Friday, June 10, 2011

VSL Gets You Ready: Vanderbilt vs. Oregon State in the NCAA Super Regionals

It's been a while since we've done a full-fledged preview. For my part, having a job that is both demanding, and finite (anyone want to hire a lawyer in Nashville), has effected my ability to "get [VSLNation] ready." For that, I am sorry.

With that said, the stars have aligned: a significant event and a sufficient lull in my occupational responsibilities have allowed me to write a preview that only a handful of people will actually read.

Historical Perspective

As Train Island writes in a must-read post from our friends at Anchor of Gold, this Super Regional has been a long-time in the making. 5 years to be exact:
"Oregon State will finally make an appearance in Nashville, four years after a 10th inning Michigan home run kept the SEC Champion Commodores from hosting the Beavers in the Super Regionals of the NCAA Tournament. Vanderbilt and Oregon State had been on a collision course that year, with the #1 ranked team set to face the defending national champions in a showdown that would determine who would move on to Omaha.

Unfortunately, that match-up wasn't to be (we all know why, now let's never discuss it again), and the Beavers ran through Michigan and to their second straight NCAA Championship.
This match-up has the potential to be cathartic on a lot of levels for Tim Corbin's Commodores. First, the ghost of 2007 still haunts Vanderbilt baseball fans. The Commodores will finally get a post-season shot at the team many think they should have faced in 2007 and, in a some way, avenge themselves to a series that never was. Second, and more importantly, the Commodores will have another chance to get over the Super Regional hump and finally punch their ticket to Omaha. The difference this time, however, is that the Commodores road to the College World Series goes through Hawkins Field.

Who Are the Beavers?

They come from Oregon, they play in the Pac-10, they won back-to-back National Championships in 2006 and 2007, and they have the most mockable mascot in college sports. Oregon State finished the regular season tied for 2nd in the Pac-10 at 17-10 with Arizona State (UCLA won the conference crown), with an overall record of 41-17. Head Coach Pat Casey's Beavers have an impressive post-season record of 33-10, including a near flawless 6-1 record in super regionals. It is worth noting, however, that their prior two super regionals were played at home in Corvalis. Either way, Oregon State has the 2nd most post-season wins since 2006, trailing only North Carolina in that category. The Beavers have been to this rodeo before, and they will be a tough out.

OSU and Vanderbilt have only met once, with the Commodores besting the Beavers 8-1 in 2008 when the teams faced-off in Tempe. Against the SEC writ-large, Oregon State has a record of 11-7, although it should be noted that 7 of their 11 wins have come against Georgia (including beating the Bulldogs to advance to this super regional). When facing teams other than UGA, OSU is just 4-6 against the SEC.

Oregon State's Pitchers

The quantity and quality of pitchers at Coach Casey's disposal is, in many ways similar to the weapons Coach Corbin has in the other dugout. As a tean, the Beavers have a 2.93 ERA, with a bullpen ERA of 2.65. Junior right-hander, Sam Gavilgilo, is the Beaver ace andthas attributes similar to Vanderbily's Sonny Gray. While Gavilgilo eclipses the 6 foot mark (barely), he's only a 195 lbs. With that said, he packs quite a punch and has been incredibly effective all season. Gavilgilo is 12-2 in 16 appearances this season, completing 115.1 IP, allowing 82 hits, while surrendering 27 walks. Gavilgilo has allowed just 24 earned runs and has a fantastic 1.87 ERA. The Beaver ace has failed to complete 6 innings just twice in 16 appearances, and has left 8 games, pitching a total of 58 2/3 innings, without giving up an earned run. Gaviglio has thrown 4 complete games this season, allowing just 4 runs in those 36 innings, including a dominating performance over Creighton in the second game of last weekend's regional where he allowed just 5 hits, 2 walks, and 1 earned run, while striking out 11. Make no mistake about it, Gray vs. Gaviglio is a heavyweight bout between 2 exceptional collegiate pitchers.

Next up in the rotation for Oregon State is somewhat unclear. Beavers' #2 hurler, Josh Osich is unavailable for the weekend due to tendanitis, throwing Pat Casey's rotation into a state of chaos. Osich's spot in the rotation will likely be filled by senior righty James Nygren. The 6'1 senior is 8-3 on the year in 10 starts and 16 appearances. Nygren's ERA is an adequate 3.47, allowing 28 earned runs in 72 2/3 IP. He's struck out 55, while walking just 15. In his last 5 starts, Nygren has made it into the 6th just twice. In the Beavers opening game of the regional, Nygren was chased by Arkansas-Little Rock after 4 2/3, allowing 4 earned runs and 5 hits, while striking out 3 and walking none.

