A year ago at this time, I never could have imagined all I would get to witness in 2013.
I wasn’t planning to cover the Oregon State baseball team, but staff changes gave me that opportunity.
And what an opportunity it turned out to be as the Beavers won a school-record 52 games and made it back to Omaha, Neb., and the College World Series for the first time since 2007.
I could go on for days about how amazing that experience was!
I also had the opportunity this fall to cover the OSU football team more than in years past, including traveling to all but two games.
It was an up and then down season for the Beavers, but there were plenty of memorable moments.
I also covered the OSU women’s basketball team for the second straight season.
So, as I thought back earlier this week, I decided to come up with my top 10 memories covering those three programs this past year.
Here they are counting down from 10 to 1.
10. OSU women battle Notre Dame to the wire
It may have taken place just a week ago, but it was still a memorable moment in 2013 for me.
The OSU women’s basketball team went toe-to-toe with No. 2 Notre Dame, and was within four points in the final few minutes before the Fighting Irish were finally able to pull away for a 70-58 win.
Despite the loss, in front of an energetic and loud crowd of 4,032 in Gill Coliseum, the Beavers showed they can compete with some of the best teams in the country.
9. Conforto slams the Ducks
The Ducks and Beavers had split the first two games of their Pac-12 baseball series last May, with the Beavers holding a one-game lead in the chase for the conference title.
In the second inning, Michael Conforto turned the tide with a mammoth grand slam over the roof of the bullpen in right field to put the Beavers up 5-0.
It was one of the most impressive home runs I have ever seen live.
OSU went on for a 12-2 win and was in the driver’s seat for the conference title.
8. Going overtime to beat the Utes
What first looked like would be an easy win, turned into a thriller in the fourth quarter and overtime as the Beavers went to Salt Lake City and opened the Pac-12 football schedule with a 51-48 win over the Utes in overtime.
The teams combined for 32 points in the final quarter with the Utes tying it up at 45 with 9 seconds left.
The Beavers held Utah to a field goal, then quarterback Sean Mannion found Brandin Cooks for a 6-yard TD reception to win it. The ball was nearly intercepted, then Cooks bobbled it before hauling it in for the win.
7. Beavers return to Omaha
When first baseman Danny Hayes squeezed his glove to make the final out of a 4-3 win over Kansas State in the decisive game of the Corvallis Super Regional, the Beavers were headed back to Omaha and the College World Series.
The Beavers had dropped the opener of the series but won the last two to advance.
Fittingly, Matt Boyd (More on him later) picked up the save.
6. A Civil War to remember
It was billed as the Civil War with nothing to play for after Oregon had lost the week before to Arizona and OSU had lost four straight.
The Ducks looked like they would run away early, but the Beavers battled back and when Victor Bolden went 25 yards on a fly sweep with 1:38 to play, OSU was up 35-30.
But Oregon marched down the field and Josh Huff hauled in his third TD reception of the game with 29 seconds left to give the Ducks a 36-35 win.
5. Brandin Cooks can’t be stopped
Cooks had a season to remember, to say the least.
The junior wide receiver set the school and Pac-12 records for most receiving yards in a single season with 1,730 and receptions with 128.
He made big play after big play after big play for the Beavers and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver.
4. Thrilling way to wrap up Pac-12 title
Oregon State didn’t need a win in the regular-season finale against Washington State to clinch the Pac-12 baseball title, but celebrating after a loss wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun.
Down 6-4 in the eighth, Dylan Davis homered to make it 6-5. Up stepped Hayes, who went back-to-back and the Beavers were tied.
In the ninth, Davis doubled and Ryan Barnes drove him home with two outs for the 7-6 win that set off a wild celebration.
3. Davis’ double saves Beavers
You can’t take anything for granted in the postseason, and the Beavers nearly found that out the hard way in the Corvallis Regional.
Down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth to No. 4 seed Texas-San Antonio, the Beavers were about to be dumped in the loser’s bracket of double-elimination tournament.
But Tyler Smith and Conforto reached base to set up Davis, who belted one to the gap in right-center field.
Conforto, who was on first, wasn’t about to slow up and hustled all the way home to send the Beavers to a victory.
OSU went on to defeat UC Santa Barbara and then Texas A&M to win the regional.
2. Nelson picks off San Diego State
Just when it looked like the Beavers were going to fall to 2-2, Steven Nelson came up with what was at the time the biggest play of the football season.
With the Beavers trailing 30-28, Nelson stepped in front of SDSU quarterback Quinn Kaehler’s pass and returned it 16 yards for the game-winning touchdown with 2:31 to play.
It capped a 20-3 fourth quarter for the Beavers, who won, 34-30.
1. Boyd 4-hits the Hoosiers
There’s no doubt that the highlight of the year was watching Boyd toss a four-hitter against Indiana in an elimination game at the College World Series.
Boyd, who postponed a professional baseball career to return to the Beavers for this very opportunity, struck out 11 Hoosiers inside TD Ameritrade Park on that windy Wednesday evening.
I don’t often openly pull for players or teams I am covering, but on this night I wanted Boyd to go the distance and pick up the win.
He deserved it.
Boyd’s only run support came in the fourth inning when Jake Rodriguez delivered a sacrifice fly.
It was the last time Boyd pitched for the Beavers.