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KERRY EGGERS ON SPORTS/



CASEYOn Wednesday, Pat Casey attended the Bothell, Washington, funeral of Chris Morrison, the father of Oregon State shortstop Trever Morrison, who died recently of cancer.

On Thursday, I interviewed Casey about his OSU program, recent past and future.

Before we talked, Casey set some ground rules. He was happy to talk about everything Beaver baseball, but not about the impending news of the day — that Texas had expressed interest in Casey as a replacement for Augie Garrido.

So we discussed players and prospects and any re-thoughts about the Beavers’ exclusion from the recent NCAA tournament. And then we got to the elephant on the phone line.

“You sound like a coach who will be back at Oregon State next season,” I said. “Does this mean you’re not taking the the Texas job?”

“Should be self-explanatory,” Casey replied.

Later, I was to learn Casey — 789-440 in his 22 seasons at the OSU helm — had indeed spoken to the Texas officials about their vacancy but had decided to remain at Oregon State.

Casey was displeased not just with the NCAA tournament selection committee but also with representatives of the Pac-12 and Oregon State after the Beavers (35-19 overall, 16-14 in conference action) were not chosen for the 64-team field. The OSU coach wondered if lobbying support was missing, where it has been effective in the past for other Pac-12 schools (Oregon last season; Arizona State this season).

Perhaps it was in a weak moment that Casey took the call from a Texas exec, and listened. The Longhorns could offer more money, outstanding facilities and a fertile recruiting area.

But I think Casey quickly decided the pluses of remaining at Oregon State outweighed the minuses.

Casey is a lifelong Oregonian. His family — including autistic son Jonathan — is comfortable in Corvallis. The OSU program is not just stable, but one of the best in the country. Facilities at Goss Stadium improve nearly every year.

The Beavers have a cohesive coaching staff and a returning nucleus that could challenge for the Pac-12 title next season, along with what Casey believes is one of his strongest recruiting groups. He’ll stay in Corvallis to continue a career that will one day carry him into the College Baseball Hall of Fame.

Casey, 57, is to be paid about $3.3 million over four years on a contract that runs through 2020. In recent weeks, he turned down another college job — not Texas — that would have paid him $1.2 million per year. He likes his job at OSU, but that doesn’t mean he likes everything about it.

We talked for a minute about the inequities of a system used by the NCAA tournament selection committee.

“It’s unfortunate that, if they have metrics to get teams into the tournament, they wouldn’t use all of those,” Casey said. “It’s hard for me to believe that somebody in their meeting didn’t say, ‘If we put Oregon State and Arizona State together, Oregon State has (ASU) beaten in every metric.’ Why did that not happen? That bothers me about the system.”

Utah was the Pac-12 champion and Washington was second, with OSU, ASU and Arizona tied for third in the standings. Joel Erdmann, the South Alabama athletic director who chaired the selection committee, said that, in Oregon State’s case, “it came down to not doing well against the teams in front of us,” Casey said.

The Beavers were 5-2 against Utah and Washington. Arizona State was 2-4 against those schools, Arizona 1-5.

Erdmann’s statement “is a complete lie,” Casey said.

Casey said one of the hardest things about the snub was facing players such as junior catcher Logan Ice, a second-round draft pick who has signed with Cleveland, and senior pitcher Travis Eckert, a seventh-round choice by Kansas City.

“What do I tell Logan and Travis, guys who were playing for their last chance (at the College World Series)?” Casey asked.

The conversation turned to next season, and the coach’s mood brightened immediately.

Only one of 11 players in Oregon State’s recruiting class that will arrive in September was chosen in the draft — Sherwood pitcher/catcher Adley Rutschman, taken in the 40th round by Seattle. Rutschman had told scouts he intends to attend Oregon State; otherwise, he’d have gone much higher.

This may be the first time a recruiting class hasn’t lost at least one player to the draft during Casey’s long run at OSU.

“Not in the last 10 years, for sure,” Casey said. “It’s great. You don’t sit around here every day on pins and needles, worrying who is going to sign or not. There weren’t any surprises. It’s somewhat relaxing to know you have guys who want to go to college and are willing to turn down the chance to play professionally right away.”

Casey likes all of his recruits, but blue-chippers include Rutschman, pitchers Grant Gambrell of Clovis, California, and Mitchell Verburg of Lake Oswego and infielder George Mendazona of Redmond.

The 6-2, 205-pound Rutschman — the Gatorade and Oregon Sports Awards Player of the Year — is the grandson of Linfield coaching legend Ad Rutschman. Adley’s father, Randy, played at McMinnville High at the same time Casey was playing at Newberg High.

“Our teams were big rivals,” Casey said. “The whole family is awesome. Adley might be a better kid than he is an athlete. That’s how good a kid he is, because he’s a terrific athlete.”

Rutschman could battle junior-to-be Michael Gretler to become the successor to Ice at catcher next season.

“Our coaches are really excited to be part of (Rutschman’s) development,” Casey said. “He could legitimately pitch or catch. We think he can be a front-line catcher for us. The thing that’s cool about Adley, he has a big upside no matter which way he goes.”

