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MailTribune.com
  • COLLEGE BASEBALL

    Walk-happy Beavers keep eyes on the ball

  • CORVALLIS — College baseball's version of "Moneyball" just might reside in Corvallis, where the No. 5 Oregon State baseball team has excelled at the art of getting on base.
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  • CORVALLIS — College baseball's version of "Moneyball" just might reside in Corvallis, where the No. 5 Oregon State baseball team has excelled at the art of getting on base.
    The Beavers (9-3) have drawn a whopping 73 walks through their first 12 games, including a season-high 13 on Sunday from seven different Wright State pitchers. That came after drawing 11 walks against Nebraska in the season's second game. Their 6.1 walks per game figures to be at or near the top of the NCAA, but the NCAA doesn't come out with national leaders this early in the season.
    In the Pac-12 Conference, the Beavers are runaway leaders. Arizona has the second most walks at 46, and Arizona State is second in walks per game at 4.2.
    "Getting on base is the big thing; you can score runs when you are on base,'' said freshman catcher Logan Ice, who is second on the team with eight walks. "You see the movie 'Moneyball' and the Oakland A's style, where they don't have any talent really, but they find ways on base, and that's what it really comes down to: Get guys on, get 'em over, and get 'em in."
    "So I mean, a walk is just as good as a hit,'' Ice said.
    The Oregon State record for walks in a season is 337 in 1998, when a lineup featuring Joe Gerber, Rob Colley and Ben Bertrand averaged 6.7 walks per game.
    This season, All-American outfielder Michael Conforto leads the Beavers and the Pac-12 with 13 walks. Ice, the freshman from Puyallup, Wash., has eight, while second baseman Andy Peterson and freshman third baseman Caleb Hamilton have seven. Dylan Davis and sophomore Gabe Clark have six.
    "I noticed early, especially the first weekend, we had some guys with a lot of walks,'' said first baseman Kavin Keyes, who is either tied or leads the Pac-12 in hits (18), doubles (five) and total bases (23). "That's a good thing. That means we are seeing it well, making sure we are getting good pitches to hit.''
    Oregon State is batting .299 as a team, second best in the conference to Arizona's .327, but they are averaging more runs than Arizona (7.3 to 7.0) in large part because of their walks and conference-leading .422 on base percentage.
    "It comes down to hitting pitches in the zone,'' said Ice. "Our coaching staff does a great job of preaching hitting pitches in the zone and don't expand the zone.''
    Another bonus: While the Beavers' hitters have worked 73 walks, the pitchers have issued only 27, the 2.25 per game the lowest in the Pac-12.
    Coach Pat Casey said the funny thing about Oregon State's walks is the emphasis of late has been on being aggressive.
    "I just think it's early,'' Casey said. "Sometimes it's just who you play early. But we are showing good plate discipline right now. But we haven't put any extra emphasis on it. We've actually put more emphasis on being aggressive, but make sure you do that with good pitches.''
    So at Oregon State, the equation is simple: throw strikes, and swing at strikes.
    "It's always an emphasis: Swing at good pitches, stay off the stuff that is down,'' Keyes said. "I think we've done a really good job at that for the most part.''
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