OSU's chances of landing bid for tourney dim

CORVALLIS — Last season they were the scrappy underdogs from the Pacific Northwest who won the College World Series. This year, the Oregon State Beavers are struggling to reach the postseason.

Oregon State was swept in three games this past weekend by Arizona State, and the Beavers fell to 36-16 overall and 8-13 in the Pac-10 Conference. They head into the season's final series at UCLA this weekend with a berth in the NCAA Tournament that is tenuous at best.

The NCAA will announce the first-round teams on Sunday.

Oregon State has lost four straight, and seven of the last nine games.

"It's just like one of those snowball effects, you know? As it keeps going it gets tougher and tougher," shortstop Darwin Barney said. "It's baseball. It happens. Teams go through losing streaks. At this level, when you're playing 60 games, if you go into that losing streak at the wrong time, it's not a good thing."

The Beavers were Pac-10 champions the past two seasons. Now they sit at eighth in the conference standings.

It was a gloomy Sunday at Goss Stadium, where the Beavers lost 8-1 to the Sun Devils. Fans who came to watch what was likely Oregon State's final home game this season, braved a rain delay and cool showers throughout the game.

Could it be that the pressure of being the defending national champions got to the Beavers down the stretch?

"I don't know if that's something or not. I wouldn't think so," coach Pat Casey said. "They've played in the postseason two seasons in a row so I wouldn't think that there would be any pressure. Maybe there is."

Oregon State became college baseball's unlikely champions last season when they became the first team from the Pacific Northwest to win the College World Series.

The Beavers beat North Carolina 3-2 in the deciding game of the three-game championship series in Omaha. Oregon State was the first team to win six elimination games at the College World Series and the first to lose twice and still win a national title.

It was the school's second national championship in any sport. The men's cross country team won a title in 1961.

The Beavers finished 50-16, a school-best record. They had repeated as Pacific-10 champions before making their second straight trip to Omaha. Oregon State lost several players from that team, including pitchers Jonah Nickerson, Dallas Buck and closer Kevin Gunderson, and outfielder Cole Gillespie.

This season Barney and catcher Mitch Canham, both juniors, highlight the roster, but they haven't been able to carry the team down the stretch.

Still the Beavers are the defending national champions, which could possibly help them.

Casey figured the Beavers have to take two of three against the Bruins to be considered. So did Barney.

"I think we deserve to be there," Barney said. "We were ranked pretty high all year and I think people know we're a better team than this. It's just athletics, you get cold sometimes."

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