Friday First Takes - "Gimme the bat Wendy... Gimme the bat!"

This just in: Oregon State head coach Pat Casey hates to lose.

Duh.

But I found out first hand tonight how serious he is about this. After meeting with his team following tonight's 4-3 loss to Arizona State, the Beaver bench boss slowly walked over to the four of us media peeps waiting to ask him questions on tonight's game.

S.I.D. Kip Carlson was first. "Coach, what did you think of Mike Stutes performance tonight?"

He snapped, "Mike pitched great. We've just gotta win ball games." And he barely lost a beat on chewing his gum.

Then he was asked about the lack of offense. "We've gotta get guys on base and move 'em over and score 'em." he said sharply, like a parent who's straight-A kid just got called to the Principal's office.

I decided to bite the bullet and throw my hat into the bull's ring, "Coach, what did (ASU's) Mike Leake throw that was keeping your guys off-kilter all night?"

"Fastball. Slider. A lot of strikes."

That was pretty much how tonight's post-game went. Coach Casey has reason to be frustrated. His 18th ranked Beavers are still in a funk. Having gone 2-4 against Pac 10 also-rans Washington and Washington State the last two weeks, his team is starting to hedge toward bubble-land. Indeed, it's No. 35 RPI isn't exactly sparkling. Then again, a lot of teams feel frustrated going up against Arizona State's talent.

Coach relented a little when it came to his starter Mike Stutes. "He did what we needed him to do. He had a great start tonight and got us deep into the game." he said.

But then he touched on the real crux of the matter, "I don't know anybody who has a better offense than they have. They are probably the best ball club in America." He said, yet still wasn't satisfied in just getting within a single run in the 9th and leaving the tying run in scoring position.

The bad part was I was originally supposed to do a Q&A with the Beaver Nation architect before tomorrow's game. That has now been pushed back (tentatively) to before Sunday's game. My hope is that the Beavers win tomorrow so Coach Casey will be in a better disposition.

But I've gotten reassurances from The Oregonian's Norm Maves and CSTV's own Glenn Tanner who have both talked to Coach Casey before and found him to be more than engaging. Glenn even noted that he had to end the conversation with the normally talkative skipper

Norm even said to me after tonight's game. "That's typical Coach Casey. He hates to lose. After a loss he gets like a junior in high school and is mad at the world. Of course, that's why Oregon State is playing for nationals championships now too."

Good point.

I'm sure the local media, and the Beaver fans, would prefer it that way.


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What I saw at Goss Stadium tonight---
Arizona State - 4
Oregon State - 3
Mike Leake - no not the father of Kelly in Bad News Bears Breaking Training - pitched a great, great game tonight. In improving to 11-1, he went 8.2 innings, giving up just six hits to the Devil bats and striking out seven. Not once the entire game did OSU get back-to-back base hits. He did walk five, but was backed up by a defense that turned two double plays and got save No. 8 from Freshman Jason Jarvis.

Again, the Devils weren't blasting the ball all over the yard, as they have a tendency to do. Stutes pitched a solid game and got two innings of no-hit relief from Blake Keitzman. But five of the first six innings saw the maroon and gold get the leadoff man on. That forced Stutes to pitch under pressure, which he did a good job of, for the most part. Devil 2nd baseman Eric Sogard hit safely his first three times up and Ryan Sontag, a Michigan State transfer, got the game-winning RBI single in the 6th to help ASU crank out just enough hits on the day.

Game two will probably see ASU go with junkballer Josh Satow (9-3, 2.39) against the Beavers' Daniel Turpen (8-1, 3.89). It's becoming a must-win situation for Oregon State, as they now sit at 36-14 and an alarming 8-11 in Pac 10 play.

Coach Pat Casey knows this well. "Everybody goes through times like this once a season, ours just happens to be now. Our fate is in our hands. We haven't consistently played up to our capabilities the past few weeks, but this team has done things this season that have shown it can be an outstanding ball club."

They'll have to show that now.


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Teams of the Day---
- Winthrop
Result: Won 6-2 vs. Coastal Carolina.
What it means: The Eagles are now back in a 1st place tie with the Chanticleers atop the Big South at 15-4 with two more to play.

- St. John's.
Result: won 7-3 at South Florida
What it means: With Rutgers and Louisville both losing today, the Red Storm are now officially the Big East champions for the second straight year and will be the No. 1 seed in next week's post-season tourney. SJU is now 39-14 overall.

- Florida State.
Result: won 10-2 at Georgia Tech
What it means: The offense is still clicking (ummm, that's an understatement stitch-heads) as the Noles have now outscored Tech 27-4 in two games. Small red flag: Another weak outing by Saturday starter Michael Hyde (2.2 innings, 3 hits, 3 walks, 1 hit-batsmen, 1 wild pitch).

- Western Carolina.
Result: won 8-3 vs. Georgia Southern
What it means: Coupled with College of Charleston's shocking 11-inning, 6-5 loss to Davidson, it means that the Catamounts can do no worse than a tie for the SoCon title. Moreso, a win tomorrow and the hull kit-n-kaboodle is theirs.

- UC Riverside
Result: won 7-4 at Long Beach State
What it means: The Highlanders are now tied with the Beach at 13-3 atop the Big West. James Simmons improved to 10-2 with 6.0 innings of one-run ball. Aaron Wible always seems to get big hits as he smacked a two-run double to put the game out of reach.

- Prairie View.
Result: won 14-3 vs. Jackson State in the SWAC tournament
What it means: Today's 14-3 mercy ruled win over Jackson State leaves the Panthers with a SWAC title round appearance and will need only one win over Southern tomorrow to clinch their second straight NCAA bid. Leadoff man Michael Richard hit a two-run double as part of a 2-for-4 day with three RBI. Brandon Whitby hit a 3-run bomb as well.

- LeMoyne.
Result: won 13-4 vs. Iona.
What it means: The Dolphins become the MAAC regular season champions for the second straight season and finish with a stellar 22-3 mark. They also get the No. 1 seed in the MAAC tourney next week.

- Arkansas.
Result: won 4-3 (10 innings) vs. Mississippi.
What it means: Assured the Razorbacks of the West Division title in SEC play. And as Jean Neuberger pointed out, the last time the SEC West champion wasn't given a home Regional was... well, never.

- Alabama-Birmingham.
Result: won 3-2 vs. East Carolina
What it means: It probably means the Conference USA brass are getting pissed. With their second straight loss to the Blazers, the Pirates are most assuredly not going to host a Regional - although the chances were slim anyway.


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Made the Brooks blog---
Corvallis Gazette Times college sports reporter extraordinaire Brooks Hatch asked me a few Qs about Oregon State's post-season hopes while I was at the game tonight. You can check it out here if you want:

http://www.gazettetimes.com/blogs/index2.php?paper=gt

The thing I like about Brooks? He had the brass to live in Minot, North Dakota in the early stages of his career. Of course, getting a gig in Corvallis, Oregon ain't so bad, ya' know? Nice change of setting.


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Home of The Shining---
Before today's game I made the short drive up to the Timberline Lodge, the famous hotel on the flanks of Mt. Hood which served as the setting for the classic horror film from Stephen King. To my amazement, there were still people skiing and snowboarding up there (hello, it's freaking mid-May), which apparently goes well into summer. Plus, at 11,235 feet, this national landmark that was built in 1937 was surrounded by remarkable views. Unfortunately, there is no giant hedge maze like the one you saw in the movie. Damn. I was hoping to see if Jack Torrance was still frozen in there.

TimberlineLodge.jpg
Scatman Crothers told me not to DARE go into Room 237.

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert