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Casey lures a stellar group

Being the defending national champ pays off in OSU recruiting
by: , Oregon State University baseball coach Pat Casey

Pat Casey isn't going to proclaim it his best recruiting class, because he hates it when every coach in America says the team has just recruited its best class ever.

But the 15 players who signed with Oregon State last week certainly represent the highest-profile group in Casey's 13 years at the school. Winning a national championship has its benefits.

'It's a really good group, a very balanced group,' Casey says. 'And the best thing about it is, it's dominated by the best players in the Northwest.'

The top names include Joey Mahalic, the all-state stud who pitched and hit Wilson to the state championship last spring; Greg Peavey, a pitcher from Vancouver, Wash.'s Hudson's Bay High who was ranked as the 17th-best prospect in the country by Baseball America; third baseman Travis Mattair of Kennewick, Wash., the No. 98 prospect on Baseball America's list; and Josh Osich of Boise, Idaho, who was his conference's pitcher of the year while going 9-1 with a 2.08 ERA with 113 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings.

'There are priority players we were looking for, and most of the kids we wanted, we wound up getting,' Casey says. 'We competed with the Cal State-Fullertons, the Arizonas and Arizona States, the SCs and the Notre Dames, you name it. We didn't lose very many battles.'

Casey signed nine pitchers, including a late addition from the JC ranks - Kevin Hammond, an all-league choice out of California's Sierra College.

'We could lose as many as eight arms after next season, so we were looking for help there,' the OSU skipper says. 'Joey throws 90 miles per hour with sink, throws strikes and really competes. He has a chance to come in and pitch for us right away. Greg was selected for the U.S. national junior team that went to Cuba (last summer). He'd be in the top tier on anybody's list.'

Mahalic (outfield) and Peavey (third base/outfield), both right-handers, also are outstanding hitters who may get a chance to play a position at Oregon State, too.

'They're definitely pitchers first,' Casey says, 'but if they prove they can hit, we're not afraid to let the best guy swing it.'

Mattair 'could be as good a position player as there is on the West Coast,' Casey says.

Casey's recruiting plucked talent from up and down the coast. Shortstop Garrett Nash of Draper, Utah., was ranked 15th among Area Code Games prospects by Baseball America and its fastest baserunner.

Every year, the Beavers lose signees to the major league draft. This year's group will be no exception.

'That's just part of it,' Casey acknowledges. 'But I'm very pleased. This group has the character we're looking for, and the talent.'

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