For Beaver batter, every hit counts

A part-timer last year, senior Mike Lissman comes out swinging
by: COURTESY OF OSU, Leading his team in hits and RBIs, Oregon State’s Mike Lissman is playing regularly this year.

CORVALLIS - Moments after Oregon State had been shut out by California 4-0 last Saturday at Goss Stadium, most of the Beavers had departed for the locker room.

Not Mike Lissman. The senior outfielder-designated hitter headed straight for the batting cages beyond left field to get in some extra work.

'I'm just frustrated,' Lissman said. 'I had an opportunity to drive in some runs for us and didn't come through.'

Lissman went 2 for 3 at the plate, but flied out with two runners on base in the seventh inning. The next day, he knocked in a run with a single in a 5-3 victory over the Bears that put the ninth-ranked Beavers at 28-8 overall and 4-5 in the Pac-10 race.

As often as just about anyone, Lissman has come through for the Beavers this season. Nobody approximates what Pac-10 player of the year Cole Gillespie gave the club in crucial at-bats last season, but Lissman probably comes closest.

'Mike has always had the knack to come through in the clutch,' OSU broadcaster Mike Parker says. 'This year, he's going to have to do it even more so.'

Lissman probably will bat cleanup today when the Beavers open a three-game series with Nevada-Las Vegas. The 6-foot, 215-pound Ontario native leads OSU in hits (45) and RBIs (37), is tied for the team lead in doubles (11), has four home runs and is hitting .324, third among the regulars.

Not bad for a guy who played only part-time a year ago on Oregon State's national championship team.

Lissman swatted eight homers as a freshman in 2004 and averaged 154 at-bats his first two seasons, then hit .316 with only 90 at-bats last year.

The Beavers were deep in the outfield, with Gillespie and Tyler Graham entrenched in left and center and John Wallace, Geoff Wagner and Scott Santschi sharing duty in right and at DH.

'It was hard for me,' Lissman says. 'But this is Division I baseball. We have guys on the bench who are just as capable as the starters if they get the chance.

'I like to play, but I sure like having a national championship ring, and I sure liked going to Omaha (for the College World Series) two years in a row. That's a lot more important than me playing every day.'

That kind of attitude rubs off on his teammates.

'Mike is a tremendous leader,' says junior first baseman Jordan Lennerton, second on the squad with a .363 average. 'He's one of the guys we all look up to, and he's all about the team. He'll lay down a bunt when he needs to, and he has come up with countless hits and RBIs when we need them.'

Lissman's average-at-best defensive ability has kept him from regular outfield duty the past two years, but his bat - he carries a career .316 average - is precious on a team that isn't as offensively gifted as the Beavers of the previous two springs.

'Mike has made some adjustments at the plate and has become a good clutch guy for us,' coach Pat Casey says.

'Coach Casey always talks about how confidence makes hitting,' Lissman says. 'Maybe I have a little more confidence this season. I feel more relaxed. I know how pitchers are going to pitch me now.'

There's plenty of baseball yet to be played. After winning series against Southern Cal and California, the Beavers have time to thrust themselves into the thick of the Pac-10 race.

'We haven't played the best we can, but we've still won a lot of games, and that's good. Coach Casey keeps telling us we have to show our character.

'We don't have any dingbats in the dugout holding us back. We just have to peak at the right time.