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Beaver baseball polishes its prize

Coach predicts big things for left fielder Jacoby Ellsbury

CORVALLIS Ñ Small-town kid. Big-time talent.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Oregon State's prize sophomore left fielder from Madras, is doing what he can to place the Beavers in the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 1986.

On Sunday, Ellsbury went 2 for 3 and blasted a two-run, sixth-inning home run to help OSU beat Arizona 6-5 at Goss Stadium.

Before the season, Baseball America ranked Ellsbury as the 29th best sophomore. The 6-1, 180-pound southpaw is hitting .411 with a team-high 38 runs scored, a Pac-10-high 14 stolen bases and three homers in 27 games from his leadoff spot. And coach Pat Casey considers defense perhaps his strongest suit.

'If I were to sum up Jacoby as a baseball player in one word, it would be complete,' Casey says. 'He is going to be a big-league player some day. Rarely do I predict that of one of my players, but I will make an exception with Jacoby. He is going to be a plus base runner, a good power hitter and a strong defensive player. He could play center field in the big leagues right now.'

Ellsbury was drafted in the 23rd round by Tampa Bay. Not bad, but being from the sticks may have limited his exposure. 'Had Jacoby played three years of high school ball in L.A., he probably would have been a first-round pick,' Casey says.

Ellsbury was one of the top first-year players in Beaver history.

'(Arizona State coach) Pat Murphy told me, 'I don't think he is the best freshman in the league; he is the best player in the league,' ' Casey says. 'I don't know about that, but I consider Jacoby one of the top five. He is a special player.'

Notes

Last year, Ellsbury honed his skills in the Alaskan Summer League. This summer, he and teammate Dallas Buck have been invited to play in the prestigious Cape Cod Summer League, which features the top collegians in the country. É The OSU outfield also includes junior Aaron Mathews from John Day and freshman Mike Lissman from Ontario. Total population of the three burgs: 17,899. É The Beavers, 18-9 overall and 3-3 in Pac-10 action, host No. 1-ranked Stanford in games Thursday, Friday and Saturday. É Buck, the freshman ace from Newberg, had an impressive outing Sunday, limiting Arizona to seven hits and three earned runs while walking one and striking out nine in seven innings. Buck got stronger as the game wore on, striking out eight of 11 in one stretch from the fourth through seventh innings. 'Dallas was lights out,' Casey says. 'He could have gone the distance, but he had thrown 107 pitches. I'm not going to jeopardize his arm in the second start of his career.' É Central Catholic's Kevin Gunderson, who got the victory in relief, is 5-0 in 10 appearances with a 1.96 ERA.