Red-hot Michael Conforto flourishes wherever he bats in New York Mets' order

Red-hot Michael Conforto flourishes wherever he bats in New York Mets' order

PHOENIX -- All Michael Conforto needed to hear was, "How 'bout those Beavers?"

With wide eyes and big smile, he started talking about what one New York Mets beat writer said is his favorite subject -- his college baseball team.

"What a season," he said. "Forty-one and four? I remember when I was there we were ranked No. 1 and I think we lost 13 or 14 games and it seemed like we never lost. I don't know what just four losses would feel like."

Conforto is proud of his alma mater and its coach, Pat Casey. "He's just what everyone says he is -- someone who cares about you on and off the field. He transformed me as a player and a person."

Conforto broke in with the Mets in 2015 after a meteoric rise through their farm system. He made an immediate impact at the age of 22, hitting .270 with nine home runs in 56 games. And when he followed that by hitting .333 with two homers in the World Series, the New York hype machine kicked into high gear. He came into the following season as a rising star. In New York, which is a bigger deal than anywhere else.

But the 2016 season was anything but easy for Conforto. He hit just .220 and found himself back in Triple-A.

"I learned a lot," he said. "I think I was trying to do too much. Then I started pressing. But I went back to the minor leagues and played well. I think some of that was good for me."

Evidently it was because he's off to a terrific start this season. He went to spring training knowing he was going to have to scrap just to get into the team's starting lineup. With Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce making big money in the New York outfield, Conforto seemed a good bet to be the odd man out.

"I knew I would have to battle to play," he said Monday before the Mets' game against the Diamondbacks.

And battle he did. He's hitting .343 (sixth-best in the National League) with nine home runs, a .686 slugging percentage and a whopping 1.116 OPS. A big part of that story is his move to the leadoff spot in the batting order. And this from a player who has always projected as more of a power hitter, a No. 3-4-5 hitter in the order. Well, actually, he still is a power hitter, as his slugging percentage proves.

Conforto has started 19 games in the leadoff spot this season and has hit three leadoff homers. He's hitting .471 with four homers, six RBI and 10 runs scored just in the first inning!

"It doesn't really matter where I hit," he said. "I'm just trying to be patient."

He moved to the No. 3 slot in the batting order Sunday and responded with a double, triple and home run at Milwaukee, missing the cycle by the easiest of the four hits. But Monday night he was right back in the leadoff spot.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "I haven't changed my approach at the plate much."

And while acknowledging that living in New York is nothing like living anywhere else, he's made the adjustment.

"It's nothing like Corvallis," he said with a laugh. "All the media and everything. But I've grown to like it. I like New York."

And he still loves his Beavers.

"I try to keep up with what's going on," he said. "There's only one player left there who I played with but I know a lot of the guys there now. We were recruiting them while I was there. They have some really good players."

Ducks, Beavers football questions: What will be their trademark?

Ducks, Beavers football questions: What will be their trademark?

Last week on Talkin' Ball we were fortunate enough to have great interviews with Gary Andersen and Willie Taggart. Yes, on the same show.

They were both very forthcoming about their teams but there was no way we could learn answers to what, for me, are the most pressing questions about Oregon State and Oregon:

What will they look like? How will they, you know, actually play? And we may not really know that until the early season, non-conference games are out of the way.

In the case of the Ducks, it's a new coaching staff with a quarterback who performed well last season as a freshman. Justin Herbert, at times, looked like a pro last year. He has great promise. But how will he be used this season? Taggart has employed a lot of option in the past and will he run Herbert? It's always interesting when a new coaching staff comes in to see how players might be used differently or more effectively than they were by the previous regime.

The Ducks have their usual stable of great running backs and I'd assume, given their shortage of receivers, they'll be run heavy, at least early in the season. But who knows? Herbert can really sling it and those runners will set up some great play-action opportunities.

The same questions are even more relevant with the Beavers. Oregon State will be going with a quarterback, Jake Luton, who is by all accounts a pro-style, big-arm guy who is much different than what Andersen has had at OSU. Will the Beavers open it up more? I'm not sure, because they also have some outstanding running backs capable of controlling games on the ground.

How will these guys play? What will they look like? What will their style be? Will they be gamblers or play it safe? What will they become known for?

It's the most intriguing thing about the upcoming season at both schools.

