I'll never forget sitting inside Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium before Oregon State's second game of the 2007 College World Series. After going the roundabout route in 2006, losing their first game to Miami and then winning six games facing elimination, it seemed like it would just be too easy for the Beavers to win their first two games in 2007 to assume a spot in the drivers seat.
The opponent was Arizona State. The Sun Devils had swept the Beavers in the regular season series in Corvallis, but that didn't seem to matter.
The Beavers won 12-6 that night, scoring in every inning until the seventh and finished with 18 hits.
At one point, the Beavers led 12-1.
That just goes to show you that anything can happen when teams with great potential step onto the same baseball field. The Sun Devils were probably the more talented team, and they were the ones with the guady statistics. But once the teams got onto the field, the Beavers looked to be in a league of their own.
When the Beavers and Sun Devils meet up this weekend at Goss Stadium, it won't be Rosenblatt Stadium, nor will the game be played in Omaha. It's a regular season Pac-10 conference series, but it will definitely have post-season implications riding on every pitch.
The Beavers are getting to the point in their schedule where they can't afford to slip up. In the past few years, we've come to hold the Beavers to a high standard, and there is no reason why we shouldn't do the same with this year's group.
Pat Casey and the rest of the Oregon State coaching staff will find out a lot about their team this weekend. Arizona State is the creme of the crop in the conference this year, let alone in college baseball. If the Beavers want to be the best, they've got to be competitive against ASU.
"It's the team we want," said shortstop Joey Wong. "They beat us early in the year, so we're hungry."
The game Joey is referring to was a non-conference game palyed at the DeMarini Invitational in Tempe on February 28. The Beavers lost the game 6-3, but the stakes are much higher now.
The Beavers enter the series at 9-6 in the Pac-10, and 25-11 overall, four and a half games behind ASU in the conference. The Sun Devils are 15-3 in the Pac-10, and 32-9 overall. The Beavers and Sun Devils are two of only three Pac-10 teams ranked in the top 55 in RPI. Arizona State ranks 9th, and the Beavers rank 53rd. Washington State comes in at 45th, and the next closest Pac-10 team is UCLA, coming in at 67th.
Arizona State is led behind the plate by center fielder Jason Kipnis, who is hitting .405 on the season with 12 home runs. He has 60 hits in 148 at-bats. He leads his team in batting average, slugging percentage, total bases, hits, RBI's, run scored, estra base hits, stolen bases, and walks: that's just about every offensive category. Kipnis was drafted in the 4th round by the Padres in the MLB draft last season, but elected to stay in school for another year-- it won't be long until you see him in the majors, though.
Right fielder is second on the team in batting average among everyday players at .329. He's second on the team to Kipnis with 46 hits, and has five home runs.
Catcher Carlos Ramirez also has a steady bat, hitting .307 in 140 at-bats. He leads the team in home runs with 15.
On the mound, the Sun Devils are led by starters Mike Leake, Josh Spence, and Seth Blair. Spence is questionable to start Saturday's game because of a hand injury, which could force Mitchell Lambson or Matt Newman into the starting rotation.
The Sun Devils lead the conference in just about every pitching category, including ERA, opponent batting average, and strikeouts. They also issue the fewest walks, and give up the fewest home runs.
Friday's game is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. Saturday's game will also start at 5 p.m., with Sunday's finale getting underway at 12:00 p.m.