In about 7 hours Oregon State will play for a national championship (weather permitting). Arkansas has been one of the best teams all season long and will pose a formidable challenge, I expect some fireworks as these two powerhouses collide. The Beavers are on a mission to secure their third national championship but they’ll need to answer these five questions if they are going to defeat the Razorbacks (first game tonight at 7 PM ET).
#1 - Will Luke Heimlich and Bryce Fehmel make it through 6 innings?
All season long Oregon State baseball has leaned on Luke Heimlich and Bryce Fehmel to deliver quality starts and they have more than delivered. They have a 26-3 record combined and have been absolutely dominate. In the college world series they’ve both struggled though and it’s been Kevin Abel and the bullpen that have supplied most of the production on the mound. I fully expect Heimlich and Fehmel to start the first two games of this series and Oregon State’s bullpen is not well-rested. If the Beavers are going to secure their third national championship they will need both Heimlich and Fehmel to be on top of their pitches and work deep into the game.
#2 - How is Steven Kwan’s hamstring and will he start?
Steven Kwan injured his hamstring against Washington and has not started the last three games. In his absence, Pat Casey decided to slide Jack Anderson over to center field and has started Kyle Nobach over in left field. While Anderson has filled in admirably, having Nobach, Anderson and Larnach back in the outfield isn’t ideal defensively; especially considering how much ground they have to cover in TD Ameritrade park.
Bob Lundeberg of the Gazette Times is reporting that Steven Kwan expects to start in the finals. Having Kwan in center field would be huge for the Beavers defense, but how much mobility will he have? Also, having Kwan back in the lineup adds another potential complication. For much of the season Nobach has been the DH and Anderson has played LF; but with the way Tyler Malone has been hitting the ball it’ll be next to impossible to keep him out of the lineup. So the question remains, who out of Steven Kwan, Jack Anderson, Kyle Nobach and Tyler Malone does Pat Casey not start?
#3 - How’s the bullpen, any fatigue?
The bullpen has been masterful so far in the CWS. Christian Chamberlain, Brandon Eisert, Jake Mulholland and even Kevin Abel have delivered heady performances out of the pen. Each of those pitchers have shouldered a significant load and have pitched more innings than they are accustomed to. Who’s arm is going to be fresh headed into the finals and will we see any dip in command or velocity?
#4 - Oregon State offense vs. Arkansas pitching?
The Beavers have been on fire offensively in the CWS. They’ve been doing it all: getting on base, getting runners in scoring position, making opposing pitchers work and even belting home-runs. Arkansas has some outstanding pitchers though, probably the best collection of arms that Oregon State has faced all season long. The Razorbacks ace is Blaine Knight (13-0, 2.88 ERA) and he will get the ball tonight for Arkansas. Can the Beavers make him uncomfortable and score some runs on him tonight?
#5 - How will Oregon State’s defense hold up?
The Beavers have been fantastic defensively all season long, but for whatever reason have made a handful of uncharacteristic errors in Omaha. Their defense started to get back on track in their 5-2 win over Mississippi State which is reassuring, but Arkansas can really hit the ball. They also have some serious power throughout their lineup with 98 home runs on the season. Oregon State pitchers will need to keep those hits in the park and have faith in their defense to get outs.
One way or another we’ll get the answers to these questions tonight and in the coming days. Here’s hoping the Beavers will finally get their chance to dog pile.