Will Oregon State end its bowl drought in 2017?

Will Oregon State end its bowl drought in 2017?

The Oregon State Beavers open the 2017 football season on August 26, against Colorado State in Fort Collins. The game will not only mark the start of the season for the Beavers, but will start what could be the Beavers first bowl eligible season since 2013. The hype train is rolling in Corvallis, and many fans are wondering if head coach Gary Andersen finally has this team pointed in the right direction. Vegas oddsmakers have the over/under for the Beavers set at 5.5 wins. If I were a betting man, I would take the over. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic if you are a Beavers fan. Will the Beavers go bowling this season? Here are five reasons I think they will:

2) In Jake Luton, the Beavers finally have a passing threat -  

Not since Sean Mannion left the program following his senior season in 2014 have the Beavers had a true quarterback behind the center. In the two season since Mannion left the Beavers have seen five different signal callers take a snap: Seth Collins, Marcus McMaryion, Conor Blount, Darell Garretson, and Nick Mitchell. In 2015 and 2016 the Beavers finished 117 and 113 in passing offense respectively. In those two seasons combined the Beavers passed for a total of 3,995 yards and 23 touchdowns. To put that in perspective, Mannion passed for 4,662 yards and 37 touchdowns in just his junior year alone.

The Beavers have had a giant question mark at quarterback, and transfer Jake Luton could be the answer.

It was announced early last week that Luton will be the No.1 quarterback for the Beavers, and with that coach Andersen finally has a quarterback that can get the ball downfield. In 2016, while the quarterback for Ventura CC, Luton passed for a school record 3,551 yards and 40 touchdowns. Luton has the size and the arm to help add the air raid elements that coach Andersen wants in the offense, and may finally be the quarterback that can get the ball to the Beavers playmakers. Tight end Noah Togai has been turning heads early on in camp, catching three touchdown passes in the latest open scrimmage, and can be a huge weapon for Luton. The Beavers also have senior wide receiver Jordan Villamin who is due for a monster year. Villamin has all the intangibles to be one of the best receivers in the conference, but over the past two seasons he hasn’t had someone who could consistently get him the ball. That should change in 2017. Oh yeah, the Beavers also have Seth Collins in the slot, so Luton will have plenty of hands to get to the ball to.

A decent quarterback can be the difference between a four win season and a bowl game, and the Beavers finally have a decent quarterback.

2) The running back stable may be the best in the Pac-12 -

Talk about the rich getting richer. The Beavers had one heck of a backfield heading into 2017. They had returners Ryan Nall and Artavis Pierce, who combined for 1,474 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2016, as well as TCU transfer Trevorris Johnson. The backfield was stacked. Then, out of nowhere, the news broke in late May that former Oregon Ducks stud running back Thomas Tyner was coming out of retirement to join the Beavers. Tyner dealt with injuries during his time in Eugene, but when on the field he was a force. In two seasons at Oregon Tyner rushed for 1,284 yards and 14 touchdowns. The four-headed monster of Nall-Tyner-Pierce-Johnson gives the Beavers one of the best backfields in the conference, if not the country.

At this point, and for the foreseeable future, Nall is the starting back. But let’s be real. The Beavers have two legit starting caliber backs, and two others that could start on a lot of teams in the country. They have running backs 1A, 1B, 1C, and 1D. The depth is unreal.

3) The schedule plays out well for the Beavers -

The Beavers do have a gauntlet to run mid-season, a stretch of three games that sees them play Washington State, Washington, and USC in three consecutive weeks. That is followed by tough games against Colorado and Stanford. Outside of that stretch the schedule plays out favorably for the Beavers. They open the season on the road against Colorado State, which is a tough but winnable game for the Beavers. A lot of experts see Colorado State as a team that could sneak into a New Years Six bowl. A win in Fort Collins could set the tone for the season.

Following the Colorado State game the Beavers get Portland State and Minnesota at home. PSU is nearly a certain win, and Minnesota should be as well. The Beavers played a heck of a game against the Gophers last season, and with Minnesota starting out the P.J. Fleck era, a win on the road for the Gophers may be a challenge.

The Beavers also end the season with an incredibly “easy” slate of games: Home against Cal, home against Arizona, on the road at Arizona State, and home against Oregon. Following last season’s Civil War win, fans and players alike have every reason to think the Beavers can beat the Ducks again.

