CORVALLIS, Ore. – Senior lefthander Ben Wetzler isn’t interested in individual accomplishments.
He did forego professional riches to become the winningest pitcher in Oregon State history. Wetzler, a fifth-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in June 2013, returned to the Beavers for one simple reason.
“The dog pile,” he said.
Wetzler (7-1) ascended to an individual pinnacle at Oregon State on Friday, displaying the tenacity and competitiveness that is the hallmark of the OSU program. He wasn’t at his sharpest against arch rival Oregon, but he did strike out seven in 8.1 innings, scattering five hits and a walk – along with three hit batters – as he won for the 31st time in his college career.
Wetzler had shared the record with Ken Noble (1975-78) entering Friday’s outing against the Ducks.
Jeff Hendrix hit 3 for 5 and scored twice and Michael Conforto hit two doubles and had an RBI in the win. Freshman third baseman Caleb Hamilton had a solo home run – his first – to help Wetzler win a pitcher’s duel against Oregon’s Tommy Thorpe (6-4).
“Wetzler was outstanding and Thorpe was really good, if you’re going to beat Oregon you have to beat their pitching,” OSU coach Pat Casey said. “He’s what our program is about. Ben’s a battler, a competitor.”
“He just really, he gets tougher.”
“He did everything we needed him to do today, he’s one of those personalities you don’t come upon very often,” Conforto said. “His confidence, his swagger, him and Jace (Fry) and A-Mo (Andrew Moore), they’re a lot alike for that matter. I can’t say enough about Ben Wetzler, everything he’s gone through this year.
“Honestly, you think about Ben Wetzler, you think about the team. A team guy, who will do anything for us to succeed. He’s most deserving for that title.”
Getting the record was never Wetzler’s objective at OSU.
“That kind of stuff never enters my mind very much. I see the posters and the pictures of the dog piles and stuff, and that’s what I grew up seeing and wanting to be a part of,” Wetzler said. “At the end of the day, you’re just another name on a piece of paper, but the dog pile, that’s a memory for a lot of people.
“That’s THE reason I came back. We got so close, two wins away from facing UCLA, I needed one more ride.”
Someday, the wins record will mean more to Wetzler. He won six games as a true freshman, eight as a sophomore and was 10-1 as a junior when OSU reached the College World Series for the fourth time since 2005. For now, it’s one more step on the path back to the CWS.