Q1. Oregon State is going back to the championship series - a year after winning the whole thing. How would you compare this year's team to that of last year's?
You really can't compare this year's team with last year's -- six position starters, two starting pitchers (Dallas Buck and CWS MVP Jonah Nickerson) and the best closer in the school's history (Kevin Gunderson) left after the 2006 season. The players who filled the spots give it a brand-new look. Last year's team had more power from Cole Gillespie, Shea McFeely and, in the CWS, first baseman Bill Rowe, but the offensive production came with bigger numbers from fewer people. This year's team distributes the offense wider, but thinner. It doesn't have a lot of big innings, but picks teams to death one and two runs at a time. That's good enough because one of the three things the 2006 and 2007 teams have in common: good pitching.
Nobody but Casey and pitching coach Dan Spencer knew that the pitchers coming back were pretty talented, too. The addition of freshman Jorge Reyes and the development of left-hander Joe Paterson and some very good coaching has made this a well-rounded, effective staff -- just like last year. The other similarity is in team speed. The last three OSU teams have been very, very fast. They don't always use it to steal bases, but it puts pressure on other defenses to play clean defensive games. The third similarity is defense. This OSU team hasn't made an error since the regionals and led the country for most of the year; last year was just as good.
Q2. What are the strengths of this team? What areas are they weak at?
I mentioned most of the strengths of this team in the previous question, but one unmentioned strength is team chemistry. Shortstop Darwin Barney and catcher Mitch Canham, the two holdover starters from last year, are extraordinary leaders, and the entire team is focused and headed in the same direction. This makes them a much more dangerous team than the sum of the parts. Right now the weaknesses are few, but during the year the Beavers were occasionally hurt by a lack of power and would occasionally get burned by a left-handed pitcher. Arizona State, for instance, limited them to three hits in two consecutive games -- a one-hitter and a two-hitter -- but all that seems to have been cured. They've hit .333 with five home runs and 22 runs in three CWS games, so Oregon State is peaking at the right time.
Q3. What type of coach is Pat Casey? Does he manage "by the book" or is he a "gut-type" of manager?
Pat Casey looks like a by-the-book coach, but he will throw it away now and then. He likes the bunt and the left-right matchup page and uses it effectively, but I've seen him change his starting lineup based on who hits best in pre-game hitting. He will also bench a cold hitter and give up a matchup just to get a hot hitter into the lineup, and occasionally green-light a hot hitter to swing away in an obvious bunt situation. He's also patient: he created a huge offensive weapon in freshman second baseman Joey Wong, a left-handed hitter, by sticking with him when it was apparent he was overmatched against left-handers early in the year. But the experience got Wong, a superior defender, the stick time he needed to solve the problem. He's now hitting .417 in the CWS and .350 in 10 playoff games.
Q4. What Oregon State players should people keep an eye on not only in the championship series, but possibly in the majors?
According to the draft, the players to watch are relief pitcher Eddie Kunz (supplemental to the Mets), catcher Mitch Canham (supplemental to the Padres) and shortstop Darwin Barney (third player, fourth round, Cubs). Kunz is 6-5 and 250, throws in the mid-90s and is a pure power pitcher in the mold of Lee Arthur Smith, Armando Benitez, Goose Gossage (if you're old) or Dick Radatz (if you're REALLY old). Canham is 6-2 and 215, a left-handed power hitter and a terrific athlete behind the plate. He's excellent to second base. Barney is small (5-10, 170) but has extraordinary range and phenomenal baseball instincts. He could also wind up at second base, but he'll have to be a dependable two-hole hitter if he's going to make it. Wong will take over at shortstop the next two years and will probably be drafted as high or higher than Barney in 2009. If Reyes (6-2, 170) continues to develop as a pitcher, he should wind up as a first-round draft choice. Want a longshot? Joe Paterson, left-handed middle reliever, San Francisco Giants. Just a hunch.
Q5. What is up with the team going fishing before the games? Can you explain this a bit?
Fishing? Are you kidding? We're from the Northwest, where just about everybody fishes. Bass, trout, cod and all the salmon you can fit on a hook. Oregon and Washington -- where most of the players come from -- are very outdoorsy places. Just about everybody is a fisherman or hunter, hiker, camper, mountain climber or bicyclist and most are combinations of many of the above. Oregon State is on the Willamette River and 45 miles from the Pacific Ocean, so you can practically cast a baited hook out of your dorm window and catch breakfast. OK, that's an exaggeration, but fishing is a big part of the Northwest tapestry. The fishing thing in Omaha is just one of the many activities the people who run the CWS offer for off-day activities, and yesterday happened to coincide with a victory. These guys know how.
Once again, I want to thank Norm for his time....here are some other previews of the World Series...
The Charlotte Observer's David Scott writes how Carolina head coach Mike Fox has adapted his style of coaching now that he is in Division I...
The (Portland) Oregonian sports columnist Rachel Bachman writes how the World Series is a hot ticket around Omaha....
Here are two interesting links which appeared on ESPN.com about Rosenblatt Stadium and the World Series going to other venues....
North Carolina Tar Heels
Batter (No.) Pos. AVG HR RBI
1. Reid Fronk (7) LF .319 11 56
2. Tom Fedroff (16) RF .342 5 40
3. Josh Horton (12) SS .335 9 53
4. Tim Federowicz (19) C .339 4 64
5. Dustin Ackley (13) 1B .403 9 72
6. Chad Flack (34) 3B .251 7 46
7. Kyle Seager (10) DH .314 2 30
8. Seth Williams (27) CF .289 9 42
9. Garrett Gore (4) 2B .325 22 7
Pitcher (No.) ERA W-L SV SO
Alex White (6) 4.74 6-6 0 81
Oregon State Beavers
Batter (No.) Pos. AVG HR RBI
1. Chris Hopkins (20) CF .260 22 5
2. Joey Wong (1) 2B .288 0 19
3. Mike Lissman (3) DH .325 10 61
4. Mitch Canham (11) C .321 10 57
5. Darwin Barney (6) SS .301 4 53
6. Jordan Lennerton (37) 1B .313 8 48
7. Scott Santschi (21) RF .280 1 10
8. John Wallace (35) LF .267 1 24
9. Lonnie Lechelt (15) 1B .223 2 11
Pitcher (No.) ERA W-L SV SO
Jorge Reyes (23) 3.00 6-3 0 61