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Suspension difficult for OSU's Casey

CORVALLIS — For the first time in his legendary coaching career, Pat Casey was reduced to a television viewer.

Casey, in his 24th season at the helm of Oregon State’s baseball program, wasn’t at Goss Stadium over the weekend as the Beavers recovered from their first loss of 2018 to win the nonconference series with Cal State Fullerton. The 58-year-old coach followed the action from home while serving a four-game suspension for making contact with an umpire.

“I tried to watch them as much as I could, because I couldn’t be at the facility,” Casey said. “I’d watch part of them and get up and take off and walk two miles and come back. That was really difficult on me. I’ve never experienced that and it’s hard to do. I feel bad that I’m not there for the guys, that part is difficult.”

Casey was ejected in the seventh inning of Friday’s 5-3 loss for arguing a check-swing call with third base umpire Mark Buchanan. According to multiple witnesses, the bill of Casey’s hat touched Buchanan during the confrontation.

The NCAA rulebook states that ejection for physical contact with an umpire triggers an automatic four-game ban. There is no appeal process.

“Being ejected for arguing balls and strikes, it’s understandable,” said Casey, who had not been thrown out of a game in about five seasons. “I don’t really want to comment on anything other than that. You always feel bad when you’re not there to help your kids. I think that there’s a lot of things in the NCAA rules that need to be looked at as far as how they’re handled.”

It’s the first suspension of Casey’s 31-year coaching career.

Casey will return to the dugout for Sunday’s finale at California as the top-ranked Beavers (15-1) open Pac-12 Conference play. The series isn’t televised, leaving Casey without an option to watch the first two games.

With their coach temporarily deposed, the Beavers are trying to keep the same routine.

“It’s always different when (Casey) isn’t around,” junior shortstop Cadyn Grenier said. “Heck, the guy could be out for a doctor’s appointment during practice one day and it’s different. But you know what, he’s taught us a lot on distractions and he would chalk this up to another distraction for us. We just need to put it to the side and go and worry about what we should worry about, which is the games.”

Short-handed Beavers

Casey wasn’t the only piece missing last weekend as Oregon State got by Cal State Fullerton.

Pitcher Jordan Britton (general tightness) and outfielders Preston Jones (hamstring) and Kyle Nobach (knee soreness) were all held out. Casey expects Britton and Jones to be available against California while Nobach remains day-to-day.

Sophomore reliever Mitchell Verburg, who battled a back problem during the fall and winter, threw a bullpen session last weekend.

“He’s getting going,” Casey said. “We’re excited to see him.”

Star infielder Nick Madrigal will miss at least two more weeks as he recovers from a broken wrist. Madrigal, the 2017 Pac-12 player and defensive player of the year, suffered the injury Feb. 23 against Ohio State.

Typical recovery time for a hairline radial fracture is four-to-six weeks.

“(Madrigal) has done a hell of a job in the dugout keeping us energized and staying in the game throughout the entire thing,” pitcher Bryce Fehmel said. “Even though he’s not in the lineup, he’s still making a big difference.”

Rotation not set

Casey said Luke Heimlich (3-0, 2.08 ERA) and Fehmel (3-0, 3.21) will start the first two games at California. The third starter is still to be determined.

Grant Gambrell (2-0, 2.11) had appeared to lock up the No. 3 role, but the sophomore right-hander struggled Sunday afternoon against Fullerton. He walked five and struck out five while giving up three runs on three hits in 4⅓ innings.