For most teams, losing three first-round Major League Baseball draft picks as well as one of the best pitchers in program history, competing for a conference title the next season would be a difficult feat.
While the road throughout the season has been filled with some ups and downs, that’s exactly the position Oregon State finds itself in as the Beavers head to Stanford for a three-game Pac-12 baseball series this weekend.
First pitch for Friday's opener is set for around 6 p.m. The teams then meet at noon on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday's game was moved up four hours from the regularly scheduled start time.
The Beavers (34-15-1 overall) and Cardinal (38-9) are tied with UCLA (42-8) for first in the conference at 19-5. The Bruins hold the tiebreaker over both having won their two series against the Beavers and Cardinal.
“I would say it’s felt for a while things have been building up for this matchup with Stanford,” Alex McGarry said last Sunday following a tough 3-2 loss in the series finale at Oregon. “Kind of had it marked on the calendar and it feels like that can decide the conference so we’re definitely excited.”
Stanford closes the season at fourth-place Arizona State, UCLA is at Oregon and Oregon State hosts USC. The Bruins host Washington this weekend.
The Beavers started the Pac-12 season with a 2-1 series loss at UCLA, then dropped their first game to California to fall to 1-3. They then rolled off 18 wins in their next 19 Pac-12 games before falling to the Ducks on Sunday.
“We still have an opportunity to win the conference,” interim coach Pat Bailey said. “… We have six games to go and we’re in a three-way tie. That’s pretty cool for how many guys that we have that are new in our program this year.”
Still, a 1-6 record in “midweek” games over that stretch put a bit of a damper in some fans’ minds. The Beavers ended that streak with a 4-3 win over Portland on Tuesday as they rallied for three runs in the eighth.
Despite the loss on Sunday, when the Beavers left 15 runners on base, McGarry said there were some pretty solid at-bats late. He specifically pointed out Zach Zalesky’s pinch-hit walk to load the bases in the eighth to bring Adley Rutschman to the plate.
George Mendazona then delivered the game-winner on Tuesday with a bases-clearing double.
“We saw last year those kinds of moments win championships, just those competitive at-bats that kind of keep the ball rolling kind of stuff,” McGarry said.
The Beavers will need to contend with the likes of Andrew Daschbach, who belted four of his team-high 15 home runs in Tuesday’s 7-1 win over Cal Poly.
Daschbach is batting .313 and has scored a team-high 47 runs. He has nine doubles and is second with 40 RBIs.
Will Matthiessen leads the Cardinal with a .320 average and has a team-best 55 hits, including 10 doubles and nine homers, while leading Stanford with 41 RBIs. He is also 5-2 on the mound with a 4.29 ERA and is scheduled to start Saturday's game.
Maverick Handley is batting .298 with 54 hits, including 12 doubles, three triples and two homers.
On the mound, Erik Miller, Sunday's scheduled starter, is 7-1 in 12 starts with a 2.40 ERA; Alex Williams is 7-1 in 12 appearances, with nine starts, with a 2.50 ERA; and Austin Weiermiller is 6-0 with a 1.52 ERA in 21 appearances, all in relief.
Miller is not slated to start according to Oregon State's weekly release.
Grant Gambrell, who has missed the last two weeks, is scheduled to start Sunday's game for the Beavers. The righty is 4-1 with a 2.96 ERA.
Bryce Fehmel is again slated to start Friday — he made his first Friday start last week at Oregon — with Dylan Pearce scheduled for Saturday.
Rutschman on list
On Wednesday, Rutschman was named one of 25 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the nation’s top amateur player.
The junior catcher leads the nation with a .581 on-base percentage and has an OSU-record 66 walks. He is batting .428, fourth in the nation, and is fifth with a .783 slugging percentage.
Rutschman has 16 home runs, tied for third in the Pac-12, and 53 RBIs.
The semifinalist list will be narrowed to three finalists on May 29 and the winner will be announced June 14.
Fans can vote for the three finalists as well as the winner. Those votes, cast at goldenspikesaward.com, count for 5 percent of the voting.
On Thursday, Rutschman was named one of 26 semifinalists for the Dick Howser Trophy, awarded by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association to its top player.
Finalists will be announced June 6 with the winner named on June 15.