Ducks and Beavers rekindling rivalry

OSU's Susac can't help but get excited when the Ducks roll into Corvallis. AP Photo/Phil Sandlin

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- They call it the "Civil War" when Oregon State and Oregon meet on the athletic fields.

Even in baseball, though the title doesn't quite seem to fit.

Not yet, anyway. When you take 27 years off from the game, as Oregon did from 1981 to 2008, it's hard to make something out of nothing in just two seasons.

After Oregon State's 4-1 victory over Oregon Tuesday night at cold and damp Goss Stadium, Beavers coach Pat Casey was succinct with his thoughts on the matchup. "We play in a conference where placing any more significance on one opponent over another would be a huge mistake. We don't need to call one game or one series a rivalry."

But the smiles on the faces of Oregon State players after the game told a different story. As did their words. Sophomore catcher Andrew Susac, who went 2-for-4 and picked a runner off at second to squelch the Ducks biggest threat of the game, grinned from ear to ear and said, "Coach got us fired up. He said, 'If you can't get up for a game like this, a rivalry game, there's something wrong with you.' And I agree with him. Soon as we hit the field, you could feel the energy. We never want to lose to those guys."

A brief history lesson. In 2006 and 2007, Oregon State shocked the college baseball world, becoming the fifth team ever to win back-to-back College World Series titles. You'd have to go back to 1964, when the University of Minnesota won the CWS, to find a team as geographically-challenged as OSU, to win it all. The Beavers success spurred Oregon and its No. 1 sports booster, Nike Founder Phil Knight, to resurrect the baseball program it quietly abandoned after the 1981 season. In September of 2007, Oregon announced the Ducks would return to the diamond in 2009, hired longtime Cal-State Fullerton coach George Horton, making him the highest-paid coach in the Pac-10 (at a reported $400,000 per year with an additional $285,000 incentives) and unveiled plans to construct a new baseball stadium.

Game on.