The 2011 Oregon St. baseball season is in the books, and its time to rate Coach Pat Casey’s performance.
Fanoverboard went overboard this spring (maybe it was one too many in a year long series of defeats administered to the Beavers by the Ducks?), but while he was on the Buildingthedam.com staff, he introduced what is now a BTD institution, the 5 Beaver-tail rating system, ranging from Beavbysmal to Beaverriffic. (Review the ratings for Coach Mike Riley and Coach Craig Robinson.)
In assessing Coach Casey this year, we can (and have) eliminated the one Beavertail Beavbysmal option. Any Oregon St. team that wins more than 2/3 of their games, is in contention for the Pac-10 championship on the last day of the season, and is a top 15 team nationally, is not any kind of bysmal.
Beavbysmal is reserved for a losing season, both in conference and overall, and by more than one game, or for more than a single season, or major off-field/court problems, like legal trouble, not recruiting the future, not preparing the student/athletes to advance, or NCAA Sanctions. None of that with this team (though there was that early morning duii driving incident on 9th street with pitching coach Nate Yeski).
But was it a Beaverriffic year at Goss?This was a team that was picked to place eighth in the Pac-10 by the other conference coaches, not all of which are Casey's best friends, but all of whom have a healthy respect for what he has done on and off the field. Instead of spending the season in the depths of the standings, Oregon St. spent most of the season atop them, and placed second, one win away from running another flag up the pole. And Casey was chosen Pac-10 Coach of the Year.
However, it was also a team that suffered the second worst loss in the history of the program, an 18-0 disaster in the conference opener in Tucson. Notably, Casey's kids responded to that difficult night by winning 11 straight games, their second longest run of success of the season, one shy of a 12 game winning streak in the preseason.
Sam Gaviglio, above (photo by Andy Wooldridge) went over 40 innings without giving up a run. Josh Osich went up against one of the top pitchers in the country and did him one better, throwing a no-hitter at UCLA, (Photo by Hank Hagar below) the first 9 inning complete game no hitter by a single hitter in the program's history.
The team climbed as high as #2 in the nation in the polls after going on a 19-4 streak, including sweeps of both Arizona St., and Stanford, teams that advanced to the Super Regionals.
Subsequently though, Oregon St. inexplicably stumbled down the stretch. An unexpected 7-6 loss in the last game in Seattle, after the Beavers had taken a 6-0 lead in the sixth inning, concluded in a deluge due to the Pac-10's unique and insane rule about not shortening games, seemed like just an unfortunate blip on the rain-filled radar at the time.
But after a series opening win over USC, an 8-0 top of the first inning, all with two outs, in the second game of the series, started a 5 game losing streak to end the season. After winning the first 7 conference series of the season, Oregon St. dropped their last two, and to teams that finished in the second division of the conference, and did not advance to the postseason.
In fact, 7 of the Beavers' 10 conference losses came to the teams that finished in the bottom 4 positions in the standings, a disturbing indication of the team not taking teams they were capable of, and expected to, beat, and not being as prepared in those games as they should have been.
And there were some curiously played games, the last games in the UCLA and Washington St. series, and the second game of the Saturday double header against California, where the lineup and strategy deployed made it almost seem that the games were being conceded, with the idea that winning the series would be good enough. A concept that would eventually be proven faulty.
And those dubious deployment decisions were questioned at the start of the game, so it wasn't a case of Monday morning quarterbacking.
Win any of those games, and the skid at the end of the season doesn't cost Oregon St. the Pac-10 championship. Win even a couple of those games, or a couple of the 5 non-conference games all lost by one run, including the sweep by Fresno St., another team that made the post season, and the Beavers probably host a Super Regional, instead of sweating out a trip to Nashville.
It's worth noting that all three of the Beavers' trips to Omaha have come after winning Super Regionals played in the friendly confines of Goss Stadium. A venue that supported well this year's sweep of the regional, where Oregon St. defeated all three teams that came into town from points east.
And of course, there's the little matter of losing both the conference and season series to Oregon. After a year in which the Ducks dominated the Civil War showdowns in a number of sports, baseball was supposed to be where the score was evened up a little.
The team wasn't playing well, and Casey, a self-admitted hard person to play for, wasn't pleased.
But lest we get too hung up with the ups and downs of the end of the season, its worth keeping in mind the challenges the team overcame.
Both starting catcher Carter Bell and Jake Rodriguez missed most of the conference season after having surgery on the same day for broken bones in their wrist.
Freshman pitchers Adam Duke and Scott Schultz weren't available until late into the season.
Yet a young team bounced back from every setback, even the losing streak at the end of the season, considering the strong showing in the regional. And 8 of them were impressive enough to be drafted in last week's Major League draft.
Parker Berberet became an iron man behind the plate with Susac out, and then regained his hitting stroke (above, photo by Andy Wooldridge) once Susac returned. James Nygren (below, photo by RVM) and freshman Ben Wetzler combined for 14 wins as the third and fourth starters.
And Susac and Rodriguez came back earlier than expected, and contributed to the Beavers down the stretch, as the Beavers out-distanced the conference champion Bruins, advancing to the Super Regionals, something UCLA was unable to accomplish as a regional host.
With freshman All-American Kavin Keyes (above, photo by Andy Wooldridge), and Jake Rodriguez back for their sophomore seasons, not to mention Schultz, Wetzler, Duke, and Cam Booser back for their sophomore seasons on the mound, not to mention the killer Bs, Casey has assembled a strong nucleus to make another run at what will be the Pac-11 next year, and very possibly even Omaha, and gotten a lot of them some serious battle experience already.
So how many Beaver Tails does Coach Casey rate in your opinion? Cast your vote, and feel free to explain your vote in the comments below.