Realistically, the Beavers could go 3-0 in non-conference play, then drop 5 straight in the aforementioned “gauntlet,” then finish the season 4-0. For those keeping track, that is a 7-5 season, and a trip to a bowl game.

4) Year Three of Gary Andersen has a history of success -

Back in 2009 Gary Andersen took over a poor Utah State football team. In fact, calling them a poor football team is an understatement. The Aggies went just 3-9 the season prior the Andersen’s arrival, and hadn’t had a winning season since the team went 6-5 in 1997. From 1998 to 2008 Utah State went a combined 35-90. Then came Andersen.

Andersen’s Aggies went 4-8 in both his first and second season, and then jumped to 7-6 in his third season. In Andersen’s fourth season the Aggies jumped to 11-2, won their first bowl game since 1993, and finished No.16 in the final AP Poll. Andersen’s first two seasons at OSU have largely mirrored his first two at Utah State; there is every reason to think year three will see the same leap it did in Utah. Andersen has a quarterback, a stacked backfield, a young talented defense, and a team that is finally his. Really, after two straight losing seasons, anything less than six wins would be a disappointment for Andersen in year three.

5) The Oregon State defense will be better than people think -

Defensively the Beavers have not been great in recent seasons. Last season the Beavers were 75th in the nation for total yards given up, at 5150, mainly because they just couldn’t stop the run. Oregon State allowed 2616 yards on the ground, which was 101st worst in the nation. However, they balanced that out with a decent pass defense, allowing just 2534 yards through the air, which was the 40th best pass defense in the country. Looking ahead to this season, the Beavers should be even better against the pass, and hopefully improved against the run. The Beavers played a lot of freshman and sophomores in 2016, and that year of experience should pay off this season. The Beavers return impact players such as Brandon Arnold, Jalen Moore, Bright Ugwoegbu, Kammy Delp, Manase Hungalu, Jonathan Willis, Elu Aydon, and Xavier Crawford just to name a few. Of that group, only Arnold and Hungalu are seniors. There is plenty of young talent on this defense to help push the Beavers forward. If the defense can improve against the run, they should be able to help the improved OSU offense win a few more games. ---

The only thing working against the Beavers is that the Pac-12 is stacked with talent. The Beavers have to play at least four teams that could easily win the conference (Washington, WSU, USC, Stanford), and some other teams that may be on the downswing but are by no means pushovers. That being said, Andersen has steered his ship in the right direction, and the Beavers should be more optimistic than ever that this is the year they get over the hump. The only question left to ask - “is it August 26 yet?”

Beavers QB Marcus McMaryion to transfer

Beavers QB Marcus McMaryion to transfer

Quarterback Marcus McMaryion has elected to transfer from Oregon State University. He will be immediately eligible having graduated with a bachelor's degree in public health, and has two years of eligibility remaining. 
"After much thought, consideration, and discussion with my family I would like to announce that I am transferring from Oregon State," McMaryion said. "I want to thank the fans of Beaver Nation, the coaching and academic staff, and my teammates for a great three years. As I close this chapter of my life as a graduate, the next chapter awaits. It has been a privilege representing this program on and off the field. For my OSU brothers on the field, remain 11 strong and have a great season."
"Marcus has contributed much to our program on and off the field during his time here," head coach Gary Andersen said. "We support him in his decision and wish him well as he continues his career on the field and in his studies."

Thomas Tyner a luxury for Oregon State's already strong running game

Thomas Tyner a luxury for Oregon State's already strong running game

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Former Oregon running back Thomas Tyner, making a comeback with Oregon State, is not yet the running back he was while with the Ducks in 2014. 

“He’s gained some weight but our weight room coaches have done a good job of getting him into shape,” OSU senior linebacker Manase Hungalu said Wednesday at Pac-12 Media Days. 

Tyner is listed at 232 pounds on OSU's website, up 17 from the 215 he played at for the Ducks before his 2015 ended following preseason shoulder surgery.  

“Thomas is a great addition,” junior RB Ryan Nall said. “He’s got to be back into the flow of things. It’s kind of hard after being out of the game for two years and jumping back in.”

Tyner is not carrying blubber, according to Nall. The former Aloha High School star has simply bulked up beyond the ideal weight for him to take advantage of his speed that made him a 6A champion in the 100 meters while at Aloha. Nall said Tyner definitely appeared to be a bit rusty and slow during the team's first practice this earlier week.

