Jake Pfennigs and TJ Wheeler return from injuries to help Oregon State defeat Long Beach State

Jake Pfennigs and TJ Wheeler return from injuries to help Oregon State defeat Long Beach State ...

CORVALLIS When a pitching coach went to the mound to pull after 17 impressive pitches Thursday night, the towering right-hander couldn't help but smile.

Pfennigs said, "It's good to see you guys. It's been a while."

Comebacks at Goss Stadium were a joy experience as two important OSU players returned from lengthy injury absences and the Beavers continued their dominance, defeating Long Beach State 3-1.

Pfennigs earned his first start since February 26, with 1 2/3 scoreless innings under a limited pitch count. And a designated hitter played in his first game since February 26, with a two-run single in the third inning that proved to be the difference as the third-ranked Beavers won their fifth game in a row.

Both players returned the same night because both have spent a lot of time together the last few weeks, recuperating at their own pace in a lonely two-man club Wheeler, dubbed the "DL Squad. Pfennigs believes that they had to "pass the time and stay busy."

Beides were tested in several ways.

When he got off for a hit session at McAlexander Fieldhouse, a baseball bounced off a bat, rocketed behind a protective screen, and drilled Wheeler in the face. He was rushed to the hospital, where emergency rooms sewed five stitches under his eye, and gave him a patch to wear.

Wheeler was diagnosed with hyphema and a macular hole in his eye, and was put on bedrest for 12 days. He was concerned that he might permanently lose sight in his left eye.

Pfennigs faced his own set of issues during his February start against Xavier. He said the injury was not considered serious and he never doubted his return, but as the days dragged on and his absence stretched further and longer, Pfennigs' patience was tested.

After a couple weeks, he was cleared to throw bullpen sessions. Last weekend, he was allowed to perform a live session.

It was great, Pfennigs said, so I got the start this weekend.

The 6-foot-7 junior entered the game on a pitch count, but Dorman thought it was time to pull his starter on Saturday night.

Pfennigs' last line: 1 2/3 innings, one hit, 17 pitches, and 13 strikes. He intends to increase his workload and pitch count every week in addition to avoiding a setback, but said he should be completely reinstated in three to four weeks.

It was fantastic to see him get out there and jump into the second right out of the gate, coach Mitch Canham said. His bullpens and everything building up have been really thorough. He had a good year on his fastball and was able to throw a couple breaking balls. But just getting out there, it had to feel good. He had a big smile on his face. I know he has a long term future ahead of him, and we want him to be positive.

While Wheeler is also in a good position, it is still not perfect. Since his bedrest days, his vision has improved dramatically, but he said his vision isn't 100%.

Its still a smudge on my left eye when I close my right eye, he said. Theres still a smudge in the middle. Its a macular hole. Its got to still close. But Im still able to play.

Shortly after Wheeler's partner on the "DL Squad" resumed throwing, light hitting and training. As his vision improved, Wheeler increased his activity gradually, first hitting off machines and then, when the team was out last week, taking live batting practice. He went through five live batting practice sessions before Thursday's return.

Wheeler said there is no timeline for the complete close of the hole in his eye, but the outcome may vary depending on the person and the injury, but things are gradual improving each day.

It was good enough against Long Beach State (15-17) and Wheeler had the worst day of the day wearing a protective helmet.

Wheeler stuttered a 2-1 run up the middle with Wade Meckler and Justin Boyd, stealing two outs in the third and the Beavers winning 1-0. Wheeler roared, while Wheeler celebrated at his first base, and 3,217 spectators in the stands cheered.

In just eight games, Wheelers recorded the 13th and 14th RBIs, and they proved to be the difference. On a night the Beavers had only four hits.

The Beavers' bullpen paced exceptionally well in relief of the Pfennigs. Brock Townsend earned his first victory of the season, allowed four hits and one run in four 1/3 innings, Ben Ferrer pitched two 1/3 scoreless innings, and Ryan Brown made his fourth save in 17 days.

A day of feel-good comebacks, ain't to mention a victory, ended with a triumph.

It's been a journey for the last month and a half, Wheeler said. It's definitely been difficult... but it's just fantastic being out there, he said.

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