Coach Mitch Canham leans on faith as he leads No. 4 Oregon State into NCAA Tournament

Ranked No. 4 in the nation, the Oregon State baseball team (41-13) is clearly one of the best in the country. That’s not to say it didn’t endure tough times this season.

With a 12-9 victory over Arizona on May 13, the Beavers reached the 40-win mark for the 10th time in program history. They were ranked No. 2 in the country at the time by, primed to make a push for a fourth national championship after titles in 2006, 2007 and 2018.

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But then they went on an uncharacteristic four-game losing streak. And they lost two more times in the Pac-12 Tournament, finishing runner-up to Stanford, now No. 3 in the country. It wasn’t the strong finish every team hopes for entering the NCAA Tournament, which starts Friday at regional sites around the country.

But if there’s anyone who knows what it’s like to win at Oregon State and overcome difficult seasons, it’s head coach Mitch Canham.

As a player, Canham was a member of the back-to-back College World Series-champion teams for OSU in ’06 and ’07. One of the most popular players in school history, he was a 2007 All-American before getting selected with the 57th overall pick in the 2007 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres. He played nine seasons of minor league baseball, reaching as high as Triple-A.

Now, he’s in his third season leading his alma mater. He looks to bring the same success to the program that he enjoyed as a player, but even more so, he hopes to give back to his “family.” Last season, Canham led the Beavers to the NCAA regionals and they finished 37-24.

Despite more loses than he’d like to end this season, Canham has faith in his team.

“This is what makes us a tight family, going through difficult times,” Canham told The Oregonian after losing the fourth consecutive game. “And what I love is that guys still have each other’s backs. Sometimes, when you’re going through a rough patch, guys will start to point fingers and get down in the dumps or this, that and the other. But I think they’re still focused and they’re together on this. So we’ll work through it.”

Oregon State takes the field again Friday against New Mexico State. The Beavers are the No. 1 seed and host for the Corvallis Regional, the winner of which will advance to super regionals with 15 other regional winners.

Canham and the Beavers love playing at home, with the smaller Corvallis community where “everyone knows who you are,” Canham says. It’s a community that has helped him through difficult seasons in his life, and the reason he felt called to come be the coach. He says God put these people in his life to encourage him.

“When I talk about this place being ‘family,’ it’s deep from the heart, it’s a spiritual thing for me that I’ve always asked through prayer to build patience and build strength, and I think God has created a ton of opportunities for myself to grow with Him,” Canham said on Sports Spectrum Podcast in January.

Canham lost his mom to a drug overdose while he was a freshman at Oregon State, and a few years later he lost his brother, Dustin, who was killed while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in 2008. After losing his mom, Canham says his relationship with Christ grew.

“God has a way of putting those people around you and it’s the little things,” Canham said on the podcast. “I thought I had a good relationship with Christ but it grew even more and it showed me that I have to do a better job at listening.”

Through both tragedies, Canham has looked to God and pointed others to God. It goes beyond the game of baseball with Canham at Oregon State.

“Through my faith and through my family, it’s not always going to be easy — there are going to be times you got your head spun the wrong way in that relationship — but that’s why you have family and that’s why you have faith,” Canham said.

Now, as Oregon State prepares for the NCAA Tournament with its sights set on advancing to the College World Series, Canham keeps his focus on God.

“My favorite Bible verse is James 1:2-4: ‘Consider it an opportunity for great joy when troubles of any kind come your way,’ and that is really an opportunity to build endurance, build strength and through Him, to be a better human being,” Canham said.

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