“But he’s still got it," Nall said. "Once he chips that rust off and gets back into it, I think he’ll do good things for us.”

Tyner played at Oregon in 2013 and 2014 before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery prior to the 2015 season. Rather than return to the Ducks in 2016, Tyner elected to retire. Now he's got the itch to return to the field. The way his medical retirement was written didn't allow for him to return to Oregon. Tyner had considered going to OSU out of high school so heading to the Beavers was a natural fit.  

"I definitely missed it," Tyner told reporters Tuesday in Corvallis. "I think it's just more excited than anything. I'm excited to get to play this season." 

Hungalu said he definitely saw flashes of the old Tyner during that first practice. 

“He did a good job running the ball,” Hungalu said. “He looked how he looked at Oregon, which is a good thing for us.”

It will be interesting to see how Tyner fits in. He had a productive career at UO but Nall is the man for the Beavers.

Tyner said he expects to learn a lot from Nall in terms of operating within the Beavers' offense. For Tyner, returning is more about erasing the prospects of always wondering what he could have done next on the football field than it is about being the guy. 

"Once you're about ready to be done with school and you have to figure out what you want to do with your life and I don't like living with 'what ifs," he said. "I felt like the 'what if' was football with me. I didn't want to go out how I did, medically retiring. I felt like I owed it to myself."

Oregon State's bowl dreams will become reality in Gary Andersen's third year

Oregon State's bowl dreams will become reality in Gary Andersen's third year

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - This time, fantasy will become bowl game reality for Oregon State. 

OSU players invited to take part in Pac-12 Media Days the past two seasons under coach Gary Andersen talked openly about their goals of reaching a bowl game.  It didn't happen. Not even close. Instead, the Beavers went 2-10 in 2015 (zero wins in the Pac-12) in Andersen's first season after replacing Mike Riley, and then 4-8 last season (3-6 Pac-12). 

To be fair, the players' beliefs were largely based on competitiveness, hope, bravado and perhaps some innocent delusion. This time around, however, the Beavers truly have good reason to believe that the program could realistically return to a bowl game for the first time since winning the Hawaii Bowl in 2014. 

Junior running back Ryan Nall and senior linebacker Manase Hungalu expressed such sentiments during today's media session. For the first time in three years, such talk didn't sound like a misguided pipe dream.  That's because for the first time during the Andersen era, the Beavers might actually have both the physicality and mental toughness to get it done. 

"This is a part of a process," Hungalu said. "It's just a process that we're building upon. Coach A is doing a great job with that. And we all understand that in order for what we want, we just have to continue to keep working and continue to keep playing and the results will show for itself."

Oregon State will likely never be a place where high-end recruits flock. Nor will it ever have the resources that nearby Oregon and Washington possess. But that doesn't mean the Beavers can't win. It just means that they have to be more calculating and deliberate to get it done. 

Unheralded recruits must be developed through patience and great coaching. Both physically and mentally. Last year, Andersen said here that the Beavers had to become more physical after getting pushed around by opponents in 2014. 

The Beavers were certainly tougher last season, improving by about a touchdown in both points scored and points allowed, moving from 19 points scored per game in 2015 with 37 allowed to 26 and 30. . That allowed the Beavers to play in more close games.

"At the end of the day we played physically with every team in this league," Andersen said. "That is very, very important."

That progression continued this summer with 50 players, Andersen said, who can now squat 500 pounds or more. 

However, mentally the Beavers simply weren't ready to win enough of those games to become bowl eligible. 

OSU lost three games by seven points or less: 30-23 at Minnesota, 19-14 vs. Utah and 35-31 vs. Washington State. Three other losses came by 14 or less, meaning OSU was at least in those contests. 

Losing close contests stuck with Nall all offseason. Especially the Washington State game in which the Beavers led 24-6 at halftime only to see WSU scored 22 points in the third quarter and ultimately win, 35-31.

"Our execution," Nall said. "It comes down to that. Whether it's on offense or defense, make sure we do our assignment instead of doing too much If we do the little things. If we execute. We will have a chance to win every single game."

Hungalu agrees. 

"I go back to being consistent and disciplined," he said. "Those games slipped away from us from little mistakes. Mistakes that shouldn't have happened."

