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Gillespie caps season to remember

by: Scott Cassidy, Oregon State’s Cole Gillespie awaits a pitch during the College World Series championship series with North Carolina. The former West Linn star played a major role as the Beavers won their first-ever national championship in baseball.

If there was ever any question before, there's no doubt now that Oregon State's Cole Gillespie will soon turn pro.

After a brilliant junior year with the Beavers, the former West Linn star had only one thing left to accomplish at the collegiate level; and the Beavers took care of that matter on Monday when they won Oregon State's first-ever national championship in baseball.

By Tuesday, it seemed that everyone who has ever known Gillespie was calling to congratulate him. The Pac-10's player of the year was already a star but now he's been elevated to celebrity status.

'To be honest I don't think it's entirely set in yet,' said Gillespie when asked what it feels like to be a national champion.

'I knew coming into the season how talented our team was … but obviously we had to go out and prove it,' Gillespie said.

It wasn't easy, though. The Beavers had their proverbial backs to the wall almost from the minute they arrived at the College World Series approximately two weeks ago. They started off the tournament with an embarrasing 11-1 loss to Miami and all of OSU's critics figured the team's season was all but over. But Gillespie and the other Beavers saw things from a different perspective.

'We knew that (Miami game) was the worst game we played all season,' Gillespie said. 'We just realized we would have to do it the hard way.'

Two days later, OSU kept its hopes alive with a 5-3 victory over Georgia, a game that Gillespie called 'an eye-opener.' Then came a revenge win over Miami, two victories over top-ranked Rice and a pair of wins over North Carolina to claim the title.

Three times during the tournament, the Beavers had to rally from deficits to win. That included overcoming a 5-0 deficit in the second game of the three-game series with North Carolina. In the process, Oregon State became the first team ever to win the title after losing twice at the CWS.

'I definitely couldn't write it any better,' Gillespie said of OSU's ability to come back time and again.

After returning home from Omaha, the players were treated like international dignitaries as they were given a police escort and whisked into downtown Portland for a huge celebration, then down I-5 and into Corvallis for another big celebration.

'It was nice to have the whole state behind us,' Gillespie chimed.

Once the cheering died down, Gillespie began to contemplate his future as a ballplayer. Certainly his time with the Beavers is over even though he has one year of eligiblity remaining.

'I've been here four years (including a redshirt season). It's definitely time to move on,' he said.

By the end of the week, he expects to be a member of the Milwaukee Brewers organization, the team that picked him in the third round of the amateur draft in early June. He's hoping for a relatively quick ascent through the minor leagues and then a long career in the major leagues.

One thing is for sure, though. He won't be running for any political offices in the near future, even with his rising popularity.

'I haven't given too much thought to that yet,' he said.