Beavers' underrated offensive could surprise

Updated: June 16, 2006, 1:16 PM ET
By Will Kimmey | Special to ESPN.com

Oregon State Beavers
Record: 46-14
How They Got Here: Won the Corvallis Super Regional in two games; won the Corvallis Regional in three games
CWS History: Three trips to Omaha, last in 2005
Coach: Pat Casey (385-251-4, 12th season)

Oregon State's Top Hitters
Player (Position) AVG OBP SLG Key Stats
Darwin Barney (SS) .333 .444 .416 38-16 BB-K, 14 SB
Cole Gillespie (LF) .386 .502 .706 23 2B, 12 HR, 15 SB, 77 R

Oregon State's Top Pitchers
Player W-L ERA Key Stats
Dallas Buck (RHP) 11-2 3.01 82 K's, 51 BB, 107.2 IP
Kevin Gunderson (LHP) 2-2 2.40 16 saves, 39 K's, 16 BB, 41.1 IP
Jonah Nickerson (RHP) 10-4 2.67 105 K's, 31 BB, 107.2 IP

Scouting the Beavers: "Oregon State has team speed, but the pitchers are the key. They do such a good job throwing strikes and avoiding big innings.

"They've got three really good starters. Buck is Buck. And [Dallas] Buck wins. There's talk about his stuff being down or whatever, but he still goes out there and sinks it -- and you can't do much with it. [Jonah] Nickerson is probably a better pitcher. He mixes pitches well, and his fastball is right around 90. He's going to give you some problems. The key against Oregon State is to make it where Gunderson can't get into the game. Their other arms are OK.

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"The middle infield is as good as anything we saw this year. [Darwin] Barney and [Chris] Kunda can really play defense. Barney's a spark plug for the team, a leader on defense and offense.

"[Cole] Gillespie's the real deal. He's as good a hitter as we saw all year. He's head and shoulders their best guy. Gillespie will hit doubles on good pitches. Barney is real good, and [Mitch] Canham is a good player with some power.

"Oregon State is good offensively, very underrated. The Beavers do a really good job of putting pressure on you: starting runners with hit-and-run, bunting and [being] very aggressive. Once they get a baserunner, there's going to be something coming. They execute really well. We didn't want to double up pitches or live in one part of the zone or live with one pitch. They adjust well. We tried to mix on them, changing speeds and going in and out. They're really smart hitters. It's important to all guys 1-to-9 to get a sac bunt, a sac fly. Getting the leadoff man out limits their offense, but they're real good at getting on base. They take every breaking ball until they get a strike, so throw breaking balls early and they'll take it for strike one and you get ahead."

Buck is probably annoyed about where he was drafted (second round). Same goes for Nickerson and Gunderson. I would think they're going to be on fire. They're not happy and lost money. I bet they're on a mission. Oregon State made it to Omaha last year, so they have that experience. You often see teams build on that the next year if they return a lot of key guys. It's not just about getting there."

Omaha Outlook: In 2005, Oregon State's first trip to Omaha in more than 50 years became a national story. The Beavers are back, and after an 0-2 performance a year ago, just getting to the CWS isn't enough. Oregon State has more players with meaningful Omaha experience than any other team. Most of that experience is on the mound, with Buck, Nickerson and Anton Maxwell (plus transfer Mike Stutes) available to start games and Gunderson and hard-throwing Eddie Kunz in the bullpen. They give the Beavers the potential to match Rice arm for arm and pitch for pitch.

Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.

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