So, while the team focused last year on becoming stronger and tougher, this offseason they worked as much on their mental approach. 

Andersen spent part of the offseason going through different situations and scenarios from last season that went south to try and pinpoint areas of concern. 

Andersen said mistakes and silly penalties cost the team and must be cleaned up this season. That endeavor will include some simplification to improve coaching and teaching and overall team-wide communication. 

"I think that naturally happens in three years," Andersen said. "But now it needs to be automatic."

Could a dramatic turnaround be in store for the Beavers?

Why not? Colorado did it. Buffaloes coach Mike MacIntyre won a total of 10 games during his first three seasons before going 10-4 (8-1). Colorado hadn't reached a bowl game since 2007 before taking the Pac-12 by surprise to win the South and reach the conference title game where the Buffaloes lose to Washington. 

Nall said the Beavers hope to duplicate Colorado's sudden success.

"I definitely see ourselves doing that," Nall said. "I have confidence in our team. I trust the process with Coach A and our staff. I believe we're going to have a successful year."

For the first time in years, such talk shouldn't be dismissed. 

For Beavers, the end was disappointing but the season certainly wasn't

For Beavers, the end was disappointing but the season certainly wasn't

The glorious Oregon State baseball season ended in very disappointing fashion Saturday. But it wasn't a disappointing season.

It was still a season to be proud of -- a regular season that likely will never be matched at that school or any other. Baseball isn't the kind of game that leads to such seasons. Anybody can beat anybody on a given day. And we saw that in the College World Series, when a whole lot of things went wrong at the same time for the Beavers.

On Friday, OSU could have put away LSU had an umpire not mistakenly called a foul ball on a long drive off the left-field wall by Stephen Kwan. Yes, Pat Casey should have asked for a replay of it, but managing  a game is tough enough without having to umpire it, too. I still cannot understand how an umpire, standing on the foul line, could have possibly missed that call. It couldn't happen one in a hundred times. Seemingly the entire CWS went downhill after that for Oregon State.

On Saturday, the Beavers allowed the Tigers too many runs early in what was an elimination game. Getting down by a couple of runs is one thing, but any more than that in a pressurized game is too difficult to overcome. And yes, there was the umpiring again. The plate umpire had no idea where the outside corner of the plate was and LSU took much more advantage of his poor eyesight than did the Beavers. Constantly, the OSU hitters were called out on third strikes that challenged the batter's box on the other side of the plate. Even in the ninth inning, when the first two players reached base and it appeared Oregon State -- if any team in the country could do it -- was poised for a miracle rally, the umpire's urge to make the dramatic "strike three" call popped up again.

I'm seeing Oregon State fans rising up in anger at everyone over their team's elimination but I'd advise them to calm down a bit. Remember, this team didn't show up in Omaha with the same squad that was responsible for the sparkling regular-season record. The coaching staff did a remarkable job of juggling its pitching staff and lineup to make up for absences. And there is no doubt this program has a real chance to have an even better team next season.

Not a better record, though. That just can't happen again. But it could be a better team and I'm sure Casey will have a terrific recruiting year built on this season's success.

It was an incredible season and should be remembered that way -- regardless of the ending.

Historic season comes to a close in Omaha


Historic season comes to a close in Omaha

Oregon State's historic 2017 season came to a close Saturday afternoon, as the Beavers fell to LSU 6-1 in an elimination game at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
The Beavers end the season with a record of 56-6, the best mark in program history. Oregon State's season-ending winning percentage of .903 is the NCAA's best since Texas posted a .908 winning percentage in 1982.
Michael Gretler hit his fifth home run of the year, a solo shot to left in the eighth inning. KJ Harrison and Steven Kwan both singled in the contest.
LSU scored the first six runs of the game, sparked by a three-run homer in the second inning. Oregon State put a pair of runners on base in the top of the fourth, when Trevor Larnach walked and Harrison singled, but LSU was able to get out of the inning unscathed.
Gretler got the Beavers on the board in the eighth frame, when he launched a homer over the left-field wall.
Drew Rasmussen allowed just three hits and one run in 4 1/3 innings of relief work.
Historic Mark 
The Beavers end the 2017 season with 56 wins, a new Oregon State single-season record. Oregon State's previous best win total was set in 2013, when the Beavers went 52-13.
Best This Century
Oregon State's season-ending .903 winning percentage is the best in the NCAA since Texas posted a mark of .908 in 1982. The Beavers matched Texas' 1975 squad for the fourth-best winning percentage in NCAA history.
Rare Double
The Beavers back-to-back losses mark the first time Oregon State has dropped two games in a row since May of 2016.
Not Giving Up Much
The Beavers wrap up the 2017 campaign with an earned run average of 1.93, making them the first team with a sub-2.00 ERA since Arkansas posted a mark of 1.89 in 2013. Oregon State's ERA breaks the program record, which was previously set in 2013 (2.28).

