Former Crater High baseball player Dylan Pearce is living his dream.
He grew up an Oregon State University fan, and now he is a key member of the Beavers’ bullpen in his first season in Corvallis.
“Since I was a little kid, it was my dream school,” the 21-year-old right-handed pitcher says. “I have a picture my parents took when I was 4 or 5 of me wearing a giant Beaver hat that was way too big.”
Dreams should be perfect, or at least that’s what the 5-foot-9, 165-pound Pearce believed as he pressured himself to stand out at Southwestern Oregon Community College and again during fall ball at OSU.
“Knowing who he is, every time you get on a new team you want to validate your existence through your performance,” OSU pitching coach Nate Yeskie says. “He pressed in the fall and tried to do too much. We tried to explain to him that hitters are different at this level and you have to be more consistent in your approach and execution. After Christmas break, he had a pretty good transformation from the fall and started to really command the strike zone better.”
And when the 2018 season began, Pearce was more than ready.
Entering today’s road matchup with Oregon, the junior is 2-0 with an ERA of 1.96 (second on the team only to Jake Mulholland’s 1.82) in 18 appearances (second to Mulholland’s 19).
The 2015 Crater graduate, who also has two saves for the fifth-ranked Beavers (32-7, 12-6 Pac-12), has allowed just five runs (all earned), 18 hits and seven walks with 22 strikeouts in 23 innings pitched. He didn’t give up a run in his first six appearances and owns a .217 batting average against.
Pearce’s grandest contribution was his latest. He earned his second victory after coming up clutch in OSU’s 6-5 triumph over Arizona State in their Sunday rubber match at Goss Stadium.
Pearce gave up one run in 3 2/3 innings after entering in the fifth with the game tied at 4. He surrendered four hits and struck out four while walking just one.
Pearce delivered a four-pitch free pass to Spencer Torkelson (the nation’s leading home run hitter) with two outs in the eighth before exiting to a standing ovation and then watching Mulholland fan Gage Canning.
Pearce was a first-team all-league selection at Crater before committing to SWOCC.
During his two junior college seasons, he collected 136 strikeouts in 136 2/3 innings (including 83 in 10 games as a sophomore). He finished 4-3 with a 2.66 ERA as a freshman and 5-3 with a 2.19 ERA as a sophomore.
While Pearce was successful, the enormous pressure he placed on himself was overwhelming at times, he says.
Pearce says he wanted so badly to get a shot with OSU.
“When I came to SWOCC, my mindset was always that I couldn’t screw up and had to do everything right,” he says. “I gave myself such a little margin for error that it kind of hurt me. I couldn’t go, ‘Hey, this is what you did wrong.’ I would just be angry that I didn’t do it right the first time. And nobody’s perfect.”
Pearce got his wish and signed with OSU last December.
“Coming into the fall, I knew I had to compete with the best guys in the country,” says Pearce, who is a sociology major. “I knew I had to work hard and show why I was here.”
Adds Yeskie: “He was always out searching for perfection. While we appreciate that desire to perform at that level, you’re also setting up a trap because it becomes unrealistic. When he makes a mistake now, he moves on. ... He’s got a lively fast ball and two different breaking balls, and those things are nice. Watching him work his craft you see a competitiveness that he enjoys. He understands the heartbeat of the game.”
Pearce says instruction from Yeskie and the rest of the OSU staff has been hugely beneficial.
“Being able to work with coach Yeskie expanded my mind on understanding hitters,” Pearce says. “He’s really helped me expand my competitiveness and fill up the strike zone.”
The results show.
Pearce pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings against Hartford on March 2 for his first career save. He came on in relief of Bryce Fehmel and recorded two scoreless innings in his first career win as the Beavers beat Cal State Fullerton, 6-4, on March 10.
Pearce’s second save came against Washington on March 24, when he went 2 1/3 scoreless innings with two strikeouts. In his team’s 2-1 victory over Oregon on April 20, Pearce entered in the eighth and induced a 6-4-3 double play to end the frame.
Before he suited up with the Beavers, Pearce spent the last two summers playing for the Medford Rogues. He became Medford’s all-time strikeout leader as he helped lead the Rogues to the Great West League title this past season, finishing with a 5-0 record and 3.75 ERA.
“Obviously, his stuff has improved tremendously,” Crater head coach Jay Campbell says. “He’s always had that God-gifted arm. Now his breaking ball is a lot sharper, and he’s just able to locate better and have much more command.
“He’s always been a hard worker,” Campbell adds. “Any one of those kids who may be slight of frame has to work so hard to get there, and when they get there make the most of the opportunity. He put himself in such a great position from working so hard. Now that he’s there, I just think he’s thriving.”
For Pearce, the dream continues.
“It’s been awesome,” he says. “It’s been a long road, but a good one. I’m blessed to have been put in places that have led me here, and I’m glad where I am right now.”
— Reach writer Dan Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org