Amid controversy, Lissman powers Oregon State's offense

Originally Published: June 16, 2007
By Elizabeth Merrill | ESPN.com

OMAHA, Neb. -- It was a nervous night for Oregon State, and Mike Lissman bounced up and down and leaned against the dugout rail.

Some wondered if Lissman should have been in Omaha at all.

Lissman hit a first-inning home run that helped the Beavers beat Cal State Fullerton 3-2 on Saturday night at the College World Series, one month after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft for taking nearly $8,000 from an 85-year-old relative.

Lissman was never suspended from the team, and was allowed to travel to Omaha while on probation.

"I'm here to play baseball," Lissman said late Saturday as he walked away from an interview on the field when the questions drifted to his legal issues.

The Beavers are the defending national champions, and Lissman is their top hitter. They squeaked into the postseason around the time he was going to court. Oregon State athletics director Bob De Carolis told The Oregonian that the department initially received information that downplayed the charges, and that the school didn't know Lissman was almost charged with a felony.

"If [OSU coach Pat Casey] had that information, he probably would have carried through with some kind of suspension," De Carolis told the newspaper. "But that's kind of water over the dam. Because usually you try to do [suspensions] at the time."

Casey declined to comment Saturday night on whether he thought Lissman should have been suspended.

Mike Lissman
Nati Harnik/AP PhotoMike Lissman came up big for the Beavers in their opening round game.
"I'm not able to share those things with you," he said. "That's a family situation that they're involved with."

Lissman, 22, was sentenced to 18 months of probation, the paper said, and ordered to complete 400 hours of community service, repay his great uncle $7,992, and write him a letter of apology to be published in a newspaper in his hometown of Ontario, Ore.

Lissman's mother, Margie Yasuda, pleaded guilty to felony theft for taking more than $30,000 from her uncle, and she spent 17 days in jail. She wasn't in town to see her son rip a Wes Roemer pitch over the left-field wall, a rare run on a night when pitchers dominated. Casey calls Roemer one of the best pitchers in college baseball, and he threw 123 pitches on Saturday night and got stronger as the game wore on.

He threw four scoreless innings before Scott Santschi hit a solo home run to right-center to give the Beavers a 3-1 lead. It was his first homer of the year.

"Roemer's a really competitive guy," Lissman said. "We knew it was going to take a lot of runs. We thought more than three runs."

The ending was far more stressful than Casey expected. With two out in the bottom of the ninth, Fullerton's Evan McArthur sent a fly ball high into the night air. Shortstop Darwin Barney went back for the ball, but left fielder John Wallace called him off.

Wallace misjudged the ball and dropped it. Had McArthur not been casually trotting to first, the Titans could have had the tying run on second. Pinch-hitter Jon Wilhite followed with a single to right, putting pinch runner Matthew Fahey on third base.

But Joel Weeks grounded out to end the game and put Oregon State in Monday night's winners bracket game against Arizona State.

Jorge Reyes picked up the win for the Beavers, scattering three hits in six innings, and Casey said he didn't hesitate to start the freshman.

"Everybody asked me about that -- are you sure you want a freshman out there? Are you sure?" Casey said. "We went home for Christmas, we'd been together all fall. I told him when he got back he's not a freshman anymore. He's part of this club.

"This was a great challenge for him, and he responded like the warrior he is."

Somewhere, maybe Lissman's mom was watching him respond to adversity. In Lissman's bio, it says his top athletic thrill was watching the Beavers win last year's national championship. It also quotes Casey saying Oregon State needs his leadership.

On a steamy night at Rosenblatt Stadium, the Beavers got some help with his swing.

Elizabeth Merrill writes for ESPN.com. She can be reached at merrill2323@hotmail.com.

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