will give a truer evaluation of just how good Oregon State is.
Warner Strausbaugh, managing editor