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Archive for Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Oregon State’s repeat one for the books

June 26, 2007

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Oregon State, baseball power.

After completing an unlikely run to a second consecutive national championship, the Beavers now qualify as a college baseball dynasty.

In a sport that loses top underclassmen to the pros more often than basketball and football, Oregon State became the first repeat champion since LSU in 1996-97 and just the fifth since the College World Series began 60 years ago.

Winning last year's title at Rosenblatt Stadium was a major breakthrough for a team not from traditional baseball hotbeds such as Arizona, California, Florida and Texas. To come back and win it all a year later is even more impressive.

The Beavers (49-18) clinched the title with Sunday's 9-3 win over North Carolina, and the players piled on each other at the pitcher's mound to celebrate.

The other schools to repeat are among baseball's most storied programs - LSU, Stanford (1987-88), Southern California (1970-74) and Texas (1949-50). Oregon State's College World Series resume before 2005 was an 0-2 showing in 1952. The Beavers went two-and-out again two years ago, and lost their first game in Omaha last year.

They haven't been beaten there since.

"I don't have to convince this team that it's Texas or USC. They're Oregon State," coach Pat Casey said. "That level of confidence and pride has created this team's success. I trusted them. We don't need to be anybody but who we are."

The Beavers were the lovable, scrappy underdogs from the Pacific Northwest a year ago, becoming the first truly Northern-based team to win the national title since Ohio State in 1966. They fought off elimination six times, becoming the first team in CWS history to lose twice in Omaha and win the championship.

Until Oregon State came along, the last 11 champions came from four states: Texas, California, Florida and Louisiana.

Oregon State's win last year gave hope to teams from all over the country that, no matter where they're from, they could win a College World Series. UC Irvine and Louisville, both in Omaha this year for the first time, were surely inspired by the Beavers.

The fact Oregon State had the chance to defend its title was an achievement in itself. Only two regular position players - shortstop Darwin Barney and catcher Mitch Canham - returned from last year. The Beavers also lost their top two starters in Jonah Nickerson and Dallas Buck, along with star closer Kevin Gunderson.

Still, opponents never overlooked the Beavers.

"It's been like that since September," Barney said Sunday night. "We're the defending national champions and we're put on a pedestal. There are high expectations all season. Every team is gunning for you. We have a bull's-eye on our back. The way this team responded is special."

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