College World Series
Oregon State moves to 16-10 all-time at the College World Series.




Oregon State's second 23-game win streak of the season was snapped Friday by the LSU Tigers 3-1 forcing a deciding game between the two teams Saturday at TD Ameritrade Park. Saturday's game time will be either Noon or 5 p.m. PDT and will be decided following Friday's nightcap between TCU and Florida.
The Beavers (56-5) managed just two hits off of LSU (51-18) starting pitcher Alex Lange in their first loss since April 29. OSU's lone run came in the bottom of the third inning as Trevor Lanach earned a bases loaded walk off of Lange for his 14th straight game with an RBI.  Tyler Malone and Michael Gretler had the Beavers' hits for the game.
Beaver hurler Jake Thompson suffered his first loss of the season falling to 14-1. Thompson allowed six hits, three earned runs, struck out five and walked one is 6 2/3 innings.
OSU enters Saturday's deciding game aiming for its third appearance in the championship series under the watch of 23-year head coach Pat Casey. The Beavers won the 2006 and '07 titles, and are looking to be the first program to win three championships in the span from 1998-2017.

The Beavers' control of the strike zone has been amazing

The Beavers' control of the strike zone has been amazing

Oregon State doesn't have the most experienced team in the College World Series. Certainly it didn't have the most draft picks in the recent June free agent draft.

But it owns the corners of the plate on offense and defense and that's been a major key to its success.

Beaver hitters are among the most disciplined I've ever seen at anything below the major-league level. They don't chase bad pitches. They are not afraid to hit with two strikes on them. They work counts and run up pitch counts to a degree that is wrecking pitching staffs.

Monday night against LSU, the Beavers were struggling against reliever Caleb Gilbert in the third and fourth inning. Gilbert struck out four of the first six hitters he faced. But then the Beavers dug in and started doing what they do best on offense -- grinding out at bats, fouling pitches off, taking close pitches off the plate and extending at bats and innings.

Gilbert managed to last two and two-thirds innings but needed 68 pitches to do it. He allowed a couple of unearned runs -- but as we've seen with the Beavers, if you make an error or mental mistake against them, they'll usually make you pay for it. A good part of that is their patience at the plate. And that's something so difficult to teach or coach. You can't just tell players to swing at only good pitches. That kind of discipline comes through countless hours of work -- learning the strike zone, learning the pitches you can hit and the ones you can't and simply being willing to sacrifice yourself at certain times to be willing to take more pitches than you might wish.

LSU used seven pitchers to get through the final seven innings of the game and they combined to throw a whopping 173 pitches -- yes, in seven innings! That kind of workload destroys pitching staffs. We saw OSU do the same thing to Cal-Fullerton in the first game of the CWS and to Vanderbilt in the Super Regionals -- where the Beavers broke first-round draft pick Kyle Wright's resolve with their patience.

Meanwhile, Oregon State starter Bryce Fehmel was creating another masterpiece on the mound. He used only 108 pitches through eight innings, walked three and allowed a paltry two hits. Fehmel is an artist at working the corners and changing speeds, throwing off hitters' timing and messing with their minds. He made it look easy and it wasn't. The Tigers have a terrific offensive team, loaded with speed and power, and Fehmel had them eating out of his right hand.

It was yet another spectacular game for the Beavers, who continue to pile them up. Now, with three days of rest, pitching coach Nate Yeskie will have all his arms rested and ready to go for a game Friday that could vault OSU into the best-of-three championship round. He can choose between Jake Thompson or Drew Rasmussen as his starter and has a bullpen so fresh that many of the best have yet to throw a pitch in the CWS.

And as long as the Beavers continue to control the strike zone, they're going to be a tough team to beat.