SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Oregon State Beavers have survived the heat and a baseball version of Pac-12 After Dark in the inaugural conference tournament and find themselves one win away from playing for the championship.
A little bit of this and a little bit of that from two days in Scottsdale …
WHERE’S TRAVIS BAZZANA?
There has been one notable absence from the Beavers’ successful run in the tournament: Travis Bazzana. The starting second baseman has not played in the first two games after playing in 53 of 56 in the regular season.
But there is good news.
The talented freshman suffered a unspecified hand injury in Oregon State’s final series of the regular season, but the injury is not considered serious and coach Mitch Canham said he expects Bazzana to return to the lineup on Saturday, when the Beavers play the winner of a losers’ bracket game between UCLA and Cal.
“He was looking real good today and he might have been able to go,” Canham said Thursday. “I think if you ask him, he wanted to play. He should be good for Saturday.”
The Beavers leaned on the side of caution with the injury, knowing that a win Thursday would have locked a day off on Friday, giving Bazzana an extra day of rest. The plan worked out.
Bazzana, a freshman from Australia, has been an important and electric player for the Beavers all season. After arriving with a mound of preseason hype, he did not disappoint, batting .321 with four home runs, 14 doubles and 41 RBIs on the way to First-Team All-conference and All-Defensive Team honors.
A DAY OFF … SORT OF
The benefits of winning the opening two games of the tournament are two-fold for the Beavers. They not only avoided the losers’ bracket, but also earned a day off from the triple-digit Arizona heat.
“I think it puts us in a great spot,” Canham said.
Even so, it will not be a full day of R&R for the players.
Canham said his team will meet Friday for a light weight-lifting session and probably stop by a practice field to take batting practice and shag a few ground balls. After working in some capacity every day for the better part of four months, the Beavers’ coach didn’t want to deviate from what has worked.
“Just the routine, keeping the arms moving, keeping the legs moving,” Canham said. “A lot of guys … especially the younger guys, when you take a full off-day, everything just feels foreign, especially when you’ve been doing it for so long day-in and day-out. So we’ll just stick with our routine.”
THE MECKLER FLEX
Wade Meckler’s passionate, spur-of-the-moment celebrations following big hits have become social media gold, feeding the OSU sports information department with a limitless supply of GIFs and video clips.
The junior outfielder delivered another doozy Thursday.
After hammering a run-scoring triple to the right-center gap in the fifth inning, Meckler popped up after sliding into third base and went bananas, animatedly flexing both arms while screaming toward third base coach Ryan Gibson and the Beavers’ dugout.
“It was an extended flex,” Canham said, smiling. “Good thing he’s hydrated. You don’t want him cramping up in that situation.
Jokes and GIFs aside, Canham said that type of raw emotion is a motivational force for the Beavers.
“That was a big part of firing everybody else up,” Canham said. “Wade always finds something to get that internal rage going. Wade wanted to get all the way around to home, he saw a couple other inside-the-parkers here. But that kind of energy, the guys feed off it. Sometimes it’s nice to get a little kick from one of your brothers to let you know what time it is, that we’ve got to get to work.”