2023 Sanderson Ford College Classic

Oregon State Looks To Reload After Loss Of Big Bats

Oregon State Looks To Reload After Loss Of Big Bats

Since winning their third national title in 2018, the Oregon State Beavers have been searching for the recipe to get them back to the College World Series.

Feb 11, 2023 by Ron Balaskovitz
Oregon State Looks To Reload After Loss Of Big Bats

Since reaching the summit in 2018 with their third national championship, the Oregon State Beavers have been searching for the recipe to get them, not only back on top, but back to the College World Series.

That 2018 season was the last time the Beavers advanced past the Super Regional round. They came within a game last season, before falling to Auburn in Corvallis, bringing an end to a season that saw them post 48 wins on the season, including 20 in the always difficult Pac-12.

The rest of the country may be sleeping on the Beavers as they enter 2023, due to the loss of a number of key players from last season’s team, seeing as the team was picked to finish third in the Pac-12.

The Beavers do return plenty of talent but will see a number of new faces in 2023, particularly in the batting lineup, where the loss of the team’s three best hitters in terms of average, along with over 160 RBIs between those three, leaves big shoes to be filled.

But if the lineup needs time to gel, the Beavers have the pitching staff in place to help buy time for the bats to come along, including what might be the best relief pitcher in the Pac-12.

As has been the case in the past, the 2022 edition of the team was led by an offense that averaged nearly eight runs per game, seeing six players drive in 30 or more runs on the season.

But as noted earlier, the losses of Justin Boyd, Jacob Melton and Wade Meckler, who each hit .347 or better and accounted for more than a third of the team’s RBIs all are gone. 

The loss of Melton is particularly big, after he smashed 17 home runs and led the team in RBIs by a whopping 29, finishing with 83 for the year.

That trio also combined for 57 of the team’s 83 steals last season. So, in addition to needing to replace a lot of power, their speed on the bases will need to be found in new players, as well.

The cupboard isn’t exactly empty for the Beavers coming into 2023, with the return of Travis Bazzana and Garret Forester, who should step into prime roles in the OSU lineup.

Forrester returns after one of the most patient seasons in Oregon State history, drawing 64 walks last season, the second-most in program history, while hitting .332. His stats included 11 doubles, nine home runs and 64 RBIs. That earned him a nod for the Pac-12’s first preseason all-conference team.

He was joined on that squad by Bazzana, who hit .306 last season and showed off his speed with 16 doubles and four triples, plus 14 stolen bases, the most of any returning player.

Bazzana was the last player to hit over .300 for the Beavers, with the rest of the returns being fairly inexperienced. Only one other returning player had over 100 at bats last season. That leaves a lot of questions in the lineup, but also provides a lot of opportunity for young players to prove themselves.

While the offense has a number of questions, the pitching staff may be leaned on heavily in the early going, as the lineup gets settled.

Leading the returning arms is All-American Ben Ferrer, who went 4-0 last season, primarily pitching out of the bullpen. He posted a 1.72 ERA in 24 appearances that included 62.2 innings.

In that span, he fanned 78 batters and held hitters to a .176 average.

The starters will need to replace Cooper Hjerpe and his team-leading 17 starts, plus an 11-2 record and 2.53 ERA, but there are arms ready to step in.

No. 2 starter Jacob Kmatz is back, after going 8-2 in 15 starts last year with a 4.19 ERA.

Reliever AJ Lattery also is back. Last year, he had a 2.57 ERA in nearly 30 innings of work, which included five starts.

Jaren Hunter appears set to step into a bigger role. He had 12 starts last season and an ERA under four.

That group gives the Beavers four good arms to build around, while other unproven pitchers, who tallied smaller inning totals, will be counted on early in the season.

Part of that early-season schedule includes a trip to Surprise, Arizona, to open the season in the Sanderson Ford College Classic, where they’ll play four games, opening with New Mexico on Feb. 17, followed by Big Ten foe Minnesota, then New Mexico again, before closing out against another West Coast power, UC-Santa Barbara.

It will be a tough test for a young Beavers team, streamed only on FloBaseball.

It may not be the traditional roster of days passed for Oregon State, but even as unproven as the squad is, the fact that they were ranked inside the top 20 and among the top 3 in the Pac-12, shows there is talent back, and perhaps it can piece it all together to get back to the College World Series for the first time since 2018.