College : : Story
Friday, September 16, 2011

Beavers still believing

Kendall Rogers        

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FALL PROFILE: Oregon State Beavers

2011 record: 41-19 (NCAA Super Regional)

Final 2011 PG ranking: No. 10
Top returning players:
2B Jake Rodriguez, DH Kavin Keyes, 1B Danny Hayes, P Matt Boyd, P Tony Bryant, P Ben Wetzler, P Scott Schultz

Notable departures: C Andrew Susac, P Sam Gaviglio, P Josh Osich, P James Nygren, 3B Carter Bell, UTI Parker Berberet, OF Brian Stamps, OF Jared Norris
Areas of concern:
The Beavers must replace 43 starts on the mound from last season, while the offense must vastly improve after hitting .267 in 2011.

What we think: Even with an extremely inconsistent offensive lineup last season, the Beavers still managed to put together a fantastic spring that ended with a trip to the Nashville Super Regional. Offensively, it’s safe to say the Beavers should demand better with the return of Jake Rodriguez, Kavin Keyes and others. On the mound, replacing starting pitchers Josh Osich and Sam Gaviglio will be difficult, but Ben Wetzler will be more experienced and the Beavers welcome several talented newcomers. OSU has a chance to be much better than expected.

What they’re saying: “I think there’s only about one team in each power conference each season that says, OK, we have enough talent to win the national title. Everyone else is kind of like we’re going to be, you know, thinking about how we’re going to get there with what we have. We’re going to have to find our niche as a club.” – Oregon State coach Pat Casey



CB TICKET: More Oregon State inside scoop

Oregon State has plenty of areas that must be shored up when fall workouts officially gear up in a couple of weeks. But the biggest news of the offseason isn’t player-related, it’s the fact heralded head coach Pat Casey is back for the fall and 2012 campaign.


Though the story wasn’t highly publicized outside of Oregon throughout the summer, Casey strongly considered retiring from college baseball and taking an administrative position within the Oregon State athletic department.


Casey, though, at least for another season, couldn’t pry himself away from the game, giving college baseball some great news as programs around the country have begun or are close to beginning fall workouts.


While Casey is ecstatic to be back with the Beavers this fall, he realizes there’s much work to be done between now and the spring. OSU welcomes back a few key cogs from last year’s club, but also must replace several talented players at important positions.


“I don’t think there’s anything on paper that I trust. It’s going to be very interesting to see how the freshmen and others look this fall,” Casey said. “I really like this club makeup wise, but it boils down to how this team performs on the field.”


The Beavers enter fall workouts with plenty of motivation. Even with stud catcher Andrew Susac and second baseman Jake Rodriguez sustaining nagging injuries last season, they still managed to finish near the top of the Pac-10 standings. Then, in the postseason, they reached the Nashville Super Regional, dropping a tough series to highly ranked Vanderbilt and falling short of the College World Series.


OSU might have several question marks this fall, but Omaha remains the expectation.


The pitching staff is the center for concern entering the fall. The Beavers finished last season with a solid 3.14 earned-run average and must replace starting pitchers Sam Gaviglio, James Nygren and Josh Osich, who combined for 43 of 60 starts last season.


The Beavers don’t have many experienced options for the starting rotation. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Ben Wetzler pitched well at times last season, but still ended the campaign with a 4.66 ERA in 67 2/3 innings. He also struck out 50 and walked 18, while teams hit him at a .275 clip.


“We thought Wetzler would make an immediate impact last season and he did at times,” Casey said. “He was in our weekend rotation in Pac-10 play. And let’s face it, you’re going to get some inconsistency from the younger guys. Honestly. I thought he held his own pretty well for being a freshman.”


Junior left-handed pitcher Matt Boyd is another starting option. Boyd made 30 appearances (no starts) last season and had a 1.57 ERA in 46 innings. Chances are very good he stays in the bullpen with fellow stud reliever Tony Bryant, but Casey at least is leaving the option open. He also is considering utilizing Boyd as a hitter.


“It’s possible we could move Boyd to the rotation, but we also really liked him at the end of games last season,” Casey said. “We may also use Boyd as a hitter in the spring. I really like the fact that he has some legitimate power. We know his future is on the mound, but we might be in a situation where he hits a lot more.”


With Wetzler a shoe-in for the weekend rotation and Boyd at least a possibility, that leaves open two starting jobs, which could go to some talented freshmen.


Talented Beavers newcomers include left-handed pitchers Jace Fry and Carlos Rodriguez and right-handed pitcher Dylan Davis.


Fry is one of the nation’s most highly touted first-year players. He turned down overtures from the Oakland Athletics as a ninth-round pick in the MLB draft this past summer. He blossomed as the top prospect at the West Coast Collegiate League.


“Fry is really mature for his age. I think he’s able to come in and pitch right away. I don’t think he has any hesitancy at all. He’s not intimidated by anything,” Casey said. “It’s impressive to me that he was 94-95 mph throughout the summer with a breaking ball that was much better than what we saw in high school. He really showed a lot of poise.”


Rodriguez and Davis also have much upside. Rodriguez turned down the Atlanta Braves as a 20th-round pick this past summer, while Davis is a two-way star that can get his fastball up to 95 mph.


“Everything is very clean mechanics-wise with Rodriguez. He’ll go up there and get you on a 92 mph fastball,” he said. “He’s a lanky guy with very good upside, a second and third pitch, with command of those pitches. He has a real feel for pitching.”


“Davis is a guy that will really, really hit during his career here, but his ability on the mound is huge, too,” he said. “He can really get you some velocity. His issue in high school was consistency, but we feel like we can clean that up. I think he’s a power arm and a very legitimate two-way player.”


It’ll be interesting to see how the Beavers progress on the mound throughout the fall with an influx of young players.


Also keep a close eye on the OSU offense this fall. The Beavers reached an NCAA Super Regional last season with a .267 team batting average. There’s no doubt they were opportunistic, but that number must improve in 2012.


The Beavers hope second baseman Jake Rodriguez and designated hitter Kavin Keyes will continue where they left off last season. Rodriguez missed a significant amount of time because of an injury, but still hit .320 with seven RBIs. Keyes, meanwhile, burst onto the scene last season, hitting .302 with a home run and 30 RBIs as a freshman.


“Jake must continue to get better and better, and stay healthy,” he said. “Keyes is a perfect example of how important it is to have young players who can make an immediate impact. Those guys need to put up similar or better numbers in 2012.”


OSU also hopes some returning players emerge this fall. Danny Hayes hit .279 with four home runs and 32 RBIs last season, and must be better. The same goes for Tyler Smith, who performed well at times last season, but still hit .221 with 11 RBIs.


The Beavers need Hayes and Smith to perform well to meet expectations.


“Hayes really needs to have an impact on our offensive lineup. Him doing so is one of the big keys to this club this fall and in the spring,” he said. “Smith got off to a great start last season, but then kind of tailed off as the spring progressed. He needs to be more consistent. He got stronger over the summer, so we feel pretty good about him.”


Oregon State is like most teams this time of year. It has plenty of talented players to choose from, but some puzzle pieces must be put together between now and February.


At least the Beavers have Pat Casey, the most important puzzle piece, back for another campaign.


Kendall Rogers is the managing editor of college baseball for Perfect Game USA and can be reached at

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