'I knew I could do it'
Confident Turpen makes play for '07 OSU rotation
OMAHA, Neb. - Imagine yourself in Daniel Turpen's shoes.
Oregon State's chance to stay alive in the College World Series rests on your shoulders, and it's not as if you're used to the load.
Going into Wednesday's elimination game against top-ranked Rice - a team that had won 41 of its previous 44 games and was hitting .321 collectively - Turpen had made one start this season and four in a two-year OSU career.
Regular rotation starters Dallas Buck, Jonah Nickerson and Mike Stutes were used up. Turpen, who hadn't started since April 30 against New Mexico, was getting the call only because fourth starter Anton Maxwell had been kicked off the team prior to the Super Regional for a team rules violation.
Turpen was making only his 12th appearance of the season against a Rice team that was 2-0 in the CWS, with an all-time record crowd of 30,335 watching on a hot, humid Midwest evening. In Oregon State's 23 conference games en route to its second straight Pac-10 championship, Turpen had thrown not one pitch.
So Turpen went out and stoned the Owls. Set them on their derrières in a five-hit, 6 2/3-inning masterpiece that sent the Beavers on to a 5-0 victory. It was, quite simply, a performance that defies explanation.
'I've done it before,' Turpen says with a shrug. 'Well, nothing this big or on this kind of stage. But yeah, I knew I could do it. A lot of people knew I could do it. I just had to get the opportunity.'
Buck, Nickerson and Stutes had pitched the first three games here.
'We were on our last (pitching) legs,' coach Pat Casey says. 'We asked Turp to go out there and give us a good start. The distance could be three, four, two, five (innings) … whatever it was, we'd do what we had to do. And boy, he pitched a heck of a game against a very good club, and we scored enough runs to take the pressure off of him.
'When you're talking about a guy whose last start was in April and now you throw him into the CWS … we had a lot of confidence in Turp or we would have started somebody else. But we were hoping he wouldn't be too hyped up and have to throw a lot of pitches early and (force the Beavers to) get into our bullpen. He came out and pitched like a veteran.'
Turpen was efficient, throwing only 84 pitches. He didn't allow more than one hit in any inning, walked one batter, hit two, struck out three and benefited from the airtight defense behind him.
It was the biggest game in the 97-year history of Oregon State baseball, a victory that put the Beavers within shouting distance of a national championship. Turpen didn't gag on the fumes of the pressure-packed atmosphere. He turned Owl bats into Turpen-tine.
Casey was wise enough to use Turpen for two innings of relief in Oregon State's CWS-opening loss to Miami last Saturday - he walked two but allowed no hits or runs - and it paid off.
'That helped me more than anything - experiencing it once and getting a feel for the whole surroundings,' the 6-4, 215-pound right-hander from McMinnville says. 'Once I found out I was starting (Wednesday), I was comfortable with it. I knew what I had to do. I did exactly what I did on Saturday.'
Turpen says he had a few butterflies before the game, 'but once you get out there and start throwing, it kind of goes away. You focus on what you're doing.'
It was a big night for McMinnville. Longtime friend and teammate Joe Paterson, also a 2004 Mac High grad, relieved Turpen and sealed the deal with 2 1/3 innings of no-hit, no-run ball.
'Being from Newberg, I have to give that kind of credit to two guys from McMinnville?' Casey asked with a laugh. 'The Grizzlies got the Tigers tonight.'
Paterson and Turpen have been playing baseball together since the fifth grade. They've shared a lot of moments on the diamond, 'and it didn't surprise me what Turp did tonight,' Paterson says. 'I've seen him do it in a lot of big games.'
But nothing colossal big like the College World Series.
'This wouldn't have happened even in our wildest dreams,' said Paterson, a 6-1, 195-pound left-hander who had a 6.14 ERA in 12 appearances last season at Linfield. 'I wasn't even planning on playing baseball out of high school.'
But Paterson gave it a try at Linfield. And last summer, while playing with Casey's son, Brett, on the Richey's Market American Legion team in Corvallis, Paterson caught the coach's eye. Pat Casey invited him to walk on at Oregon State, so he transferred and became a staple in middle relief for the Beavers, working effectively in 24 games this season.
Paterson inherited a 1-0 count from Turpen on Wednesday and walked pinch hitter Derek Myers. Then he settled down and retired the final seven Owls in order to record his second career save, one that will sit proudly in his memory bank forever.
Turpen's presence 'was kind of comforting to me, to see him out there,' Paterson says. 'It was almost like nothing new was going on. Just me and Turp.'
Paterson figured little would be expected from the McMinnville pair in Omaha.
'Our starting pitching is so dominant, the opportunity to pitch kind of sneaked up and hit us,' Paterson says. 'That helped, not thinking we were going to play.'
Turpen has pitched in the shadows of Buck, Nickerson, Stutes and Maxwell the past two years.
'It's been kind of tough,' Turpen said. 'You always want to get in there. But when your team makes the College World Series, you can't argue much. The coaches know what they're doing. I just had to wait my turn.'
Turpen proved Wednesday he is a front-runner to win one of three regular rotation spots for the Beavers in '07.
'I've told Turp, 'It's not where you are when you come to the program, it's where you are when you leave. Just when you least expect it, you're going to get the baseball in a big game,' ' Casey says. 'It happened (against Rice), and he really pitched well. I can't tell you how proud I am of him.'