CORVALLIS — For whatever reason, left-handed pitchers from the Northwest can't seem to get enough of Oregon State.
One year after Matt Boyd delayed professional baseball while he took another shot at a trip to Omaha and the College World Series, the OSU baseball staff got more good news on Friday afternoon, as junior left-hander Ben Wetzler announced he would return to Corvallis for his senior year.
Wetzler, a fifth-round pick by Philadelphia, becomes the highest drafted player in Beaver baseball history to return for another year. In 2012, Boyd was drafted in the 13th round.
"Before the draft, I was pretty convinced I was going to sign wherever I got picked, and move on," said Wetzler, a Clackamas native. "But a couple days after we got back (from Omaha) something in my belly just wouldn't let me leave."
In typical "I like to keep it interesting," fashion, Wetzler's decision went down to the wire. Non-seniors had until 2 p.m. PST Friday to sign, and minutes after the deadline passed Wetzler tweeted, "Let's take one more crack at this thing."
But Wetzler isn't' the only one returning: Junior right-hander Scott Schultz, a key reliever, also announced he's coming back, turning down an opportunity to play in Miami. Schultz, from Gig Harbor, Wash., was drafted in the 17th round.
"Christmas on July 12," said OSU pitching coach Nate Yeskie, referencing both Wetzler and Schultz. "Who knew?
"I had a feeling that Ben might stay. I knew he was going to have a tough decision, but he looks at the big pictures ... lots of different people will tell college guys they need to get their pro careers started, they need to start making money but what Oregon State means to Ben, you can't put a price tag on that."
With the return of Wetzler, who is 24-6 in three years as a starter, the Beavers instantly boast one of the top weekend rotations in college baseball. Andrew Moore, the 2013 Friday starter who finished the season with a record for freshman wins (14) is back, as is junior left-hander Jace Fry. Fry, who had Tommy John surgery 13 months ago, appeared in just six games in 2013 after spending most of the season rehabbing. Fry was a All-American as a freshman.
Asked if the Beavers were setting themselves up to have a better staff in 2014 than they did in 2013, Wetzler laughed.
"It's possible," he said. "But we've got to start putting in the work right now."
This summer, their work on the mound will be limited: Moore, Fry and Wetzler will all take the summer off from playing — Wetzler had an interview for a summer job shortly after he decided he'd be coming back to college baseball — and return to campus with fresh arms in the fall.
Wetzler was named first-team All-Pac-12 after posting a 10-1 record and 2.25 ERA in the regular season. His performance in Game 3 of the Corvallis Super Regional against Kansas State punched the Beavers' ticket to the CWS, and Wetzler won the only game he threw in Omaha, a 11-4 victory over Louisville that eliminated the Cardinals from the CWS.
Wetzler said he put a figure in his mind that he considered "life-changing money" — he declined to give the number — and when Philadelphia didn't hit that amount by Friday, he knew he'd be back.
Calling the decision more stressful than any game situation he's ever been in, Wetzler said, "it was tough to say no. They're a great organization, and they really know how to run their minor league teams. But at the end, my gut kept telling me I wasn't ready to leave. And I didn't want to look back in 20 years and regret leaving college early.
"The game is still pure here. It's so much fun just being out with the guys. And getting to play for a community, it's special."
Schultz lead OSU with 10 saves in 2013, posting a 2-1 record with a 2.08 ERA in 27 appearances.
"Schultz is the poster child of why you go to college," Yeskie said. "He had some fringe interest from pro teams (coming out of high school) but they told him, 'Go to college, work on your game.' He's done that, and look at how he's developed. I think he's right on the cusp of doing something special. His game could really take off next year."
Catcher Jake Rodriguez, who just finished his junior season, was one of two players to leave early. He went in the 19th round to Houston, and is currently playing with the Tri-city ValleyCats in Troy, N.Y., Class A affiliate of the Astros. Junior right-handed pitcher Dan Child, drafted int he 18th round, signed with Philadelphia.
The Beavers also lost two signees from the 2013 class: Outfielder Tyler O'Neill of Maple Ridge, B.C., Canada (third round, 85th overall, to Seattle) opted to turn pro, as did Justin Bohn, a shortstop from Feather River College in Quincy, Calif. A 2011 graduate of Phoenix High School, Bohn was drafted in the seventh round, 202nd overall, by Miami.