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Series Preview - Gonzaga

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Following a disappointing series loss to Washington, the Beavers return home for five straight games, a streak that begins with two midweek games against the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Gonzaga enters the weekend at 30-14 overall and 12-6 in the West Coast Conference, making the Bulldogs one of toughest teams to play out of the WCC, along with Pepperdine and San Diego.

For the second time since Pac-10 play started, the Beavers will play two consecutive midweek games against the same opponent. Back in April, the Beavers played host to BYU, and were able to win both games in a competitive atmosphere. The Beavers won the first game of the series due to a large part to the bat of Michael Miller, and Oregon State won the second game 8-4, with Ryan Ortiz driving in three RBI's.

Midweek games are disliked by many, especially the coaching staff. They're tough games because preparing for Pac-10 games on the weekends seems like the priority, but yet the midweek, non-conference games play an extremely large role in determining overall records and post-season placement. Losses in mid-week games last year were a big reason why the committee left the Beavers out of the tournament with a 28-24 overall record. The Beavers lost midweek games to Gonzaga (two, actually), Utah Valley, and Long Beach State. Had the Beavers won those four games, their overall record would have been a much more attractive 32-20.

The last time Oregon State was in a midweek game was last week at Joe Etzel Field in Portland. Pat Casey wasn't happy at all with the team's performance, especially because it came just days after the Beavers rallied to win a series against top-ranked Arizona State.

"We came in here and did not play with a lot of energy, didn't play with a lot of enthusiasm, didn't play with a lot of confidence," Casey said after his team knocked off Portland last week. "We just didn't play the way we're capable of playing."

After dropping a series to the Washington Huskies over the weekend, these two games with Gonzaga now become much more important. The Beavers now sit at 29-14 overall with ten games remaining on the schedule, and can't afford anymore letdowns.

The fact that the Beavers have not had success in the recent past against the Bulldogs does not help either. The Bulldogs have won the last six contests, dating back to 2004. The last time the Beavers beat Gonzaga came in 2004, when Aaron Matthews, Tyler Graham, and Jacoby Ellsbury helped Oregon State win 15-3 in the Saturday game of a weekend series. Gonzaga would go on to win the Sunday game 10-5, and they've won every meeting since.

Gonzaga enters the series with Oregon State at third in the West Coast Conference in hitting at .298. Junior catcher Tyson Van Winkle leads the team and is third in the conference in batting average, hitting .378 with four home runs. He was named WCC Player of the Month for April, finishing the month 33-for-67 (.493) at the plate to lead all hitters in the WCC. Junior centerfielder Drew Heid is hitting .342 and senior first baseman Ryan Winegand is hitting .330. Left fielder Mark Castellitto leads the team in home runs with seven, and is hitting .269 on the year.

The Bulldogs lead their conference in pitching, boasting a 4.35 team ERA that ranks higher than the likes of San Diego and Pepperdine. Gonzaga has four reliable starters in Matt Fields, Cody Martin, Steven Ames, and Ryan Carpenter. A.J. Proszek, Tyler Olson, and Reedy Berg have also made starts this season for the Bulldogs, so the Beavers will likely see some assortment of weekend starters in short stints and relief pitchers in starting roles.  

After playing Oregon State, the Bulldogs will have one more weekend series remaining with Layola Marymount before ending their regular season with a game agasint Washington State. Oregon State will still have Pac-10 series' with Washington State and Stanford following the mid-week games with Gonzaga, plus two more games against the University of Oregon.

Tuesday's game is scheduled to start at 6:00 p.m. at Goss Stadium, while Wednesday's game will start at 1:00 p.m.

--Jake (jake.buildingthedam@gmail.com)