There’s another component. Rutschman kicked a state-record 63-yard field goal for the Bowmen in November. Casey wouldn’t be averse to Rutschman place-kicking for the Beavers. “At that position, it works fairly easily,” Casey said.

If he were to play football, Rutschman would count against the 85-man scholarship limit. Football coach Gary Andersen hasn't yet spoken to him, but they'll have a conversation about it at some point.

The 6-4, 210-pound Gambrell, a right-handed pitcher and infielder, likely would have gone in the first five rounds of the draft had he not told scouts he was committed to college ball. Gambrell’s Buchanan High team went 30-1 and was ranked No. 1 in California.

“He has all the tools to be a two-way guy, but we’ll probably look at him first as a pitcher,” Casey said.

Verburg, a 6-4, 195-pound right-hander, was a first-team Class 6A all-state selection.

“We love Mitch’s competitiveness,” Casey said. “We thought he could have pitched for us this year (as a high school senior).”

Mendazona, the grandson of former OSU basketball/baseball great Jimmy Jarvis, was a first-team 5A all-state pick for Ridgeview High.

“He’s an offensive talent who can play anywhere in the infield for us,” Casey said.

Rutschman, Verburg and Mendazona and two other OSU signees — West Salem infielder Andy Armstrong and Bend outfielder Elliot Willy — were ranked as five of Baseball Northwest’s top seven players in the state this year.

Others coming aboard next year are right-handed pitcher Dakota Donovan of Washington, Utah; left-handed pitcher Jake Mulholland of Snohomish, Washington; infielder Tyler Malone of Roseville, California; and outfielders Preston Jones of Mountain View High in Vancouver, Washington, and outfielder Taylor Wright of Sammamish, Washington.

Another freshman-to-be: walk-on Joe Casey, son of the Beavers’ coach, who was a 5A first-team all-state choice for Crescent Valley High as an outfielder this spring.

Oregon State is likely to lose five players from the 2016 team to the major-league draft. Besides Ice and Eckert, Morrison (12th round, Milwaukee), relief pitcher John Pomeroy (13th round, Pittsburgh) and utility player Caleb Hamilton (23rd round, Minnesota) are expected to sign.

The returning nucleus is strong, led by two-time all-Pac-12 first baseman KJ Harrison, a member of the U.S. national team this summer, and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Nick Madrigal, the plucky second baseman who turned down a spot on the national team to rest and rehab a shoulder injury.

Harrison had excellent power numbers, with 10 home runs and 47 RBIs, but he batted only .265, including .236 in conference games. OSU coaches felt Harrison swung for the long ball too often this season.

“KJ will get some good experience (with the national team) this summer and make some adjustments,” Casey said. “He’s motivated to come back next season and take his game to another level.”

If Morrison departs, Oregon State is still stocked with infield possibilities, including Madrigal, who hit .333 while playing mostly second base this season.

“Nick is already one of the premier players in the country,” Casey said. “Without question, he’ll be one of our captains next year.”

Christian Donahue, who batted .339 while playing mostly outfield as a sophomore, can play second base or shortstop.

And there is Cadyn Grenier, who was superb defensively at second and third base but hit only .240. Grenier is playing in the Cape Cod League this summer.

“Like a lot of freshmen, Cadyn had his struggles at the plate,” Casey said. “He has great tools and works his tail off. I think he will have an unbelievable sophomore season.”

Oregon State will regain the services of center fielder Elliott Cary, who redshirted after Tommy John surgery. Cary will spend the first half of the summer lifting weights and rehabbing, then will join the Okotoks (Alberta) Dawgs of the Western Major League, coached by OSU undergrad assistant and former center fielder Tyler Graham. Gretler also is playing there this summer.

The Beavers will return three pitchers who also underwent Tommy John surgery — ace starter Drew Rasmussen, who was lost for the season in late March; and sophomore Sam Tweedt and freshman David Brosius, who both redshirted. Tweedt and Brosius will be ready for the start of the season; Rasmussen “is going to be close,” Casey said. “The way he works, I’d bet on it.”

Rasmussen, Tweedt and freshman sensation Bryce Fehmel — who went 10-1 and was named a first-team Freshman All-American and second-team Louisville Slugger All-American — are the leaders to become the weekend starters. They’ll have plenty of competition, including returning starters Luke Heimlich and Jake Thompson and redshirt sophomore Christian Martinek, who pitched only 2 2/3 innings after offseason Tommy John surgery.

Promising first baseman/outfielder Trevor Larnach, who missed part of his freshman season with a foot injury and hit only .157 in 51 at-bats, joins Grenier with Falmouth in the Cape Cod League this summer. Martinek, Joe Gillette and Tanner Sanders are participating in the Alaska League.

The West Coast League is stocked with Beavers, including those with the Corvallis Knights (Kyle Nobach, Steven Kwan, Andy Atwood and Zak Taylor) and the Bend Elks (Jack Anderson, Billy King and signees Mendazona and Willy).

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Twitter: @kerryeggers

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