Lasting Memories

Beavers came up short, but season was still special
Oregon State's Kavin Keyes (3) embraces Scott Schultz, left, after losing in an NCAA college baseball regional tournament game in Corvallis, Ore., Monday, June 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Mark Ylen)AP

CORVALLIS — As I was sitting in the stands of Goss Stadium on Monday night, frantically trying to craft a compelling game story about the Beavers' stunning exit from the NCAA baseball tournament, something caught my eye.

When I looked up, there was Oregon State senior pitcher Scott Schultz walking to home plate.

A few steps behind was his 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Madison.

Schultz, who was masterful in a two-hit shutout of UC Irvine on Sunday night to keep the Beavers' season alive for one more day, had played his final game in an Oregon State uniform.

No doubt, it had to have been tough to put that in perspective at that moment.

Instead of being overcome with emotion, Schultz walked to home plate and swung an imaginary bat, then jogged toward first base with Madison steps behind.

I will admit, I began to tear up watching that precious moment.

For many in Beaver Nation, OSU's 2014 season will be looked at as a failure or a missed opportunity.

It's true that the Beavers, who reached the College World Series in 2013 and was loaded for bear in 2014, came up short.

The team sputtered on offense late in the season, which ultimately cost OSU a chance to return to Omaha and challenge for a third national title.

The pain of losing Monday night was real — and evident in the swollen, tear-stained eyes of Michael Conforto when he talked about the sudden end to the season, and undoubtedly his career at Oregon State as he was drafted in the first round by the New York Mets on Thursday.

The same could be said for the soft-spoken Kavin Keyes, whose responses to questions were barely audible as he sat at the table during the postgame press conference with a blank stare most of the time.

It was also evident with Pat Casey, who without a doubt in my mind, takes losing harder than any coach — or person — I have ever met.

Yes, the Beavers failed to get back to Omaha.

Yes, they failed to deliver at the plate in clutch situations time and again over the final 12 games of the season.

But when I looked out and saw Schultz with his daughter, it made me realize that outside of the results on the field, this season was an absolute success for the Beavers.

Each player on the team is better for having spent the season together.

The upperclassmen and veterans are better leaders and teammates as they helped demonstrate to the freshmen and newcomers what it meant to be a part of the OSU program — which is synonymous with winning.

Every time I asked the freshmen about their success, they always gave credit to the upperclassmen for leading, encouraging and inspiring them.

And every time I asked the upperclassmen about the young players, they always talked about how much they listened and put into practice what they were being taught and told.

There's no doubt losing sucks. Just ask Casey, or Conforto, or Dylan Davis, or Andy Peterson, or Ben Wetzler or Jace Fry, or anyone else on the team.

But this team achieved great success together — winning a second straight outright Pac-12 title and the No. 1 seed to the tournament, for example.

It also persevered together. The players learned to block out distractions and they never once wavered in their support of teammates.

As I watched Schultz on Monday night, I thought back to the story Stephen Nelson of KEZI did on Peterson and how the team was there for him when his mother died before the start of the season.

Without the game of baseball and his teammates, going through that ordeal may have been unbearable.

Instead, Peterson was able to find solace and support in his teammates and coaches who all had one common goal.

So, while the Beavers may have ultimately come up short on the field, the successes they had off it can't be overlooked.

Baseball, like all sports, is a game to be enjoyed.

Even after a tough loss.

Watching Schultz and his daughter Monday night put it all in perspective for me.

It's a moment I'll never forget.

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