OMAHA, Neb. &

The only thing eluding Oregon State since last year's College World Series started has been elimination.




"I certainly think that when you're going to be eliminated your character shows up," coach Pat Casey said Wednesday as his team traveled to Omaha to defend its national title.




"I think everybody creates an idea within your club, and you know that's your club and your character and you know how you play," Casey said.




Last year's team won six elimination games in Omaha before beating North Carolina for the national championship, scoring the go-ahead run on the Tar Heels' fourth error in the title game.




"When things are going good it's not as tough to win," Casey said. "But boy, when you're down a little bit, kicked around a little bit, then your club's really tested."




Casey said that this year's team has taken the character of last year's club &

despite mostly new starters, position players and closer.




Oregon State (44-18) finished sixth in the Pac-10 but still got an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Oregon State lost to Virginia in 13 innings in the Charlottesville Regional, then beat the Cavaliers twice to advance. The Beavers waited until two outs passed in the ninth inning before getting their first hit against Michigan, then ran away with the super-regional.




"It doesn't matter to me if they think we're the big dogs in there or if we're at the bottom of the trail," said catcher Mitch Canham, a returning starter from last year's champions.




"Either way, we're going to go out there and play the same way we've been playing recently and do what we can do to finish with that big dog pile at the end," Canham said.




The Beavers have won nine straight elimination games dating back to last year's College World Series run. With national seeds Rice, North Carolina and Arizona State still eyeing the title, Oregon State might not be the scariest team remaining, but it could be the dodgiest.




"I don't think that anyone would ever put us as favorites going into Omaha. I think that being out here, way on the West Coast, in Oregon, everyone's going to keep doubting us," Canham said. "But for the past three years we've been going back there every year, and last year we blew up the scene and made everyone really know who Oregon State was."




The Beavers start first-round play Saturday in Bracket 2 against Cal State-Fullerton (38-23). No. 5 Arizona State (48-13) will play UC Irvine earlier in the day.




Fullerton, Arizona State and UC Irvine have yet to lose this postseason, and Arizona State &

which Casey called the best offensive team he's seen all year &

swept Oregon State in May.




"This is about as tough as it gets," Casey said.




Bracket — double-elimination play opens Friday with No. 2 national seed Rice (54-12) playing Louisville (46-22) and Mississippi State (38-20) against No. — North Carolina (53-13).




Bracket winners meet in a best-of-three championship series starting June 23.




Oregon State is trying to join Texas (1949-50), Southern California (1970-74), Stanford (1987-88) and Louisiana State (1996-97) as repeat national champions.




AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson in Portland contributed to this report.