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Matt Boyd leading the Beavers on the Field

MattBoydOregonStateOregon State freshman Andrew Moore leaned over and patted senior Matt Boyd’s arm during the NCAA Selection show on ESPNU.

“I couldn’t believe they overlooked Matt. He’s been our Friday night guy all season long, going up against the Appels and …” Moore said. “It was nice to get the shout out, but…”

Moore and junior Ben Wetzler – the Beavers’ Saturday and Sunday starters – were credited with anchoring the OSU staff by ESPN’s studio crew. That created the appearance that the senior lefthander was just another member of the pitching staff.

Nothing could be further from the truth and every Beaver in the room knew it.

Boyd was the only underclassman drafted by Major League Baseball following the 2012 season, being selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 13th round. That wasn’t good enough for Boyd, who came to Oregon State with a clear set of goals: win a conference championship, play in Omaha, win a national championship. And he wanted to become a starting pitcher.

Realizing those objectives was more important than being an afterthought in the minor leagues, so Boyd chose to return to lead the Beavers.

Thus far, he’s achieved two of the four goals. OSU won the Pac-12 Conference on Sunday and was rewarded with a No. 3 national seed. Boyd changed himself from a bullpen reliever to a Friday night starter.

“He changed how he threw his pens and he trained to get endurance, extend himself,” Beavers coach Pat Casey said. “He started training for that last summer when he made a commitment to come back.”

Boyd’s return and devotion to becoming a starter was important to the Beavers for another reason: rising star Jace Fry underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after the 2012 season ended with a loss at LSU.

Losing a freshman All-American – and perhaps the best pitcher among OSU’s starters at the end of the season – left a significant hole in the rotation.

Matt Boyd was phenomenal with 8.1 scoreless innings.“He (Boyd) asked me “can I be a starter?” and with Fry down …” Casey said. “It’s been absolutely the best decision he’s ever made for me.”

Boyd’s workouts weren’t the only thing that changed. He took a total approach to becoming the best he could, including his diet.

“Really, I just worked on my endurance and developing my fourth pitch,” Boyd said, “doing the things to make myself better.”

Boyd went from a fastball-slider reliever/first baseman as a freshman to an effective fastball-slider-curve-changeup starter, which has seen him go 10-3 this season. He leads the Beavers in innings pitched with 107 2/3 and strike outs with 98 in 15 appearances. His ERA of 2.09 is fifth on a team with a staff ERA of 2.12.

Boyd looks slimmer than his junior season, a sure sign of his devotion to becoming a long-distance pitcher.

“He’s gotten stronger, his endurance levels have increased,” pitching coach Nate Yeskie said. “His knowledge level of the game has jumped in three, four month increments. He’s figured out what he can do and what’s more important what he can’t do, because everyone has limits. He’s learned his craft so he can be more effective against rights and lefts, we’ve always said to be a starter you have to be able to get guys out three times through the lineup and he’s developed to where he can do that.”

Boyd’s work has further ingrained his status as a team leader. In many ways, this Beavers team is as much his as the 2012 squad was a reflection of then seniors Ryan Dunn and Ryan Gorton, position players who set a tone for the team.

“Even when he’s not pitching, he’s in there in the dugout and he and Wetzler are the first ones greeting me and making sure I’m staying engaged,” Moore said. “He’s really been huge on my staying focused on my routine throughout the week, and he was getting a feel for it too, being his first year starting. He was making sure to keep me under his wing, sort of, to make sure I stay locked in and don’t get away from my routine.”

Boyd has taken a hand in building the Beavers beyond the pitching staff. He played an active role in OSU landing two of its top offensive players, helping in the recruiting of sophomore outfielders Michael Conforto and Dylan Davis, who like Boyd grew up in the shadows of Seattle.

“It was a pretty big thing,” Conforto said. “He was from Washington, so we knew him a little bit. He brought us in for an unofficial visit when we were in high school. We got to see the coaches and where he stayed, he got us a relationship going before anybody else got a chance. It was a big deal having him here.”

Conforto set the OSU record for single-season RBIs as a freshman and leads the team in homers this season; Davis leads the Beavers in RBIs this season. That offensive production has helped Boyd succeed as much as his effectiveness on the mound has helped the Beavers succeed.

“He’s got that presence,” Conforto said. “He’s an unbelievable person and you have to respect the way he handles himself. He’s a man of faith. He puts God and family before anything else. He’s always with kids, he’s always working with somebody in need that’s helping, he’s always got something in the locker room for us to sign. He’s a great leader.

Boyd has set a tone both on and off the field all year for OSU. His belief in his teammates is unflappable.

“We’re the best team in college baseball. We believe that,” Boyd said. “We have the best staff in the country. We believe that, too.”

Proving it on the field, that’s the focus for Boyd, far more than the pending MLB draft.

“The draft will take care of itself,” he said. “Hopefully my name is called on draft day. Right now it’s time to focus on winning a title.”

Boyd has always been a team guy. His personal goals are always secondary to those of the team. As a junior, he repeatedly said he was willing to throw one pitch in a game, if it would help his team win. This season, he’s been setting the tone every Friday. His next start is against Texas-San Antonio in the Corvallis Regional, the objective to get it one win closer to Omaha and the College World Series.

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