Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Obstacles Overcome By Oregon State Baseball

Oregon State defeated North Carolina 3-2 Monday night in the deciding game of the College World Series. The Beavers captured the title thanks to determined pitching, some ill-timed errors by the Tar Heels, and most importantly, tremendous resiliency. The odds were against the Beavers throughout the CWS. Those obstacles are discussed below.

Constant threat of elimination: After dropping its CWS opener 11-1 to Miami, OSU had to survive six elimination games in Omaha. The Beavers’ refusal to perish impressed Bruce Willis, who has asked them to appear in the next Die Hard movie.

Rice Owls: Oregon State needed two night-time victories over Rice to reach the championship series. And Owls are nocturnal.

Baseball broadcasters: ESPN’s Peter Gammons, a UNC alumnus, is widely respected and has been enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Fox’s Steve Lyons, an Oregon State product, is best remembered for dropping trou after sliding into first base.

A fan named Williams: OSU was supported in the stands by actor Barry Williams, while North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams was there to root on his school. One would think that Greg Brady would pale in comparison to a national championship coach. Then again, the theme from The Brady Bunch is far more popular than the UNC fight song.

Latitude: No northern school had won the CWS since Ohio State in 1966. Only by being an OSU did the Beavers have a shot.

Pac-10 runner-up trend in 2006: USC lost the national championship game in football, as UCLA did in basketball. Other notable 2006 runners-up include the Seattle Seahawks and Katharine McPhee – both hailing from Pac-10 cities. Fully aware of the trend, Pac-10 commissioner Thomas C. Hansen conceded to ACC counterpart John Swofford before the championship series.

National animal of Canada: This honor belongs to the Beaver. No team from Canada has ever won the College World Series.

Tigers draft picks: North Carolina pitcher Andrew Miller was Detroit’s first-round selection, while the Tigers snagged Oregon State hurler Jonah Nickerson six rounds later. Miller clearly has more value to Detroit. However, now Nickerson can heckle him, “Hey Andrew, does that fat contract come with a Most Outstanding Player award? Didn’t think so.”

ACC drought: No ACC school had won the College World Series since Wake Forest in 1955. So the conference was definitely due.

Mavericks’ 2-0 series lead: Yes, this is an NBA Finals issue, but the team with the Oregon State guy (Gary Payton) had to rally against the team with the UNC guy (Jerry Stackhouse).

Hurricanes vs. Beavers: This was the matchup when Miami and OSU met in an elimination game on June 20. The Hurricane, portrayed onscreen by Denzel Washington, was a fierce middleweight boxer who was wrongfully imprisoned. The Beaver was a kid from a 1950s sitcom. Gee whiz Wally, won’t the Beav get clobbered?

State capitals: North Carolina’s Raleigh is a thriving city hosting the Stanley Cup champions. Oregon’s Salem is one of those state capitals you always missed on a test.

The Bard of baseball: In the decisive game 3, UNC’s starting pitcher was Daniel Bard, a first-round selection of the Boston Red Sox. When you hear “Bard,” you think of Shakespeare, a standard of excellence for the past 400 years. However, that greatness backfired on Monday. Bard lost focus by insisting on reciting sonnets to impress ESPN’s Erin Andrews.

The mighty Casey: Pat Casey is the coach of Oregon State. You can’t expect a ballclub to win when its leader has a name synonymous with striking out. Fortunately, the CWS was not played in Mudville.

1961 cross-country team: This was the only previous Oregon State team to win a national championship. They had fiercely protected that honor, threatening any subsequent Beavers with the audacity to try to join them. The baseball club must now face the consequences, brazenly crossing these 60-something distance runners.

By overcoming these obstacles, Oregon State has provided great inspiration to its followers. They believe that anything can happen in baseball. Well, except for the Cubs winning the World Series.