June 14, 2013 4:27:15 PM
OMAHA, Neb. - Oregon State University arrives in Omaha as one of the three national seeds left and the only national seed in the top half of the bracket so the Beavers would be considered a major favorite to make potentially a third national championship run.
The Beavers (50-11) certainly have the starting pitching to get to the championship series with two All-American arms in senior lefty Matt Boyd (10-3, 2.13) and freshman righty Andrew Moore. The earlier game one start time (2 p.m., ESPN2) has made the starting pitching decision for Beavers coach Pat Casey more than an immediate no-brainer as they're preparing to have both players, who were selected to the Baseball America All-America teams, ready to face Mississippi State University (48-18).
Boyd threw 123 pitches, a season high, on June 8 in a 6-2 loss in game one of the Corvallis Super Regional against Kansas State University. The senior was then asked to get a four-out save two days later to secure a spot at the College World Series. In total, Boyd has thrown 145 pitches in the last seven days.
"We plan on going with (Matt) Boyd, we want to go with Boyd but we'll have Mo ready if we need to
Oregon State's bullpen possibly took a hit when freshman left hander Max Engelbreckt (22 app, 5 saves, 1.30 ERA) suffered severe back spasms in the middle of its Corvallis Super Regional. Casey said Friday he wasn't sure if his freshman from Seattle would be available for Saturday's game against MSU but added that the 6-foot-3 prospect was "not 100 percent" for Oregon State's team practice at TD Ameritrade Park this morning.
"It certainly wouldn't help our bullpen not to have him," Casey said when asked about the status of Engelbreckt. "If we don't have him, somebody is going to have to pick him up."
The Beavers, who won the Pacific 12 Conference by two games, have had trouble in the bullpen with their relievers ERA going up every month of the season (0.00 in Feb., 2.12 in March, 3.05 in April,7, 3.81 in May and 7.10 in June).
The Oregon State offense, which wouldn't be considered lethal in power, has hit over .300 in the last two months of the season with 32 extra-base hits in the last 18 games. The Beavers are led by the Pac 12 Conference player of the year in left fielder Michael Conforto. The Woodinville, Wash., native boasts a .332 batting average, and a .512 slugging percentage, the latter of which is good for second on the team and ninth in the Pac-12. He owns a league-high .457 on-base percentage, and his nine home runs are tied for second in the conference. The outfielder has scored 42 runs and driven in an additional 42 runs; both figures rank among the top 10 in the league.
"I was a little surprised that I was named (player of the year) not because I wasn't deserving of it but there were so many other great players on great teams in the Pac 12," Conforto said. "For Oregon State to win player, freshman (Moore) and coach (Casey) honors in the league is amazing."
The Beavers was third in the Pac 12 in hitting with a .291 average but have one of the better contact hitters in the country in Dylan Davis. The sophomore outfielder was the most outstanding player of Corvallis Regional and then went on to go 2 for 6 with a home run against Kansas State in game two of the Super Regional. The Pac 12 first-team selection leads Oregon State with a .343 average and 58 RBIs out of the cleanup spot of the order.
"I really changed my mentality at the plate,'' Davis said on April 11. "It was about knowing that I've got quick hands, got a good eye and can really battle, and that if I get two strikes, to not be afraid to take good pitches.''
The good news for opposition pitchers is Oregon State doesn't really challenge the catcher on the base paths with just 79 steal attempts (55 of 79, 69.6%) in 61 games this season. It is a station to station team that only has one player in double digits with steals (Andy Peterson, 13).
"Certainly I do think that West Coast teams in terms of base running, in terms of the bunting game, things of that nature," MSU coach John Cohen said. "I think they have been ahead of us for a while in that area. Certainly Pat's already established a pretty winning recipe, and it's not just West Coast baseball. He has tremendous power in the middle. He's got speed. He's got tremendous pitching. He's got a bullpen as well. So I think he's got all the ingredients not just what's labeled traditionally as a West Coast type of college baseball team."
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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