College baseball preview: Bailey’s job is to keep champion Beavers on top

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Florida players at McKethan Stadium. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey)
By ERIC OLSON,  AP Sports Writer
Oregon State has won 111 of its last 130 baseball games, is coming off its third national championship since 2006 and its career coaching wins leader Pat Casey retired last fall.Enter Pat Bailey, the 63-year-old interim head coach who hopes to earn the permanent job for 2020.

“People think there’s a lot of pressure,” Bailey said. “I’m going to be who I am. I can’t be somebody else. In terms of the pressure part, I just think people a lot of times put undue pressure on themselves and make things out to be a lot bigger than what they are.”

Bailey has been through this before, though not at this level. He was successor to Casey at George Fox College in Oregon and won the Division III championship four years before he joined Casey’s Oregon State staff in 2008. As a high school coach in Oregon, Bailey replaced a two-time state champion coach at West Linn and led the program to a state runner-up finish before he left for George Fox.

Athletic director Scott Barnes named Bailey interim coach last September when Casey announced he was retiring after 24 seasons. Casey remains as a senior associate athletic director. Bailey’s task is to keep the Beavers doing what they’ve been doing.

“Our expectations are extremely high,” he said.

The Beavers begin the defense of their national title in Surprise, Arizona, when the Division I season opens Friday. They open against New Mexico, play Gonzaga on Saturday and Minnesota, the team they beat in super regionals, on Sunday.

Kevin Abel, who as a freshman won a record four games in the College World Series and threw a two-hit shutout against Arkansas in Game 3 of the finals, heads a pitching staff that remains mostly intact. Bryce Fehmel, a 10-game winner last year, and Grant Gambrell are the Nos. 2 and 3 starters, and 16-save closer Jake Mulholland returns.

The Beavers posted some of the best numbers in program history last year, and six of the players from the everyday lineup are gone. They still have catcher Adley Rutschman, the 2018 CWS Most Outstanding Player and possible No. 1 pick in the Major League Baseball draft in June, along with first baseman Zak Taylor and outfielder Preston Jones.

“I think we’re going to be fine offensively,” Bailey said. “We’re going to score runs. We’re going to find ways. And honestly, batting average isn’t as important as on-base percentage and run production. That’s what we’re working on.”

The Beavers, 12th in the nation in fielding last year, are without No. 4 overall draft pick Nick Madrigal at second base and Pac-12 defensive player of the year Cadyn Greiner at shortstop. Andy Armstrong will start at second after filling in for an injured Madrigal last season. Junior-college transfer Beau Phillip takes over a shortstop. Bailey’s undecided on who’ll play third. Joe Casey or Jones will play left field, Kyler McMahon or Jones will be in center and Tyler Malone will be in right.

The Beavers will be going for a third straight CWS appearance. In 2017, they won their first two games in Omaha before going out with two straight losses to LSU. Last year, they lost their CWS opener before winning four straight to reach the best-of-three finals.

“Our freshman year, making it so far and then coming up short, there was a lot of motivation there,” Rutschman said. “I think we have the same motivation now. It’s just coming from a different place, from having won a national championship and having that unbelievable experience, knowing that nothing else besides that is really going to be the same.”

Ten other teams to watch, with 2018 record:

VANDERBILT (35-27)

The preseason No. 1 team in three polls and SEC favorite returns eight position players from the team that came up one win short of making the CWS. The Commodores add one of the top freshman pitchers in the nation in 6-foot-4, 235-pound fireballer Kumar Rocker.

LSU (39-27)

Antoine Duplantis needs 85 hits to overtake ex-Tiger Eddy Furniss as the SEC’s career leader. Friday night starter Zack Hess returns, and so does Eric Walker after missing 2018 because of elbow surgery. AJ Labas, a 2018 Freshman All-American, had shoulder surgery and is out.

TEXAS TECH (45-20)

The Big 12-favorite Red Raiders have made the CWS three of the last five years and have four straight seasons with at least 45 wins. They averaged better than 8 runs per game in 2018, and they figure to be one of the top scoring teams again with 3B Josh Jung and OF Gabe Holt back.

UCLA (38-21)

The Bruins, picked to win the Pac-12, got good news last summer when INF Matt McLain chose to go to school after being drafted No. 25 overall by the Diamondbacks. UCLA is strong up the middle, and OF Garrett Mitchell has recovered from a concussion.

FLORIDA (49-21)

With four straight CWS appearances and seven since 2010, the Gators never seem to lack for talent. They should survive losing two hitters who accounted for 34 home runs, as well as the top two starters and the record-setting closer.

FLORIDA STATE (43-19)

All-time NCAA coaching wins leader Mike Martin enters his 40th, and final, season at FSU. His Seminoles are ACC favorites despite lots of youth. Veteran 3B Drew Mendoza and lefty ace Drew Parish return.

MINNESOTA (44-15)

Gophers won their first regional since 1977 and will be led again by Big Ten pitcher of the year Patrick Fredrickson (9-0, 1.86 ERA) and a premier closer in Max Meyer (16 saves).

STANFORD (46-12)

IF/OF Andrew Daschbach and OF/P Kyle Stowers combined for 27 of the team’s 55 homers, and Brendan Beck (8-0) and Jack Little (16 saves) are everything one would expect of Stanford pitchers.

NORTH CAROLINA (44-20)

The Tar Heels, who beat Oregon State in their CWS opener, are looking for redemption after collapsing in the last two innings of an elimination game against the Beavers. There’s plenty of pitching, and 1B Michael Busch is back to lead the offense.

ARKANSAS (48-21)

That ninth-inning, two-out, two-strike foul ball that dropped between three Razorbacks in Game 2 of the CWS finals cost Arkansas a shot at its first national championship. Time to move on. 3B Casey Martin should contend for SEC player of the year, there’ll be plenty of offense and closer Matt Cronin is one of the best.


