CORVALLIS — Oregon State junior Brandon Eisert threw a career-high eight innings while allowing one run against Oklahoma State in a nonconference baseball game back on May 3.
The left-hander felt tightness after the game and soon noticed swelling in his elbow that forced him to miss the final three series of the regular season. An MRI came back clean and Eisert plans to be back on the mound this weekend when Oregon State hosts an NCAA Regional, although he will return to a role in the bullpen.
“I am ready to get back out there,” Eisert said Tuesday. “I am taking it day by day and progressing to see how it goes.”
Eisert, from Beaverton (Aloha High School), ramped up his rehab by throwing longer distances during the past week and felt good following a bullpen session Monday.
“That is going to be another weapon we can use,” OSU coach Pat Bailey said. “Obviously Brandon won’t start, he will come out of the pen, but that is what he did his first two years here. He is an absolute shut-down guy coming out of the pen.”
Eisert was 5-3 with a 2.53 ERA and five saves last year when Oregon State won the College World Series.
He was back in the bullpen to start the season and tossed 182⁄3 scoreless innings of relief. When top OSU starter Kevin Abel had Tommy John surgery, the Beavers made Eisert their Friday-night starter and he went at least five innings in seven starts while allowing three runs or less in six of those outings.
“I’ve been able to do it all so far in my career here,” said Eisert, who is 8-2 with a 2.03 ERA this season. “I’ve experienced different things and different situations so you just have to be ready for the moment. When my name is called, I try to be ready.”
Eisert is unsure when he will take the mound for the double-elimination regional at Goss Stadium when 16th-seeded OSU (36-18-1) opens against Cincinnati (30-29) at 7 p.m. Friday. The Beavers will face Creighton (38-11) or Michigan (41-18) on Saturday.
Abel, last year’s CWS hero, made only three starts before being lost for the season. Reliever Mitchell Verburg was 1-0 with a 1.40 ERA in 16 appearances before suffering a season-ending elbow injury in April. Grant Gambrell missed a couple of starts this month while Eisert was out for four weeks.
“We are back to 11 pitchers and when we were at Oregon (May 10-12), we were down to eight,” Bailey said. “Any pitcher we can get back is a bonus for us.”
Despite the injuries, Oregon State ranked second in the Pac-12 with a 2.98 ERA and 505 strikeouts while placing third at 21-8.
“Coming in, we knew we’d have a deep pitching staff but we were really worn thin with injuries,” Eisert said. “Guys stepped up and threw strikes and that was the big thing. Everyone was prepared to do whatever it takes to help the team win and that is what everyone has been doing.”
Senior right-hander Bryce Fehmel (7-3, 3.34 ERA) will start the opener against Cincinnati, followed by Gambrell (5-2, 2.74) on Saturday.
“I’m excited because the crowds are going to be great,” Gambrell said. “It is nice to have a couple more games at Goss and hopefully move forward from that.”