At home on the diamond
Even in his youngest days on the baseball field, Dylan Pearce was a little different than all the rest.
He could throw the ball a little harder than most, and attacked each play with a little more enthusiasm.
His eyes were big and never wavered in following intently as he listened to whatever his coaches had to say until completion.
And regardless of the circumstance he found himself in, there was a never-ending pool of self-confidence in which he could draw from.
On the baseball diamond, Pearce was at home … and none of that has changed over the years.
Whether it’s been for Crater High School or Southwestern Oregon Community College or the Medford Rogues or rising up through Little League, Pearce has shown the same level of determination as a right-handed starting pitcher.
“When he’s out there, he’s locked in and he’s going to compete and give all he has,” said Rogues manager Josh Hogan. “He doesn’t want to let his teammates down or let himself down, because he holds high standards for himself. You know he’s going to compete every time and give you everything he’s got, and that’s what he’s done for us ever since he got here.”
Pearce was a 10-day contract gamble for the Rogues prior to the summer of 2016. He showed promise but the team wasn’t quite sure how the 5-foot-10, 170-pounder would stack up after joining the program from SWOCC.
He started in the bullpen, earned his way to more time on the field and eventually made his way into a starter’s role by keeping a laser focus and working each day to fulfill his dream.
Ultimately, Pearce became one of the team’s biggest surprises last summer when he went 4-2 with a 2.30 ERA and stood toe-to-toe with the best the Chico Heat had to offer in the deciding game of the Great West League Championship Series. He allowed four hits with five strikeouts and one walk in eight innings of a 1-0 loss.
“I am actually honored to have been put in a lot of positions I have been,” said the 20-year-old Pearce. “I’ve been given a lot of opportunities by the (Rogues) coaches and I’m just glad that they still think I’m the man for the job and believe in me like they do.”
This year, Pearce has had to mix in summer classes and part-time work with his baseball duties but still has posted a 5-0 record and 3.75 ERA, with 48 strikeouts and 27 walks in 50⅓ innings.
On Sunday, he was the starting pitcher in Medford’s 7-6 playoff-opening win over the Portland Pickles, allowing three runs with four strikeouts and three walks in five innings. To hear him tell it, Pearce would love to have that start back because he truly doesn’t believe he did enough to help his team.
Should Medford beat Portland again Tuesday at Harry & David Field to close out their best-of-three series in the GWL playoffs or, if necessary, on Wednesday, he’s hopeful he will have another chance to take the mound as part of the GWL Championship Series.
“I wholeheartedly have trust in my team that they can get it done,” said Pearce, “and I’m hoping things fall for me again this year and hopefully this time I can help bring a championship ring to my teammates.”
While that would be a dream come true for Pearce, who grew up wanting to play for the top summer college team in Southern Oregon when it was the RiverDawgs and turned into the Rogues, the truth is he’d be happy pitching again for any reason this summer.
“The game means so much to me,” said Pearce. “It always has, whether it was just playing with my dad (Rob) or for all the coaches and teammates I’ve had over the years. It’s peaceful for me. I can step out and be in my comfort zone when I’m on the field.”
“It’s an honor to play the game, not only during the game, but it also helps with a lot of life’s lessons off of it,” he added. “Baseball is a sport where you live and you learn every time you’re on the ball field. There’s going to be times in life where you feel great but things aren’t going your way but you’ve got to keep grinding at it and eventually you’ll get there.”
If anything sums up Pearce’s existence as a pitcher, it’s that last statement. He has worked hard for all his opportunities and not been handed anything. That’s what makes his signing over the winter break with Oregon State that much more special for the lifelong Beavers fan.
“Going to play for the team of my dreams and something I’ve worked my whole life for is just a surreal opportunity,” said the junior-to-be. “I feel honored to have them want me to play for a team that is such a high caliber. They play the best so I’m going to have to go in and work hard and earn a spot.”
Chalk up Hogan as one who thinks Pearce will do just fine once he hits Corvallis. The pitcher has come a long way in his short time in the Rogues system under pitching gurus Jeff Lyle and Christian Coronado and already boasts a fastball that reaches 94 miles per hour and a wide array of pitches that include a curveball, change-up, slider and knuckleball.
“He’s still raw in some aspects so he’s still got a lot of upside and high ceiling possibly,” said the coach, “which is really exciting as long as he doesn’t get complacent, and I don’t think you can do that at Oregon State or with someone who is as competitive as Dylan.”
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry