At the midway point of the season, the Oregon State Beavers baseball team is in a comfortable, yet cautious position of cruise control. With a pleasant 25-6 overall record, 7-2 in league play, each series takes on more importance. Having lost their last game, a non-conference tilt against arch rival Oregon, 6-3, the Beavs get back in to conference play this weekend against Utah (14-14).
Clearly winning each series is vital. But if the opportunity arises to achieve a sweep, OSU must capitalize. One game at a time however, and taking the first game on Friday is a step in the right direction. Despite the bullpen giving up three runs in the top of the ninth against the Ducks, the season stats show this department is performing well. Through 115 1/3 innings, the pen has a 1.56 ERA and holding opposing batting average to .210. In addition, relievers have converted 13 of 13 save opportunities.
From the starters, the staff also has kept opponents to the same .210 batting average and allowed 55 walks. That averages to less than two walks per game. What seems to plague this team is when they do give up the free ones, they arrive in bunches. As the season progresses toward the finish line, and has been seen the last couple of games, keeping the walks to minimal damage will be essential.
On the offensive side, the team batting average lies at .283. Michael Conforto leads the team at .354 with 6 home runs and 26 RBI’s. Six additional players are hitting .300 or above (Jeff Hendrix, Dylan Davis, Kavin Keyes, Joey Jansen, Tyler Smith and Jake Rodriquez). Every game players Ryan Barnes (.292) and Andy Peterson (.287) also have respectable averages. Overall the team has outhit their opponents, 292-207. On the flip side, OSU has left 259 men on base while opponents has scattered 211. Where the Beavs really show their mark is scoring. Through 31 games, OSU has almost doubled their opponents runs scored, 186-95. Should they keep this pace throughout the remainder of games will only spell better things to come.
In the field, OSU has turned 35 double plays while opposing teams have turned 18. Teams against the Beavers have committed 39 errors while OSU is only one less at 38. If the Beavers maintain their consistency in turning the DP and errors to a minimum (no more five error games!), victory should come easier.
It is certainly good news to be 25-6 just past half way. BaseballAmerica.com and ESPN have OSU as the sixth ranked team this week. The most disappointing series so far would be losing two of three to San Diego. And losing to the Ducks at home was also discouraging. However, after losing to the Toreros, OSU came back the following weekend to defeat then 10th ranked UCLA on the road two out of three, narrowly missing a sweep by losing the first game, 3-2.
After this weekend’s series, upcoming series include at Washington, followed by two home stints against USC and California. The small goals are to win each of those series with the long term goal of winning the conference. OSU has 25 games left. Should they win each series to the end of the season and finish with an overall mark of 43-13, chances of getting a top seed for the post season would take on a positive stance.
Surely the Beavers and Coach Pat Casey are pleased to this stage of the season. Yes, giving up nine walks in a game to Arizona State was not satisfactory or the five error game in San Diego. But generally speaking OSU is headed in the right direction. With some tough losses (at home to the Ducks in the top of the ninth and a close contest at UCLA) and more than acceptable road wins (at Arizona and UCLA), this team with each weekend is becoming battle tested.
And as everyone knows, it is about playing well at the end not just the beginning. Halfway home Beavers. Control your destiny. Just keep driving.