(Part 7 of a College World Series preview series)
Oregon State encountered minimal turbulence on or off the field en route to capturing the Pac-12 Conference championship and earning the No. 1 national seed. Making their sixth College World Series appearance Saturday at 2 p.m., the Beavers (54-4) take on Cal State Fullerton in Omaha, Nebraska.
OSU, which won back-to-back national championships in 2006 and '07, boasts a spectacular 54-4 record. But the Beavers' hopes of a third national title were dealt a blow last week when a newspaper article revealed that national ERA leader and first-team All-American Luke Heimlich is a registered sex offender. Heimlich sat out the Super Regional and announced Thursday that he would not accompany the team in Omaha.
A junior left-hander, Heimlich (11-1, 0.76) logged 118.1 innings for the Beavers, who have held the opposition to a .197 batting average while posting the nation's best ERA at 1.80. Meanwhile, Heimlich was bypassed in the Major League draft, which concluded Wednesday.
Unfazed by the Heimlich controversy, the Beavers took care of business on the field by sweeping Vanderbilt 8-4 and 9-2 in the Corvallis Super Regional.
Even without Heimlich, the Beavers have the luxury of sending a first-team All-American to the bump.
Junior right-hander Jake Thompson (14-0, 1.52), whose ERA ranks No. 5 nationally, pitched the opener. Drafted in the fourth round by the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday, Thompson has amassed 113 punchouts against 36 walks while yielding 76 hits though 118.1 innings.
Called upon for his 12th start of the season, sophomore right-hander Bryce Fehmel (5-2, 3.80) responded with a complete game effort in Game 2 of the Super Regional.
Also available as a starter is sophomore right-hander Drew Rasmussen, the Tampa Bay Rays' first-round draft choice (31st overall). Rasmussen (3-0, 0.83) has appeared in six games, starting four, since returning from Tommy John surgery in late April. In 21.2 innings, he has given up 16 hits with 22 strikeouts and five walks.
Freshmen Jake Mulholland (6-1, 1.31, 6 saves) and Brandon Eisert (5-0, 2.18 4 saves) head up a lefty-laden bullpen, along with sophomore Sam Tweedt (3-0, 2.57) and Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year Max Engelbrekt (3-0, 0.48, 5 saves). In 18.2 innings spread out over 16 appearances, Engelbrekt has registered 18 strikeouts against just three walks while handcuffing opposing batters to the tune of a .129 average. Freshman Grant Gambrell (1-0, 2.93) is a right-handed option from the relief corps.
Oregon State ranks first among CWS teams in batting average (.296) and last in home runs (29).
Second baseman Nick Madrigal's .383 batting average is tops among CWS regulars. Batting from the No. 2 slot, the 5-7, 161-pound sophomore leads the Beavers in hits (85), total bases (120), doubles (19), stolen bases (16-for-20) and runs (52), and is tied for the team lead with a .541 slugging percentage. Besides earning the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award, Madrigal has provided a .414 on base percentage, four home runs and 36 RBI.
Junior KJ Harrison (.330 batting average, 8 HR, 39 RBI), a three-time All-Conference honoree, was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the third round. No other OSU batter has more than five home runs.
Setting the table for Madrigal and Harrison, sophomore center fielder Steven Kwan (.345-1-17) has a .451 on base percentage from the leadoff spot. Harrison homered in both Super Regional games vs. Vanderbilt.
Rounding out the order are cleanup hitter and sophomore designated hitter Trevor Larnach (.304-3-42), junior right fielder Jack Anderson (.288-1-29), junior third baseman Michael Gretler (.300-4-32), freshman catcher Adley Rutschman (.247-2-32), junior left fielder Christian Donahue (.258-0-18) and sophomore shortstop Cadyn Grenier (.280-5-34).