Oregon State Preview

OMAHA, Neb. - Oregon State University arrived in Omaha for the third year in a row, this time however, with an unfamiliar monkey on their backs – this trip marks the first time they will have the distinguished title of "defending national champions."

After defeating Cal State Fullerton in their first game of the 2007 College World Series, the Beavers pushed themselves into a meeting with a rather well known nemesis – the Arizona State Sun Devils.

The regular season match-ups between the current (ASU) and former (OSU, 2006) champions of the Pacific-10 Conference point to this being a game with epic possibilities with both teams dominating each other at one point.

The Beavers struck first blood in the season series with the 12-4 non-conference beat down of ASU during the Coca-Cola Classic in Surprise, Ariz. The offensive explosion against the Sun Devil pitching was the fifth-highest output against that group during the entire season. However, the runs scored are misleading to a point as the five pitchers used by Pat Murphy in the game (Joey Parigi, Dustin Brader, Matt Trink, Scott Mueller and Ted Aust) would see just 12 innings combined on the mound during conference play.

When the Devils traveled to Corvallis, Ore. to reap revenge on the Beavers, (May 18th – 20th) the offense was clicking, the pitching staff was nails and the defense stellar as the maroon and gold earned the series sweep – outscoring the Beavers 15-4 in the three-game set.

All familiarities aside, the upcoming winner's bracket game on Monday evening carries the distinction of moving the winning team one game away from the championship series. As with all single game series' in the College World Series, the outcome may be decided on a handful of opportunities and skill sets.

"For the Beavers, it's their offense. If their bats don't show up, the Beavers won't do any damage." Said Jake Bertalotto, the main contributor to BuildingTheDam.com. "Our team lives and dies with their offense."

The offensive potential for Oregon State shines through with the names and balance through the lineup even though none truly present a match up problem for Murphy and the Devils.

Catcher Mitch Canham presents the biggest threat on the Oregon State team, hitting nine home runs while driving 54 runs – good for second on the team – and a team high .521 slugging percentage. He also has seen his name show up on various award lists.

Canham sees his name pop up on the Golden Spikes semifinalist list (ability and sportsmanship award,) Dick Howser Trophy Watch List (top collegiate player,) Johnny Bench Award (top catcher) along with the Wallace Award Watch List (top collegiate player.)

"Mitch Canham has been our leader for much of the season at the plate." Bertalotto said.

Behind the plate as well as Canham has thrown out nearly 40% of the runners that have tried to steal against him.

Other team leaders on offense: Mike Lissman (sr.) – 57 RBIs, Chris Hopkins (jr.) – 15 SBs and 52 runs scored, Darwin Barney (jr.) – 19 doubles and 77 hits.

With Canham and his .322 batting average leading the team, any college baseball fan could immediately assume the pitching staff is to ‘blame' for the third straight trip to Omaha – and they would be right. Despite losing two-thirds of the starting rotation (Dallas Buck and Jonah Nickerson) and their closer (Kevin Gunderson) from the championship team in 2006, the Beavers hurlers hold strong thanks in part to junior Mike Stutes, who coming into the Monday winner's bracket game, dominated hitters to the tune of 120 strikeouts in 121 innings. The next highest total on the team? 76 by fellow starter Joe Paterson.

Following in the late inning footsteps placed down last season by Gunderson is Eddie Kunz. The junior earned preseason All-American honors in 2007 and more than lived up to the hype as he shuts down opposing rallies late in games with ease, earning 12 saves so far in his 31 appearances. Should the Beavers garner a late lead from the Sun Devils, Kunz and the Oregon State team have the ability to send ASU down into the loser's bracket as Kunz has not yet allowed a home run.

The Pac-10 showdown takes place Monday evening at 4 p.m. Arizona time at Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium.

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