Beavers prep for home opener -- and for weeks without star Madrigal
Oregon State will open its home season at 4 p.m. Friday in the first of a four-game series with Hartford at Goss Stadium, but the main attraction will be missing.
Junior second baseman Nick Madrigal is expected to be out four to six weeks with a hairline fracture of his left wrist, an injury suffered while sliding into home in the No. 2-ranked Beavers' 10-8 win over Ohio State last Friday at Surprise, Arizona.
Madrigal is leading Oregon State (8-0) in hitting with a .560 average in 25 at-bats, with nine runs, two home runs and eight RBIs in his six games. The 5-8, 165-pound Elk Grove, California, native was Pac-12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year as well as a first-team All-American as a sophomore last season.
"I feel bad for him," OSU coach Pat Casey says. "That's unfortunate to be injured at this time. Nick was off to a tremendous start."
If Madrigal were to return four weeks from the time of his injury, he'd be ready for the Beavers' second Pac-12 series, at home against Washington from March 23-25. If it's six weeks, the OSU captain wouldn't return until a series at Arizona from April 6-8.
"Knowing the way Nick goes about his business, he'll do everything he can to get back as quickly as possible," Casey says.
As a freshman, Madrigal was injured when he was hit by a pitch in the left hand late in the regular season. This time, it's a different injury, Casey says, but with similar results.
Andy Armstrong, a sophomore from West Salem High, took over at second base in OSU's final two games at Surprise and will start Friday. Armstrong is 3 for 17 at the plate this season.
"I'm not concerned about 17 at-bats," Casey says. "Andy is very capable of hitting well and playing that position. I want him to play defense and be efficient in what he does. He's the starting second baseman right now.
"You're not going to go out and replace a Nick Madrigal. He's one of the best players in the country. We don't have anybody to replace him talent-wise. We have to be better in other areas to offset (his loss)."
Oregon State hit .365 in its eight games at Surprise against Ohio State, Nebraska, New Mexico, Gonzaga and Cal Poly.
"We hit well," Casey says. "We didn't see top-notch pitching. It was average, and (Surprise Stadium) is a great place to hit, but we did swing the bat well. I feel good about the win and loss column. But I don't feel that good about the way we went about playing the game in its entirety."
"Our starting pitching was average at best," Casey says. "We got a great second start from Grant (Gambrell) and two good starts out of Luke (Heimlich). Other than that, pretty average. We have to keep the (opponents') leadoff man off base. We have to play better defense. We have to execute better. We tried three hit-and-run plays and didn't execute in any of the three.
"We won, so I give our guys a lot of credit for that. They competed all eight games very well, but I know they feel the way I feel. We can't win in the Pac-12 playing like we did."
Heimlich won his starts against New Mexico and Nebraska. The senior left-hander yielded six hits and three earned runs with three walks, 12 strikeouts and a 1.46 opponents' batting average in 12 1/3 innings.
"I haven't seen Luke that good in a long time," Casey says. "He was real good in his second start (against Nebraska). He was sharp."
Gambrell pitched only three innings and did not get the decision in Oregon State's 15-3 win over New Mexico the first week, then came back with a gem in the Beavers' 6-1 victory over Ohio State last weekend. The 6-4, 225-pound left-hander allowed five hits and no runs in seven innings, with no walks and 12 strikeouts.
"Grant was not good at all in his first start, but he came out and pitched strong (against the Buckeyes)," Casey says. "He's very capable of doing that."
Right fielder Trevor Larnach is off to a sizzling start at the plate, hitting .556 with four home runs and 14 RBIs. The 6-4, 210-pound junior hit three homers in his first two seasons at OSU.
"Power comes when it's supposed to come," Casey says. "If a guy does things right swinging the bat, if he continues to work at it, he will get there. Trevor has all the tools. He's done a good job so far and has great numbers."
Catcher Adley Rutschman, who hit .234 as a freshman a year ago, is batting .435.
"Rutsch has made some improvements," Casey says. "We figured he would. He's made some good strides with his swing."
Casey will unveil his 2017 Beavers to the home crowd in the four-game series with Hartford, which was swept in three games against 17th-ranked South Alabama to open the season. OSU and Hartford have a doubleheader scheduled for Saturday and a single game on Sunday.
"We'll have some players the fans are familar with, and a few they aren't," Casey says. "Our guys are looking forward to it."