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There is joy in Beaver Nation

Athleticism and grace under pressure made the series great

The (Corvallis) Gazette-Times

It wasn't so much like watching a sports contest Monday night as it was like watching the scripted ending to "The Natural," as Oregon State University's baseball team employed tenacity, talent and a pinch of good fortune to triumph over the North Carolina Tar Heels, 3-2.

When OSU's Tyler Graham carefully positioned himself under a fly ball, and it landed securely in his glove to nab the third out in the ninth inning, you almost could hear the music explode. OSU's elated celebration had begun. (We're glad, by the way, that pitcher Kevin Gunderson survived the massive victory pile-on. We worried for a second that he'd been squished.)

Not since 1961, when the beavers won the NCAA men's cross-country championship, has an OSU team taken the national spotlight.

It's understandable, therefore, that cars were cruising downtown, horns honking, their drivers waving and cheering at smiling pedestrians who stood outside taverns and restaurants and cheered back.

It's understandable that even those who normally would not consider themselves baseball fans are waxing rhapsodic about the team's grace and skill and speculating on the team's and its standouts' future. — It's no surprise that black and orange, usually in evidence most during the football season, has bloomed everywhere. T-shirts, banners, flags and signs have been hung in celebration everywhere from windows to flagpoles to car windows.

The Beavers' victory challenged assumptions about what kind of teams can expect to triumph at the top levels of college baseball: The rap has been that only Southern teams, which don't have to contend with wintry weather, can win it all. This year, the Beavers have demonstrated that commitment is more powerful than climate.

Besides being a thrilling demonstration of athleticism, smart playing and focus, the Beavers played with good sportsmanship, as did the Tar Heels. It's refreshing to see the essence of sports so well represented after enduring the cynicism and corruption that plague baseball's major leagues.

The Beavers and Tar Heels exemplified what the boys of summer are supposed to be all about. They reminded everyone why baseball became known as our national sport.

By keeping it classy, the championship series enables us to celebrate a victory that makes us proud to be citizens of the Beaver Nation.