As I sit here on a Monday afternoon in Puerta Vallerta Mexico, the eve of the final game before conference play, and think back to the first eleven games, I smile. Many Beaver fans were worried about replacing the top tier outfield from a year ago and a Friday night ace who was awarded the National Pitcher of the Year award. Well all I can say is, welcome to the 2023 Beavers.
The job that this coaching staff has done in getting players and preparing these young men has been masterful. Hats off to the main guys; Canham, Dorman, Gipson, Barney for being prepared and working hard all fall and spring, but a special shoutout to Esposito, Masceranes, and Postlewait as undergrad assistants working hard to get this team ready.
The Beavers sit at 9-2 after going 3-1 in Surprise, sweeping Coppin State, and taking 3 of 4 from Cal Poly on the road. In the fall, everyone asked who was going to be the Friday night dude and I would frequently and loudly yell TRENT SELLERS! This young man has been tried true and tested, he throws a lot of strikes and is not afraid to attack hitters, racking up 26 strikeouts in 11.1 innings thus far. Jacob Kmatz and Jaren Hunter have proved to be very effective in the Saturday and Sunday roles. Kmatz may just be the best and most consistent Saturday starter in the entire Pac-12. Jaren has had the toughest outing and also the best for any of the starters. When Hunter's sinker and change-up are working, he is a different dude and the infield loves all the fielding opportunities. Another pair of pitchers to mention are the freshmen from Elk Grove, Californina: AJ Hutcheson and Aiden Jimenez. These young men have been outstanding in relief situations and have really eaten up a ton of innings. Lattery, Lawson, and Larsen will just keep getting better with more opportunities, and last but certainly not least is Ryan Brown. He has only had limited opportunities but has 3 saves and has been an absolute shut down bulldog on the bump. When he gets the ball, he reminds me of Kevin Gunderson, just striking fear in opponents with zero fear while attacking hitters and being a tremendous leader for the bullpen. Coach Rich Dorman has a young crew but has absolutely rebuilt this pitching staff and has it looking like a national contender.
On the offensive side, first and foremost, I want to congratulate a young man, Micah McDowell, who hasn’t had the easiest or most successful road thus far in Corvallis. He has continued to work to improve and this year the hard work is paying off. He hit his first career home-run and is hitting a team leading .415. The freshman Gavin Turley has been as advertised, leading the team with four home-runs and hitting in the three hole for most of the season. He’s a five-tool guy and has been a solidifying playing in right field to start the season. Tanner Smith has been undeniably the best defensive catcher on the West Coast. When you add his three home-runs and run producing at bats, he is coming into his own as a sophomore. Veterans Travis Bazzana, Garrett Forrester, and Brady Kasper have been good, and haven’t had to hard carry the offense like many believed. While all three have been effective, I look for these guys to break out soon with more pop and clutch hits. Two newcomers who have also added effective offense is 3rd/SS Mikey Kane and 1st/DH Jacob Krieg. While Krieg has done it in a smaller sample size, both he and Kane have added a spark to this offensive. Kyle Dernedde SS and Ruben Cedillo OF have had bright points on both sides of the ball as well. Only Turley, Kane, and Forrester have started every game and Bazzana playing at some point in every game.
Overall if you are a part of Beaver Nation, I hope this team has been better than your expectations. While the team looks a little different and has a ton of speed, I’m extremely happy to see the power numbers rise. The pitching staff is young and green and will most certainly have its up and downs, so just be patient and enjoy the caliber of ball we are all witnessing this year. I can’t wait to see so many of your faces at Goss Stadium again this year. As ALWAYS, GO BEAVS.