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Oregon State finds Cardinal of a different color this time.

Byline: Bob Clark The Register-Guard


CORVALLIS - So who's really the favorite here?

A three-game series in the NCAA Super Regionals opens tonight at 7 at Goss Stadium with eighth-ranked Oregon State seeking a repeat trip to the College World Series matched up against a team the Beavers swept during the regular season. But beyond the home field, what favors the hosts?

It's Stanford that has the edge in postseason experience. It's Stanford that has the pitcher to open the series who was the higher pick in the major-league draft. Heck, as good as OSU was last weekend in winning its regional, Stanford did something better by going into Austin, Texas, to beat the defending national champion Longhorns to reach this point.

`They're playing totally different ball than the last time we played them,' said OSU pitcher Dallas Buck, the expected starter tonight. `We're kind of looking at it like we haven't played them.'

When the two teams met back on Easter weekend two months ago, the Beavers (42-14) posted 3-0, 1-0 and 12-1 victories. It was the first time Stanford had been shut out in consecutive games since 1975.

The Cardinal hitters have clearly come around since then. In winning last weekend's regional in Austin, Stanford (33-25) scored 36 runs in three games to reach the round of Super Regionals for the sixth time in the past eight seasons.

This, of course, is OSU's second consecutive year of bringing a season to this point, and last year the Beavers bested USC in three games of a Super Regional at Goss Stadium to reach the College World Series. OSU, in fact, is the only one of the eight teams that played in the College World Series last year that is still alive for a repeat appearance.

But here it is, again the Beavers needing to beat another Pac-10 team to get there.

`It proves West Coast and Pac-10 baseball is very tough,' OSU's Tyler Graham said.

While Stanford has a strong history of baseball success, this wasn't one of its best seasons, as the Cardinal went 11-13 in the Pac-10 and were 30-25 overall when selections of the NCAA field was announced.

`It's been a long season in some ways,' Stanford coach Mark Marquess said after winning the Austin regional. `There have been a lot of peaks and valleys, but it really has come together at the end. At one stage, we were 3-9 in the Pac-10 and way in last place. We've played very well for about the last 20 to 25 games. There's no question we played our best baseball over the last third of the season.'

There is also that history, including Stanford's 10-2 record in Super Regionals since the current format began in 1999, which translates into advancing to the College World Series in five of the six years the Cardinal have gotten this far.

Stanford also has a 3-0 record all-time against OSU in NCAA games, though the last such meeting was 1986.

It is OSU that carries the more recent 3-0 record in the series, with that April sweep of the Cardinal.

`Stanford has obviously played very well since they left here,' OSU coach Pat Casey said. `They went into Austin and did something nobody thought they could do.

`We're going to prepare for them just like we did the first time, just like we prepared for regionals last weekend. We've just got to come out and play baseball and do the things we do and do those things well.'

It will be a pitching matchup of recent draft selections. Buck (11-2, 3.01 earned-run average) was taken in the third round by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Stanford's Greg Reynolds (7-5, 3.36 ERA) was the second overall pick of the entire draft by the Colorado Rockies.

Reynolds has thrown five complete games in his past six starts, including pitching the Cardinal to wins in matchups in the past month against two other Pac-10 pitchers taken among the top 10 selections overall in the draft, California's Brandon Morrow and Washington's Tim Lincecum.

Buck, as the usual starter in the first game of a series, understands the challenge of throwing tonight.

`You're not going to get a whole lot of support (in a series opener) just because of the caliber of pitchers (the opponent) is throwing that first game,' he said.

The Beavers scored three runs off Reynolds earlier this season, with the Stanford starter going seven innings in that loss.

The three-game series is listed as sold out. Each game will be televised on ESPN2, with Sunday's game also at 7 p.m. and a third game, if necessary, Monday at 4 p.m.

`We know their personnel, they know ours,' Casey said. `It's going to come down to pitching and defense, as it always does.'

And then, for the winner, it's on to the College World Series.
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Title Annotation:Sports; Stanford's late-season push makes it a tough draw in this weekend's Super Regional
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 10, 2006
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