BEAVERS NOTEBOOK: Boyd says he's ready to start again; Hoosiers bring offense, and a 6-10 pitcher; Davis turns to Conforto for help
OMAHA, Neb. -- From reliever to starter to closer to starter once again, the chameleon is ready to go.
Matt Boyd will be on the hill for Oregon State when the Beavers (51-12) play Indiana (49-15) at 5 p.m. PT Wednesday for the right to move on in the College World Series losers' bracket at TD Ameritrade Park.
The senior left-hander, a relief pitcher through most of his first three years at OSU but the Friday night starter this season, moved to the bullpen after closer Max Englebrekt suffered back spasms in the super regional series opener against Kansas State.
Now Boyd, who didn't pitch in Oregon State's 11-4 victory over Louisville on Monday, will re-assume a starting role as the Beavers try to stay alive in CWS play.
"I feel great," said the all-Pac-12 selection, 10-4 with a 2.18 ERA. "I'm more than rested."
Boyd's workload over the past 10 days has been considerable. He threw seven innings and 123 pitches of a 6-2 loss to K-State on June 8. Two nights later, Boyd came out of the bullpen for 21 pitches to save Ben Wetzler's super regional-clinching victory over the Wildcats. On Saturday, he came on to throw eight pitches -- all strikes -- yielding Wes Rea's two-run double that was the decisive blow in the Beavers' 5-4 loss to Mississippi State.
"It's the nature of the beast," Boyd said Tuesday with a shrug. "It happens sometimes. I made a bad pitch, and the guy put a swing on it."
The loss left Boyd "very hungry" to take the mound again.
"I wish baseball were a sport where you could throw every single day," he said. "That would be ideal. I've been chomping at the bit for the next time I could get out there. Looking forward to Wednesday."
Boyd has been the good soldier but privately had to be disappointed not to get a chance to start Oregon State's opener in Omaha. Now, though, Boyd -- a 13th-round draft pick by Cincinnati in 2012 who turned down the Reds' contract offer to return for his senior season -- will be throwing the Beavers' first pitch on Wednesday.
"This is one of the reasons why Matt came back," left fielder Michael Conforto said. "He wanted to start in Omaha. He's going to get a start prime-time in front of thousands of fans and (millions of viewers) on ESPN. He'll be living the dream. He has delivered for us all year, and we think he's going to be just fine, even when he has thrown quite a bit over the past few weeks. He has done everything we asked him to do."
Boyd said the transition from closer back to starter "is easy. The job is still to get guys out. It doesn't change if you do it at the beginning or end of the game. I'm trying to do whatever role that's best for the team, to thrive and put my team in position to win."
Like Oregon State, Indiana has split a pair of CWS games, beating Louisville 2-0 before losing to Mississippi State 5-4. The Hoosiers, making their first CWS appearance ever and the first for a Big Ten team since 1984, have some big bats, led by catcher Kyle Schwarber (.372, 18 homers, 54 RBIs), third baseman Dustin DeMuth (.378), designated-hitter Scott Donley (.361) and first baseman Sam Travis (.317, 10 homers, 57 RBIs). As a team, Indiana hits .303 with an on-base percentage of .378.
"They're an offensive club," Boyd said. "They have some guys who can swing it. They're here for a reason."
Oregon State will face the pitcher some believe to be the ace of Indiana's staff -- 6-10, 250-pound sophomore right-hander Aaron Slegers (9-1, 2.13). The Hoosiers used Joey DeNato (10-2, 2.52) and Kyle Hart (8-2, 3.01) in their first two CWS games.
The Beavers did well against Louisville ace Jeff Thompson, knocking the 6-6, 250-pound right-hander from the game in the fourth inning of Saturday's romp.
"We embrace the challenges brought to us," Conforto said. "We faced a great pitcher (Monday) but put him out of his comfort zone with bunting and having good at-bats."
"It's going to be a good matchup, Matt and their (sophomore) stud," OSU assistant coach Andy Jenkins said. Slegers "is good. He's going to sink the ball in on you, and he's so big, it's hard to get a good angle on his pitches. But we've done a good job against high-profile guys this season. We've beaten Thompson, (Stanford's) Mark Appel, (Arizona State's) Trevor Williams, (Gonzaga's) Marco Gonzalez. Our guys seem to find a way."
Oregon State would like to get clean-up hitter Dylan Davis going at the plate. The sophomore right fielder is 1 for 9 in the two games, and replays showed he was actually out on the one hit, an infield single against the Cardinals.
"You want to do well for your team," Davis said. "If I get back to being relaxed and focused, next game will be a lot better for me. I want to try to have fun, to enjoy the moment. You're only here maybe once in your lifetime.
"Baseball is funny. One year you can be good; one year you can be down. One weekend you can be good, another one down. That's what I'm going through right now."
Davis said he has consorted with teammate and boyhood friend Conforto -- who is 6 for 8 in the first two games -- in recent days.
"I'm seeing what he's doing and trying to get back to my old self," Davis said. "I listen to him for whatever insight he has for me. I've known him for so long, if he's going bad, I know what to tell him to get him back on plane, and vice versa.
"Coach (Pat) Casey talked about where my hand placement was, but my swing hasn't changed; it's the mentality. Mike is going real good right now, staying on balls, keeping the front shoulder in. Not trying to do too much, just letting it happen -- that's what you want to do."