CORVALLIS — Oregon State has played only eight of 56 regular-season games and no Pac-12 games, but Beaver fans can be forgiven if they're a little excited about the start of the 2013 season.
After all, the team ERA of 1.12 is a magical figure — Bob Gibson's mark in 1968 that persuaded major league powers-that-be to lower the pitching mound — and the bullpen ERA, after 30 innings, is a tidy 0.00.
Yes, the mound is still the same height at Goss Stadium, site of tonight's home opener against Bryant, but expectations may be a bit loftier.
"I think we're doing all right,'' catcher Jake Rodriguez said. "The numbers definitely speak for themselves.''
Thanks to youth, experience, human cloning, a No. 9 hitter and a very dependable battery, the Beavers, 8-0 and ranked sixth in the nation, are off to their best start in 51 years.
What the Beavers have not had is the services of starting pitchers Jace Fry, Ben Wetzler and Taylor Starr. Fry is probably out for the season; Wetzler is penciled in for Sunday's start, and Starr could be available, too.
So into the rotation stepped freshman Andrew Moore and senior Matt Boyd, who combined to throw 162/3 shutout innings at San Diego State, allowing seven hits and one walk.
"Eight and a third with two hits on the road against anybody, I think that exceeds expectations a little bit,'' pitching coach Nate Yeskie said about Moore, who like Boyd is 2-0.
Meanwhile, Boyd's clone has put up the most impressive line of any OSU pitcher in the early season. Freshman Max Engelbrekt has thrown 72/3 innings, giving up one hit and no walks with five strikeouts, earning a save, a win and a hold in three appearances.
"They've figured out how to clone humans because Max Engelbrekt seems to be a clone of Matt Boyd at the same age,'' Yeskie said.
Boyd probably went a little higher on the radar gun, and Engelbrekt probably has better secondary stuff, but the similarity is not lost on Rodriguez.
"He fills up the zone, he kind of works the same pitches Boyd does,'' Rodriguez said of the repertoire of two fastballs, a slider and a changeup.
So basically, the Beavers have replaced Boyd with Boyd in the bullpen and added a starter who went 81/3 shutout innings. They replaced Fry with Moore, who would inspire talk of cloning, too, if Moore didn't throw with his right arm. Dan Child, the other starter, is a year older and stronger and has benefited from playing for Team USA.
Now, Wetzler returns, in the Sunday slot (after a Saturday doubleheader) because his expected lack of stamina after the layoff would unnecessarily tax a bullpen if he went on his accustomed Friday night.
"(Wetzler) does project as a guy that's going to start for us, and he's earned that opportunity,'' Yeskie said. "And they all know it."
As for Starr, Yeskie said, "I think time will tell. I don't think any of the other guys have done anything to remove themselves.
"If you want to pitch in the rotation, you're going to earn it. If you want to stay in the rotation, you have to earn that."
And if you want to catch regularly, you definitely have to earn that. Before the season, coach Pat Casey talked about the versatility of Rodriguez, who could play catcher, second and third base. Rodriguez has caught six of the first eight games and he has thrown out all three runners who have tried to steal on him.
Would the staff have such glossy numbers, especially the bullpen with its inherited runners, if not for the security blanket that is Rodriguez's right arm? Maybe. But Rodriguez probably wouldn't be the main man behind the plate if not for Andy Peterson, who has played a very athletic second base, started every game and is hitting .310 with two sacrifices at the bottom of Casey's lineup.
It's a lineup that has yet to produce a home run. But when the opposition hasn't homered, either, and is hitting .179, that's not a problem.