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Oregon State's use of freshman pitcher in CWS was borderline excessive

Larry Brown Sports logo Larry Brown Sports 6/29/2018 Larry Brown Sports
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Video by Sports Illustrated

Oregon State on Thursday celebrated their third NCAA baseball championship after shutting out Arkansas 5-0 to win the College World Series, but just how hard they rode a freshman pitcher to get to that point needs to be addressed.

Kevin Abel, a freshman from San Diego, was brilliant in bringing home the championship for the Beavers. He threw a two-hit, complete game shutout in the finale as Oregon State won it all 5-0. Abel struck out 10 and walked just two. He retired the final 20 batters he faced and became the first pitcher all season to shut out the Razorbacks.

As if all that doesn’t point to how historically awesome Abel was, consider these other stats: his 2-hit shutout was the fewest hits allowed in a CWS championship game. His four wins were also the most ever at the College World Series.

So what’s the problem? The usage and overuse of Abel over the past week was borderline abuse by Beavers head coach Pat Casey.

Abel pitched three times in a five-day span, including two starts in high-pressure elimination games. He threw a total of 247 pitches during that five-day span.

– 95 pitches in a win over Mississippi State on Saturday to reach the CWS finals against Arkansas

– 23 pitches during an inning of relief against Arkansas on Wednesday to keep it a 1-run game

– 129 pitches in Thursday’s shutout win over Arkansas

Abel is only 19 years old and still was asked to do that much.

After he threw an inning on Wednesday, I thought that would take him out of the running to start Thursday’s game, but that didn’t stop Casey. Then after Oregon State extended its lead to 4-0 in the bottom of the fifth on Thursday, I kept wondering at what point they would take Abel out because of overuse considerations. Yet they kept letting him go back out there even as his pitch count was climbing. They sent him out for the eighth inning with his pitch count already over 100 pitches. Then even after scoring a fifth run in the bottom of the eighth, they still sent him out for the ninth with a 5-0 lead.

After the game, Abel said he was grateful the Beavers’ coaches let him keep pitching.

“I dunno, I dunno. Kept making pitches and kept getting outs. I was going to give everything I have and I really appreciate them letting me go out there,” Abel told ESPN’s Laura Rutledge.

That’s the problem. You’re always going to have a hard time pulling a competitive pitcher from a game, which is why it’s on the coaches to be responsible and protect their players. Abel was asked to do way too much in too short of a time span.

Casey showed that he was more interested in winning a national title than protecting the health of a valuable, young pitcher who has a promising future ahead of him. Unfortunately this is a story that is all too common in the world of selfish college baseball coaches.

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