Small ball, long ball is a recipe for success
Published: Monday, March 11, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 11, 2013 02:03
Going undefeated in any sport is nearly impossible. Going undefeated in baseball — at the college or professional level — is impossible.
No college or pro team has ever gone undefeated in baseball. Understandable, considering the amount of games played (60-70 in a college season).
The best winning percentage of all-time in the NCAA was the 1972 Arizona State team (when ASU was a member of the Western Athletic Conference). The Sun Devils went 64-6 that year, but still didn’t win it all — losing to USC in the championship game of the College World Series.
As of now, No. 4 Oregon State is 15-0 after completing a three-game sweep of Texas State.
The grind of the baseball season is taxing, to say the least. The Beavers have now played 15 games in 25 days, and are currently in a stretch of having 12 games in 18 days.
Head coach Pat Casey said the team’s energy wasn’t sustained throughout Sunday’s game.
“I think we came in today a little bit lackadaisical, which every once in a while happens, unfortunately,” said senior Ryan Barnes following Sunday’s game. “It was almost a nice wakeup call for us.”
In a three- or four-game series in baseball, it’s commonplace for a team to falter in one of the games, even against an inferior opponent like Texas State.
But what the Beavers have done, and why they’re able to keep winning games, is they are finding different ways to produce runs.
OSU was down 2-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning. The team came in a little lackadaisical, like Barnes said.
The hitting wasn’t where it needed to be.
So what did OSU do? Casey and company went to small ball.
Don’t forget, it was a botched throw by North Carolina on a sacrifice bunt that scored the winning run in the deciding game of the College World Series to give the Beavers their first ever national championship.
On Sunday, down by two runs, it was three consecutive bunts, a fielding and throwing error by TSU, and the third run scoring on a double play that gave the Beavers the lead.
“We’re still effective at manufacturing runs like we did,” Barnes said. “We had three bunts in a row. That’s kind of the Beaver way.”
The next inning?
Senior shortstop Tyler Smith, who was the catalyst for the first run scoring in the fifth inning, sent a three-run home run over the high wall in left-center field to give the Beavers a 6-3 lead. Three innings later, OSU remained one of four undefeated teams left in the nation.
Smith was the prime example of the balance OSU needed to avoid the one slip-up in the weariness that is a baseball season.
“I like to have both parts of my game in there,” Smith said. “In the past I’ve been that small-ball guy hitting in the two-hole, so it was nice to … be able to lay a bunt down and still get a pitch and be able to drive it for a home run.”
Finding different ways to win will be vitally important in the near future for the Beavers.
If OSU takes care of business against the University of San Francisco like it should (don’t count out the Dons though — yes, the “Dons” — as they did outscore No. 20 Arizona 15-13 in three games in Tucson), the Beavers will be sitting at 17-0 heading into the Pac-12 opening series against Arizona.
Casey has made it known he wants to see more from the offense. OSU scored all six runs within a two-inning window.
After all, Michael Conforto can’t hit four home runs in three games every weekend.
But even with some reservations about the offense, the pitching remains dominant, and the offense has done its job to get a lead and let the bullpen keep it that way.
The Beavers showed that, when in doubt, there’s nothing wrong with laying down a few bunts to make their opponents field their position. And it exposed Texas State.
Oregon State has separated itself so far in 2013 by not getting complacent and allowing for the random loss here and there to occur.
The last time this team lost was nine months ago in the NCAA Regional in Baton Rouge, La. Motivation can play a major role in avoiding that lackadaisical nature in a season jam-packed with games.
“I think the big thing was how we felt after that loss at LSU,” Smith said. “It’s that feeling of never wanting the feeling of losing again. We haven’t had to experience losing so far [this year] and we’re trying to keep it going.”
They’ve shown they can keep it going. Now it’s time to see just how far.