Dylan Pearce did his best to manage the pandemonium and drink in the excitement when Oregon State’s baseball team closed out Minnesota Saturday for a berth in the College World Series.
It wasn’t easy for the Beaver reliever and Crater High graduate.
“As soon as (Jake) Mulholland struck out the last guy, we were all so happy and excited,” said Pearce, a junior who warmed up in the bullpen in both of last week’s super regional games in Corvallis but didn’t get into either.
He and his teammates flocked to the mound, dancing and jumping and high-fiving over a 6-3 triumph. They donned hats indicating a return to the CWS in Nebraska: “Destination 2018 Omaha” they read. Cheers from a record crowd of 4,025 washed over the squad.
“You’re walking around and everyone’s screaming at you,” Pearce said Tuesday in a conference call. “It was a big deal. I was just trying to take it all in. It was pretty cool.”
Pearce has a been a fan of the school for as long as he can remember. His parents outfitted him with a Beaver hat, oversized to him at age 4 or 5, and the now-21-year-old remembers listening to the calls of Mike Parker, the OSU radio voice, when the team claimed national championships in 2006 and ‘07.
“I always wanted to get there one day,” said Pearce.
Oregon State is making its seventh appearance in the CWS. Last year, it won its first two games before getting bounced with two straight losses to LSU. The Beavers were a program-best 56-6.
OSU (49-10-1) opens at noon PDT on Saturday at TD Ameritrade Park against North Carolina (43-18), the school it defeated for titles in 2006 and ‘07.
Pearce graduated from Crater in 2015 and played two seasons at Southwestern Oregon Community College in Coos Bay.
When his dream of joining the Beavers came true, he went about establishing himself as a reliable component for them.
The 5-foot-9, 165-pound right-hander has appeared in 23 games, third-most on the team, and all in relief. He has a 2-0 record, two saves and an ERA of 3.62.
In 27? innings, he’s struck out 26 and walked seven, while giving up 29 hits and 11 runs, all earned.
“I’m extremely happy,” said Pearce, who pitched the previous two summers for the Medford Rogues, helping them to the Great West League title last season. “I’ve turned into a completely different pitcher. My understanding of the game is a lot better than it was. I’m glad to be there for the team and get the job done whenever they call on me.”
The last time Pearce was summoned was in the opening game of the Corvallis regional against Northwestern State. He needed only six pitches to get the final four outs of a 9-3 victory in relief of Bryce Fehmel.
The Beavers have a deep and talented pitching staff, and getting innings is no easier than getting the best steak at a family barbecue. There’s plenty of competition.
Saturday was a prime example. Pearce was called on to warm up after Minnesota took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning and continued to put pressure on starter Fehmel.
Fehmel made it to the seventh, but when it came time for relief, coach Pat Casey waved in left-handed freshman Christian Chamberlain.
“Saturday was a bit more of a pressure situation,” said Pearce, comparing it to Friday, when OSU rolled to an 8-1 victory behind ace Luke Heimlich. “It was a close game and they really needed someone to come in and put zeros on the scoreboard.”
He was told to warm up. By the time relief was needed, the landscape had changed.
“We have a chart that shows how their batters have been,” said Pearce, “how they’ve been against righties and lefties. By the time it was time for a new pitcher, the guy in the order they had had really, really struggled against left-handed pitching.”
Hence, the insertion of Chamberlain, who was outstanding. He inherited an 0-2 count and fanned five of the first six batters he faced.
He allowed one hit in two scoreless innings and got the win when the Beavers scored once in the eighth to tie it and thrice in the ninth. Mulholland closed it out for his 15th save.
“Christian Chamberlain did a great job,” said Pearce, adding that there are “no hard feelings toward anyone or anything” when it comes to who gets work and who doesn’t.
“You never know who will go in at certain times,” he said. “That depends on the matchup and who they (coaches) feel can do the best job at the time.”
His job is to be ready when necessary.
“It’s already a big deal to get called on,” said Pearce. “It shows they trust you to go in the game. It’s an honor, like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m the guy.’ I try to keep my heart rate down and throw some quality stuff in the bullpen. When my name is called, I get some butterflies and get excited to get out on the mound. Then you have to execute.”
With the CWS looming, his role — as with all the pitchers — isn’t expected to change. Heimlich and Fehmel are the top two starters, and each has 17 starts,
Six players have accounted for the other 26 starts, with Grant Gambrell topping the group with 12.
But in a pull-out-all-the-stops tournament that will last a minimum of 11 days, plans are anything but indelible.
No matter, said Pearce.
“I will embrace whatever role they give me,” he said.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or firstname.lastname@example.org