Look for Omaha to adopt underdog Beavers
Here's an in-depth look at the Oregon State Beavers, one of the eight teams competing in the College World Series, which starts Friday at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb.
Oregon State Beavers
Bracket 2/No. 8 national seed
Coach: Pat Casey (11th season).
CWS History: Second trip to Omaha (1952), no titles.
How They Got Here: Won the Corvallis, Ore., regional in three games, beating St. John's in the final. Beat Southern California in three games at home in the super regional.
Players To Watch: Jr. CF Jacoby Ellsbury (.413-6-47, 25 SB), Soph. RHP Dallas Buck (12-1, 2.12, 116 SO/123 IP), Soph. RHP Jonah Nickerson (9-1, 2.10, 109 SO/103 IP), Soph. LHP Kevin Gunderson (6-3, 2.80, 14 SV).
Scouting The Beavers: They all can run, and it's a well-balanced lineup with really good team speed. They've got two legit runners atop the lineup with Jacoby Ellsbury and Tyler Graham. Ellsbury is the Johnny Damon of college baseball. He can manufacture runs. He bunts, steals bases, hits three-run homers. He's as good as anybody in the game. He was the most dangerous player in the Pac-10 because he gets such plate coverage and his bat stays in the zone a long time. Graham is underrated. He's really a short-game guy. In the middle, you've got Andy Jenkins, a Steve Garvey-looking first baseman with power to all fields. Shea McFeeley has power and is a good third baseman.
They move runners along pretty well. They can score five runs with three hits. There's not a ton of power, but it's a good offensive team and they're tough to hold down because of that speed. Every ground ball there's a good runner, and if you make mistakes, McFeely and Jenkins will get you.
Dallas Buck is not a huge strikeout guy, but has a ton of sink at 89-92 mph. He's Derek Lowe; he gets lots of ground balls and mis-hits. He'll throw the slider for a strike behind in counts. He's much more of a pitcher than a thrower. You've got to be ready to swing early against Buck. He's a tough guy to figure out. Jonah Nickerson is a very solid Saturday guy with excellent command of the fastball at 86-88 mph and a slow curveball. He throws all three pitches in the zone. He gets ahead with the fastball, but he'll give up hits. I'm surprised his hits-allowed total is as low as it is because we hit him. Kevin Gunderson is really good. He throws that backdoor slurve to right-handers and gets in on them 86-89 mph with a lot of mix, cutting and sinking stuff from all kinds of angles. He's got a lot of presence, a closer mentality.
They do strike people out, but when balls are put in play, they go get it. The corners play good defense and SS Darwin Barney can make the good play. That team speed plays on defense. Graham and Ellsbury go get it as well as any outfielders in country.
Omaha Outlook: Oregon State hasn't reached the College World Series in more than 50 years — not even a member of the Beavers coaching staff was alive then. Plus, OSU was picked no better than seventh in a preseason poll of Pac-10 conference coaches. That should make this very strong Oregon State team one of the darlings of Omaha, where new blood always goes over well.
However, the Beavers haven't been tested on the road since an early April series win at Stanford and have little postseason experience. Oregon State ranks sixth nationally with a 3.08 ERA and tends to hold teams down long enough for a speed-oriented offense to force the action. Oregon State has shown more power in the postseason, including Andy Jenkins' cycle in the last game of the super regional.
A bracket of heavy-hitting offenses should prove a stern test as the Beavers look to continue their best season ever.
Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.
Editor's note: Baseball America contacted college coaches familiar with the teams for analysis. Anonymity was granted in exchange for their candor.