Coach video review challenges among rule changes for 2019

Rule changes going into effect during the 2019 NCAA baseball season:VIDEO REVIEWS

Coaches will have two video review challenges per game where the technology is available. The play must be one of the following 12 types, and the coach can initiate a challenge in any inning. The crew chief can decide to review plays 1-6 at any time, but only review plays 7-12 during the last two innings of regulation and extra innings.

1, If a batted ball is fair or foul, when the ball has first touched the ground, or a fielder is beyond the initial position of the first and third baseman.

2, If a batted ball is a ground rule double or a home run.

3, If any catch or no catch call in the outfield or foul territory.

4, If a call of “no catch” can be changed to “catch” within the infield if the catch results in the third out with any runners or at any time with a batter runner only.

5, If spectator interference occurred.

6, Scoring plays at home plate, including collisions or time plays.

7, Force and tag plays at any base.

8, Plays involving runners passing a preceding runner, scoring prior to the third out and whether a runner touched a base.

9, Plays involving hit by pitch.

10, If a runner failed to retouch his base after a fair or foul ball is caught.

11, The umpire’s placement of a batter runner or runners following a boundary call.

12, If interference occurred in an attempt to break up a double play.

OTHER NOTABLE CHANGES

— Teams will be limited to six defensive conferences on the mound in regulation. A maximum of three of the defensive conferences may include a coach. An extra defensive conference is allowed during extra innings, and the coach may be involved. A pitching change is required if a coach makes a second trip to the same pitcher in the same inning; a coach has already been involved with three charged defensive conferences during regulation or the “extra” conference during extra innings; or a team has already used all permitted charged conferences and a coach goes to the mound.

— The defensive team’s head coach is allowed to signal the umpire his intent to intentionally walk the batter without the pitcher throwing four pitches.

— A defensive player may not block any part of the base with any part of his body unless he has clear possession of the ball. If the defensive player blocks a base before having clear possession of the ball, the umpire will call obstruction, the ball will be dead immediately and the runner involved will be awarded one base beyond the last base the runner had attained before the obstruction.

— A batter cannot make a movement to intentionally be hit by a pitch. A player who leans or sticks a portion of his body to be hit by a pitch will have a strike added to the count, regardless of where the pitch is located.

— Pitchers will not be allowed to fake a throw to third base and then throw to first. A balk will be called for this type of pick-off attempt.


10 players to watch

Ten players to watch in college baseball this season:C Adley Rutschman, Oregon State

Rutschman is widely projected as the No. 1 overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft in June. He batted .408 over 67 games and turned in one of the best individual performances in College World Series history, setting a record with 17 hits and batting .567 with 13 RBIs while earning Most Outstanding Player for the national champion Beavers.

1B Andrew Vaughn, California

One of the best offensive seasons in program history led to Vaughn winning the Golden Spikes Award as national player of the year. His .402 batting average ranked third in Cal history, and he matched the program record and was second nationally with 23 home runs. He failed to reach base in only two of 54 games.

3B Casey Martin, Arkansas

Martin, who along with teammate Heston Kjerstad formed the best freshman combination in the SEC, batted a team-leading .345 with 14 doubles and 13 home runs. Martin upped his game in the NCAA Tournament, leading the Razorbacks with a .352 average, including .357 in the CWS. He had eight hits in his first at-bats in Omaha, including a 4-for-5 game against Florida in the semifinals.

LHP Graeme Stinson, Duke

The 6-5, 260-pound junior throws mid to upper 90s, owns the best slider at this level and is poised to be the first college pitcher taken in the draft. Stinson moves to the top spot in the rotation after working mostly as a reliever last season, when he struck out 98 in 62 innings.

OF/DH Bryant Packard, East Carolina

It’s going to be tough for the left-handed hitting junior to top last year. He led the American Athletic Conference in batting average (.406), hits (89), slugging percentage (.671) and total bases (147) and ranked among the league leaders in on-base percentage (.462), home runs (14), runs (51) and RBIs (50).

OF/IF Austin Martin, Vanderbilt

The sophomore might be the most versatile player in the country. He made 58 starts last season at six different positions. The Commodores’ leadoff man batted .338 for the season and a team-best .308 in SEC games, and his 22 stolen bases were most in the conference and most by a Vandy player in five years.

RHP Andre Pallante, UC Irvine

The junior was a unanimous All-American who led the Big West with a 10-1 record in 15 starts, all but one lasting fewer than six innings. His 1.60 ERA was best in the Big West and sixth in the country, and he struck out 115 in 101 1-3 innings. Pallante will get a good measure of himself right away when he faces 2018 College World Series qualifier Washington on Friday.

C Shea Langeliers, Baylor

Another top draft prospect, Langeliers enters his third year starting as the best defensive catcher in the nation, having thrown out 23 of 33 base stealers and posting a .994 fielding percentage. His walk-off RBI single gave Baylor its first Big 12 Tournament championship, and he set career highs with 18 doubles, 11 home runs and 44 RBIs.

RHP Max Meyer, Minnesota

Meyer and staff ace Patrick Fredrickson will be in the spotlight again for a Gophers team that lost five everyday players. Fredrickson was 9-0 and named Big Ten pitcher of the year as the Friday night starter. However, there’s more onus on Meyer to repeat what he did last year, when he set a school record with 16 saves, none bigger than his three-inning, six-strikeout performance against UCLA in regionals.

LHP Zack Thompson, Kentucky

Thompson had a fantastic freshman season, but an arm injury caused him to miss his first seven starts in SEC play last year. He’s fully recovered, having raised eyebrows last summer when he pitched a combined 8 2-3 shutout innings for the USA Collegiate National Team.