How Oregon State baseball is preparing for super regional showdown with Kentucky (2024)

How Oregon State baseball is preparing for super regional showdown with Kentucky (1)

Mitch Canham isn't a fan of simply throwing in his headphones during a cross-country flight, or using the downtime as an opportunity to sneak in a nap.

Oregon State baseball's fifth-year head coach has a penchant for using even the most mundane travel days as a chance for growth. When the Beavers' bus went down with a flat tire on a mid-week trip from Pullman to Spokane, Washington, earlier this year, Canham saw it as a "great opportunity" for his team.

"That's what 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. is for, getting a nice solid nap," Canham joked. "During the day, it's about communicating, being a part of it, and enjoying those moments."

Oregon State's tight-knit, talented roster will face its toughest test of the season this weekend as it travels to face the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats in the Lexington Super Regional. Canham and his staff will use the four-and-a-half hour flight to Lexington to dial in the minute details. They'll review scouting reporters. They'll meet with players individually. They'll finalize their preparation with hopes that the same process that has helped them emerge as a West Coast juggernaut this spring will propel them through a raucous, hostile environment in the southeast.

"We played good baseball all around, I feel like. We're a in a good spot confidence-wise," Oregon State starting pitcher Jacob Kmatz said of the Beavers' mentality following the Corvallis Regional. "Everybody's kind of clicking on all cylinders at this point."

Oregon State roster updates

The Beavers will arrive in Lexington with a nearly fully-healthy roster available. That could lead to some difficult decisions for Canham and has staff as they look to pare their squad down to the 27-player postseason limit.

At this point, the only OSU player whose health status is uncertain is senior pitcher A.J. Lattery. The veteran right-hander took over on the mound in the fourth inning of OSU's win over UC Irvine in the regional final and held the Anteaters to one hit and one earned run in 1 2/3 innings.

On his 34th pitch of the day, though, Lattery appeared to experience some discomfort. He left the field with an OSU trainer and was replaced by A.J. Hutcheson.

"We're gonna figure it out today," Canham said on Wednesday when asked if Lattery will be available to pitch during the super regional. "We'll see how everyone reacts to throwing the baseball today. It didn't seem too crazy. I think it was a little more tightness, like muscular. So, that's a good sign. We'll find out once we get out there and play catch today."

Lattery has missed three months this season due to injury, and has thrown just 7.0 innings in four appearances. But since returning to the field in late May, he has been a key figure for the Beavers. He started in an "opener" role during OSU's Pac-12 Tournament loss to Stanford and held the Cardinal scoreless over 1 2/3 innings.

Lattery was one of just five Oregon State relievers who featured during the Corvallis Regional.

Canham said that he and his staff would finalize their 27-man super regional roster following Wednesday's practice.

"We fly out (Thursday) morning, so it has to happen quick," Canham said. "Having a different set up — a three-game series as opposed to potentially a five-game series — I think you maybe don't need to go as heavy on the arms. You can maybe bring an extra position guy. ... But I didn't want to do it too early, making sure everybody's body is in a good spot."

What's next at third base for the Beavers?

Oregon State got a big boost last week as star freshman Trent Caraway made his long-awaited return from a finger injury that had kept him sidelined for six weeks.

Prior to his injury, Caraway was performing like one of the top hitters in the Pac-12. His .350 batting average is third among OSU players this spring — albeit, in a limited sample size of just 60 at bats.

Caraway got the starting nod at third base during the first two games of the Corvallis Regional, and his performances were a bit of a mixed bag. He went 2-for-3 with an RBI during his first game back, but struggled mightily from a defensive standpoint. Caraway committed two throwing errors during Friday's win and another error during a win over UC Irvine the following day.

How Oregon State baseball is preparing for super regional showdown with Kentucky (2)

Jabin Trosky, a slick-fielding sophom*ore shortstop, came in as a late-inning defensive replacement for Caraway during both of those games. Then, Trosky started at third during Monday's win over UC Irvine.

"Obviously we have two really good options," Canham said. "Jabin has been having a phenomenal year. Very difficult adjusting (from) up the middle, typically to a corner position. But he's done a great job with it; you've got to play a little lower and shorter and it's a different throw. But he's done a fantastic job. (Caraway) is still trying to work his way back, getting the feel after not getting to throw the baseball for a long time and having that finger broken. But he's continuing to make strides, getting better and better.

"I think we have two great options. That's gonna be a decision we have to make. We're excited about either one."

Oregon State's backstop conundrum

Kentucky's aggressiveness on the base paths could potentially dictate the lineup that Oregon State deploys in Lexington.

The Beavers feature two quality catchers — Wilson Weber and Tanner Smith. Weber has the superior bat; his 967 on-base plus slugging is markedly better than Smith's .796. But Smith is far better at holding runners in check. He has allowed 11 stolen bases and thrown out 13 runners this season, while Weber has allowed 18 and thrown out just two.

During Oregon State's regional opener against Tulane in Corvallis last weekend, Smith got the starting nod, while Weber started both of the Beavers' win over UC Irvine.

"I have all the trust in the world in those guys," Kmatz said of Smith and Weber. "(Weber) and Tanner are both going to block it like crazy and throw guys out when they need to. I'm not worried about them."

Jarrid Denney covers high school sports and Oregon State for the Statesman Journal. He can be reached at JDenney@salem.gannett.com or on X @jarrid_denney

This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: Oregon State baseball faces Kentucky in super regional showdown

How Oregon State baseball is preparing for super regional showdown with Kentucky (2024)

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