(Photo via the Flickr Creative Commons, thanks to Keith Allison)
Between the 2005-2007 seasons, the Oregon State Beavers were an absolute powerhouse in college baseball. They had an outstanding record of 143-44. During this time, they appeared in three consecutive College World Series and won two National Championships.
The 2005 OSU team made their school’s first trip to the College World Series in 50 years and finished 46-12. The Beavers hosted a Regional and a Super Regional before heading to Omaha. In Omaha, OSU lost in back to back matchups against Tulane and national semifinalist Baylor, who lost to the eventual champion Texas.
After losing All-American Jacoby Ellsbury, Oregon State regrouped and reloaded with more talent. The next season, they went even further in the NCAA tournament. OSU finished with a 50-16 record and won the National Championship. They swept the Corvallis Regional and Super Regional, beating Wright State, Kansas, Hawaii, and Stanford. In the College World Series, OSU opened with a loss to Miami. However, they did not lose another game the rest of the way until they set up a National Championship matchup against North Carolina. UNC took game one, but OSU claimed the next two and their first NCAA Championship. Jonah Nickerson was named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player, and Kevin Gunderson and Cole Gillespie were named to the All-Tournament Team.
The next season, Oregon State did not let up at all, repeating as national champions. They were the first team to do so since Louisiana State did in 1996-97. In 2007, Oregon State finished with a 49-18 mark and won 11 out of 12 games in the NCAA tournament. Jorge Reyes was named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player. OSU had five others named to the All-Tournament team: Darwin Barney, Mitch Canham, Mike Lissman, Scott Santschi, and Joey Wong.
The 2005 team was led by MLB All-Star Ellsbury, who was drafted in the first round of the MLB Draft that season. Ellsbury has become a staple in the New York Yankees’ outfield with the third highest contract on the team (behind Giancarlo Stanton and Masahiro Tanaka). He signed for $153 million over seven years after spending his first seven years in the MLB with the Boston Red Sox, where he was a part of two World Series championships – in 2007 and 2013.
Besides Ellsbury, Oregon State has three other players that are currently still playing. Darwin Barney has been a journeyman of sorts, playing for three teams: the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Toronto Blue Jays. Barney, a utility infielder, is known for his glove and because of that, he won the 2012 Fielding Bible and National League Gold Glove Awards at second base.
The other three players from the 2005-2007 teams that are still playing are Cole Gillespie, Jordan Lennerton, and Jorge Reyes. Gillespie has pretty much been a call-up-send-down outfielder, playing for six MLB teams. He has most recently played for the Sugar Land Skeeters, an independent team in the Atlantic League. Jordan Lennerton never quite made it to a major league roster, making it as high as Triple-A with the Detroit Tigers and Atlanta Braves. Lennerton most recently played in the Can-Am League for Les Capitales de Quebec. Reyes currently plays for Triple-A Sultanes de Monterrey of the Mexican League.
Another one of Oregon State’s significant players, catcher Mitch Canham, was drafted in the first round by the San Diego Padres. After bouncing around the minors for several years. After Canham played in the Padres organization, he played in the Athletics, Cardinals, Royals, and Nationals farm systems, never making it higher than Triple-A. Canham then left playing to begin a baseball instruction company called Base by Pros, which garnered the attention of his former collegiate summer league coach, Andy McKay. McKay had recently been hired by the Seattle Mariners as Director of Player Development and decided to bring Canham on as a minor league manager. Since he was hired in the 2016 season, Canham’s teams have gone 160-120 for a .571 winning percentage and have reached consecutive league championships, winning one.
Head Coach Pat Casey is still at the helm of Oregon State’s staff and his directed several deep runs in the NCAA tournaments since the extraordinary run of 2005-07. Since then, his teams have gone 405-217-1 and have made the NCAA tournament eight out of ten years. OSU went to a Super Regional in 2011 and two College World Series – one in 2013 and one in 2017.
Dan Spencer, OSU’s associate head coach left Oregon State after the 2007 season to move to Lubbock, TX and take a similar role with Texas Tech. Spencer was then promoted after his first season in that role to Head Coach after Larry Hays retired. He stayed in that role until he left to become an assistant coach at New Mexico in 2013, after which he left to reconnect with Marty Lees in 2015, Oregon State’s assistant coach during their improbable run.
Lees had taken a Head Coach position with Washington State, where he still resides, with an overall record of 41-58. However, his team definitely improved within one year, going from 12 games below .500 to only five games below.
Oregon State’s success between 2005-07 could have been measured in many ways. From the countless wins, to the three College World Series appearances, to the two National Championships, to the exceedingly high number of draft picks – 22 in three years – Oregon State created a strong base for what is now a national powerhouse.