Dylan Pearce is living a childhood dream with the Oregon State baseball program.
A Beavers fan for as long as he can remember, the Southern Oregon native and Crater High (Central Point) graduate has become an integral piece of OSU’s bullpen.
Pearce, a junior right-hander, tossed 3⅔ scoreless innings in two appearances last weekend as the top-ranked Beavers (15-1) earned a series victory over Cal State Fullerton.
In Saturday’s game, Pearce picked up his first Division I win after throwing two innings in relief of Bryce Fehmel.
“I’ve worked my whole life for this,” said Pearce, who played two seasons at Southwestern Oregon Community College in Coos Bay before transferring to OSU. “My parents have pictures of me at 3 and 4 years old wearing a Beaver hat that was 30-times too big for me, and I would say ‘hey, I’m going to play for the Beavs one day.’”
Pearce has been sensational is six outings this year, giving up just five hits and one walk with six strikeouts in 7⅓ innings. He owns a .200 batting average against and has yet to allow a run.
Pitching coach Nate Yeskie compared Pearce to former OSU reliever Brandon Jackson, a Roseburg High product. Jackson pitched for the Beavers from 2013-14.
“He reminds me of (Jackson) in terms of competitiveness,” Yeskie said. “Ironically both Southern Oregon kids, both kids that bleed black and orange. They want to be a part of it and they don’t really care what their role is, all they care about is helping the team and helping us win ballgames.”
Undersized for a college pitcher at 5-foot-9, Pearce spent two years in the Northwest Athletic Conference before landing at OSU. He was overpowering at the junior-college level, recording 83 strikeouts in 71 innings as a sophomore last spring.
Pitching in the NWAC — a wood bat league — helped Pearce get used to coming in on hitters. Quality inside pitches would lead to broken bats and weak grounders.
“That’s really helped me establish the inner half of the plate here with metal bats,” Pearce said. “I know that if I can get in on them, I can get them to ground out.”
Pearce landed on OSU’s radar when associate head coach Pat Bailey received a phone call from the south coast. Yeskie watched Pearce on film and felt he was capable of competing in the Pac-12.
Pearce’s size wasn’t a concern for Yeskie, who pointed to the statures of OSU freshman Christian Chamberlain (5-10) and former Beaver Andrew Moore (6-0). Neither player has the build of a typical Division I — or in Moore’s case, professional — pitcher.
Yeskie also brought up infielder Nick Madrigal, the 2017 Pac-12 player and defensive player of the year. Madrigal is listed at 5-8, 165 pounds.
“You don’t have to be big in stature to have big heart and big execution,” Yeskie said. “That’s the beauty of baseball, those guys come in all shapes and sizes.
“(Pearce) had some things that play at this level. So shoot man, an in-state kid that wants to be here, nothing better.”
For the time being, Pearce is likely to stay in the bullpen as the Beavers enter Pac-12 play. OSU opens a three-game series at California at 7:05 p.m. Friday.
Whether its relief appearances or a midweek start, Pearce truly doesn’t care where his innings come from. All he wants to do is help his dream school win baseball games and chase another College World Series berth.
“I’ve dedicated my life to being here, and I had no doubt that I would be able to come in and work hard enough to make an impact,” Pearce said.
Bailey runs the show
With coach Pat Casey in the midst of a four-game suspension for making contact with an umpire on Friday night, Bailey has been forced to shoulder more of the load.
Bailey, in his 11th season at Oregon State, compiled a 353-158 record in 12 seasons at the helm of George Fox’s program. He is the all-time winningest coach in Bruins history.
“Honestly during a game … there’s not a lot to do,” said Bailey, who still handled the outfield alignment duties the past two games while serving as head coach. “It’s just a matter of managing the game properly and giving us a chance to win.”
Casey will also sit out the first two games of OSU’s series at California.
The Beavers are 2-0 under Bailey’s leadership, but Casey’s presence has been missed.
“It’s always strange anytime a member of your family is not around,” Yeskie said. “When somebody is not there, you pick up the slack for what it is they typically do.
“We got through it the last two days, we’ll try to get through the next two days without him.”
Outside of a 13-hit performance in Game 2, Oregon State struggled offensively in last weekend’s series with Fullerton.
The Beavers had eight hits but struck out 12 times in Friday’s 5-3 loss. OSU collected just five hits Sunday afternoon while holding on for a 5-4 win.
While labeling the struggles “frustrating,” Bailey also gave credit to Fullerton’s talented crop of arms.
“The biggest thing for us is we faced better pitching,” Bailey said. “I think their pitching is very similar to what we’re going to see in the Pac-12, and that was probably the number one thing that we got out of (the series.)”
After compiling a 3-1 record against Fullerton and Portland last week, Oregon State moved up to No. 1 in Monday morning’s D1Baseball.com top 25.
Florida (15-3) dropped to second while Stanford (14-2) jumped from seventh to third. UCLA (10-4), ranked 17th, is the only other Pac-12 team in the top 25.