When Mitch Canham
was in first grade, he had nightmares that filled the dark with wolves, dragons
and bogeymen. He told his mother, who rummaged through the experiences of her
own youth for help. She handed him a dream catcher-a Native American totem made
of a hoop and string-and hung it in front of his bedroom window. "Now, when
you sleep, your dreams will have to pass through this," said his mother,
Kim, who would die of a drug overdose in 2003. "The good dreams will get
through, but the bad ones will get tangled up and go away."
later Canham is a redshirt sophomore and Oregon State's dream catcher, hitting
.299 with 54 RBIs in 64 games. He caught a trio of dream pitchers from the
Beaver State in a dream season that ended on Monday night in Omaha when his
team beat North Carolina 3-2 in the clincher of the College World Series.
(50-16) seized its first NCAA baseball title after dropping the opener of the
best-of-three championship series, then overcoming a 5-0 deficit in Game 2.
Before last week the Beavers had never won a CWS game, going 0-2 last year and
in 1952, their only other appearances. Until recently the team, coached by Pat
Casey, had been a perennial Pac-10 doormat. "Coach recruited me by saying
he thought we would win a Pac-10 title," recalled sophomore shortstop
Darwin Barney. "I thought he was full of crap." Barney signed on anyway
and was the conference freshman of the year as Oregon State won the league
title for the first time in 53 years, then repeated this spring.
The program began
its turnaround when Casey signed high school pitchers Dallas Buck, Kevin
Gunderson and Jonah Nickerson, all Oregon natives, in '04. Last Saturday in the
series opener, Buck, now an All-America (12-3, 3.44 ERA), was matched against
All-World Andrew Miller (13-2, 2.36), one of two UNC starters who had been
first-round picks in the draft two weeks earlier. Miller's 97-mph fastball was
virtually unseeable, never mind unhittable, until the sixth inning, when he was
knocked out of the game by a two-run homer by junior leftfielder Cole
With the score
tied at three in the eighth, Tar Heels first baseman Chad Flack tripled and
scored the deciding run on a passed ball that glanced off Canham's shin guard
and rolled to the backstop. Asked later to describe the play, Canham, who went
9 for 27 in Omaha, grumbled, "Got passed. He scored. They win."
jumped to a 5-0 lead on Sunday, but in the bottom of the fourth inning Tar
Heels righthander Robert Woodard plunked leadoff hitter Tyler Graham.
"After that," Woodard said, "I don't even recall what
happened." To refresh Woodard's memory, he surrendered a single, issued a
walk and gave up a two-run double that earned him an early shower. His
replacement, Matt Danford, may never forget what followed: a single, a wild
pitch, a walk and then a three-run homer by senior first baseman Bill Rowe. At
the end of the inning the Beavers led 7-5; at the end of the game, 11-7.
was an exhilarating chess match of countermove and counter-countermove, with
Nickerson, Buck and Gunderson all taking the ball and North Carolina even
attempting a steal of home. The Beavers gnawed out a victory by taking an early
2-0 lead, then scoring the winning run on a throwing error with two out in the
eighth inning. "My mom's watching over me," Canham exulted afterward.
"This is obviously a dream."