By Bob Lundeberg

Corvallis Gazette-Times

CORVALLIS — 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 School (Central Point) graduate has become an integral piece of OSU’s bullpen.

Pearce, a junior right-hander, tossed 32⁄3 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 NCAA 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 in six outings this year, giving up just five hits and one walk with six strikeouts in 71⁄3 innings. Opposing batters have hit just .200 against him, and he 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 in 2013 and 2014.

“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 feet 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 inside 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 was not a concern for Yeskie, who pointed to the statures of OSU freshman Christian Chamberlain (5-10) and former Beaver Andrew Moore (6 feet). 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 on Friday night.

Whether it is relief appearances or a midweek start, Pearce truly does not care where his innings come from.

“I’ve dedicated my life to being here,” Pearce said, “and I had no doubt that I would be able to come in and work hard enough to make an impact.”

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