Should game be necessary, Coach Casey is likely to send Ben Wetzler to the hill. A 6'1 lefty, Wetzler is 6-3 in 11 starts and 16 appearances. The freshman has completed 63 2/3 innings, allowing 33 earned runs and 69 hits. Wetzler has a 4.66 ERA, with 45 strikeouts and 17 walks. Wetzler has been a reliable, if unspectacular starter for the Beavers all season. Still, there is a reason he wasn't given the ball in their first 3 regional games.

The Oregon State bullpen is tough. A pair of sophomores, Tony Bryant and Matt Boyd, have been dominant this season, combining for 47 appearances with 90 1/3 innings pitched. The lefty Boyd is 6'3 and could be accurately described as the "set-up" man. Boyd has a 1.45 ERA, allowing just 7 earned runs in 43.1 innings worked. The second "B," Tony Bryant is a towering right-hander, standing 6'7 and weighing in at 210 lbs. Bryant has a 1.52 ERA and a record of 3-2 with 12 saves. The sophomore from Kennewick, Washington has pitched 47 1/3 innings, giving up 8 earned runs, while striking out 40. Scott Schultz, a 6'2 freshman, and Cole Baylis, a 6'7 freshman, are the only other Beavers with more than 10 appearances all year.

Oregon State's Bats

Freshman DH/2B Kavin Keys is the most dangerous bat in the Beaver line-up, alternating between the 3 and 4 spot with sophomore catcher Andrew Susac. Keys, on the year, is batting .316 with 1 home run and 30 RBIs. He's struck out 32 times, while only drawing 17 walks. Susac is hitting .313 on the year, and is tied for the Beaver lead in HRs with 5 (Parker Berberet also has 5), and is tied for 2nd in RBIs with 32. Jake Rodriguez is the only other player with more 20 starts hitting over .300 (.304), and is a 5'8 freshman who has shuttled between second base and catcher.

Junior shortstop Ryan Dunn (namesake of the protagonist in Summer Catch, an underrated baseball classic), has started in the hole for 33 straight games, and has reached base in 27 of them. He spent the regional in the 5 spot, but was an unimpressive 1 for 9 with a single and a run scored. Don't be surprised to see Dunn further down in the order for Coach Casey.

Two other bats the Commodores need to be aware of are senior Parker Berberet and junior center fielder Brian Stamps. While Berberet is hSimitting just .259 on the year, he does lead the team in RBIs (37) and is tied for the lead in homers (5). He had a great regional in the 2 games he played, going 3-5 with a double, home run, and 2 RBIs. Similarly, Stamps was an unimpressive .270 hitter on the year, while leading the Beavers in strikeouts. From the 2-spot, Stamps was 5-11 with a 2B and in the regional

Things to Consider

Here are some statistics that stand out to me when looking at the Oregon State Beavers:
- This season, Oregon State is 13-3 against the Top 25, and 3-0 against the Top 10. They won't be intimidated by the Commodores and their national seeding.
- 5 Runs: This seems to be the magic number both for the Beavers and their opponents. Oregon State is 14-14 when scoring between 0-5 runs, and 27-2 when they plate 6 or more. On the flip-side, the Beavers are 38-9 when their opponents score 5 runs or less, but just 6-7 when their opponents score 6+.
- Holding a Lead: Oregon State is 34-2 when leading after 6, 35-0 when leading after 7, and 36-0 when leading after 8. Conversely, the Beavers are just 4-15 when trailing after 6 or 7, and have only come back to win once when trailing through 8 complete.
The Commodores played a near flawless series last weekend. The again, so did the Beavers. The difference between these teams right now, is health: the Commodores, specifically their pitchers, are healthier than Oregon State's. This fact along makes tonight's game critical for both teams. Every game in a best-of-3 series is important because 1 lose and a team faces elimination. With that said, given their respective rosters, Vanderbilt appears more likely to come back from a Friday night loss than Oregon State does.

This is the brightest the lights will have shined on the Commodores all season, and it's important the team gets off to a good start. Oregon State ace Sam Gaviglio is a fantastic pitcher, and the Vanderbilt bats will have to be patient and opportunistic to get to him.

It should be a great series. Single game as well as full tournament tickets are still available. First pitch is 7pm central and the game can be seen across America on ESPNU. You can also follow the action on's live-blog, or on When [It] Strike Me's VU Baseball Twitter feed, VUHawkTalk. And, as always, VSLNation will be tweeting from Hawkins Field with inane observations and trash-talking all game long (or at least until my iPhone dies).

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