Before every season, coach Pat Casey surveys Oregon State's schedule and identifies a tough six- or nine-game stretch. He considers posting a .500 record during the rough patch an admirable goal, even if he won't share the same with the players.
This season, that stretch coincided with the beginning of the Pac-10 schedule for the Beavers. Series at Arizona, home against Arizona State and at Stanford. All three opponents had earned preseason rankings and featured the kind of talent that could land any of them in Omaha. "I just figured if we can get through that and hold the fort, we'd be doing pretty well," Casey said.
Oregon State lost the first game at Arizona 18-0 with ace right-hander Sam Gaviglio on the mound. But the Beavers haven't lost since, running off nine straight wins overall to build a 27-7 record and thrust themselves into consideration for a national seed in the NCAA tournament. That's a little better than just holding the fort. And now the team picked to finish eighth out of 10 teams by Pac-10 coaches stands atop the standings at 8-1 as it faces Washington State this weekend.
"I never worried that the wheels were going to fall off, but you lose your league opener 18-0 and you think that you're in for a pretty good fight," Casey said. "But I knew we would fight."