Dan Spencer is entering his 11th season as an assistant at Oregon State. The associate head coach and pitching coach of the Beavers, Spencer has been instrumental in helping the Beavers to back-to-back College World Series appearances and the 2006 National Championship. He joins CollegeBaseballInsider.com for the 2007 season.






Jan. 2, 2007

Opportunity Knocks


Early in a college baseball season, almost every club in the country has their pitchers on a pitch count. Consequently, a team is using 10 to 12 arms throughout the first month of the season until the starters are ready to throw more pitches.


Once that happens, and the starters are pitching into the seventh inning consistently, the need for the middle relievers is eliminated because the starter is handing the ball off to one of two setup men or the closer. If you are blessed with a good pitching staff like we have been, the middle relievers do not get enough or any work on a three-game weekend, and now only six guys are pitching regularly; three starters, two set-up men and a closer.


Currently we do not play many mid-week games due to geographical limitations (that will change in 2008 with the season change), and it is challenging to keep the guys from 7 to 10 on your pitching staff reasonably sharp in case you do need them.


I have found that bullpens are not enough for these pitchers. It is important that they face live hitters, even if it is your own hitters. Four or five live hitters in a mid-week scrimmage are better than pitching in a non-live situation.


This brings us to Daniel Turpen.


Daniel was our next guy, after the three starters and the three main bullpen guys. He could pitch - he and I both knew it - but the other guys had not given him much of an opportunity. He had thrown roughly 25 innings prior to Omaha with one start and around a 3.00 ERA. His last appearance prior to Omaha had been one inning to finish the Super Regional series with Stanford.


On June 17 in Omaha, he threw two scoreless innings out of the bullpen against Miami in our opening loss to the Hurricanes. On June 21, we asked him to beat Rice, the No. 1 ranked team in the nation. I firmly believe that the pressure is on the team that has to win twice on the first night and on the other team if it gets to a second game. The full weight of staying in Omaha rested on Daniel Turpen’s neck.


When people asked me before the game how long Turpen could go or what would I consider a good start, I told them that if Turpen pitched into the fifth and we were in a two-run game either way, I would consider it a great effort under the circumstances.


Daniel finally handed the ball to our bullpen with two outs in the seventh and a man on first. He scattered five hits and one walk and, most importantly, gave up zero runs. He threw 85 pitches and was in trouble in only one inning, the fourth, when he registered a strikeout with the bases loaded and two outs. Daniel’s performance not only allowed us to win that game, but it also swung the momentum to our dugout and the pressure to Rice in Game 2.


I think the key to Daniel Turpen being good on that day is Daniel Turpen.


It takes a mentally tough kid to stay with it all year and prepare for an opportunity that he does not know when is coming. Convincing a pitcher that he can really pitch and then not pitching him due to circumstances beyond his control and having him not think you are a hypocrite is hard.


Daniel is a testament to a young pitcher on a good pitching staff waiting his turn and then taking advantage of his opportunity to be the man. In 2007, he will pitch as a starter on the weekend, and someone else will have to rise to the occasion when opportunity knocks on his door.

Dan Spencer


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(photo courtesy of Oregon State Media Relations Office)