Jake Pfennigs and TJ Wheeler return from injuries to assist Oregon State win 1-0 against Long Beach State on Thursday's comeback

Jake Pfennigs and TJ Wheeler return from injuries to assist Oregon State win 1-0 against Long Beach  ...

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

Pfennigs said, I was like, Its good to see you guys. Its been a while.

The game ended a pleasant night of comebacks at Goss Stadium, where two important OSU players returned from lengthy injury absences, and the Beavers maintained their dominant play, defeating Long Beach State 3-1.

Pfennigs made his first start since February 26, throwing 1 2/3 scoreless innings under a limited pitch count. A designated hitter also played in his first game since February 26, making 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 they have spent a lot of time together the last few weeks, rehabilitating at their own pace in a lonely two-man club Wheeler, dubbed the "DL Squad." Pfennigs believes that both players would "pass the time and remain productive."

Both have been tested in different ways.

Wheeler collapsed when he went on a day off for a hitting session at McAlexander Fieldhouse. A baseball came off a bat, rocketed behind a protective screen, and drilled Wheeler in the face. He had to be taken to the hospital, where emergency doctors 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 in that February start against Xavier. He strained a muscle in his throwing shoulder and was forced to take a two-to-three-week leave. He said the injury was not considered serious and he never thought he'd return, but as the days dragged on and his absence extended longer and longer, Pfennigs' patience was tested.

Upon being finally cleared to resume light throwing last month, he had to take baby steps, gradually increasing his work, bit-by-bit, every day. After a couple weeks, he was permitted to throw bullpen sessions. Last weekend, he was permitted to hold a live session.

Pfennigs said, "It felt good," but "It was good," and so I got the start this weekend.

He entered the game on a pitch count no more than 20 or 25 and Dorman thought the 6-foot-7 junior would toss just one inning. But Pfennigs quickly defeated the top three Dirtbag hitters in just ten pitches, putting down two more in the second inning. So he quickly retired two more hitters with six extra pitches, and he looked like he might make it through the next game. But No. 6 hitter Kaden Moeller was not

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, moving forward, but without a win, Pfennigs said he should be back in three to four weeks.

It was fantastic to see him come out there and throw one ball outside the gate, coach Mitch Canham said. His bullpens and everything he built up have been very good. He had a good day on his fastball, and was capable of throwing a few breaking balls. But just getting out there, it had to be painful. He had a big smile on his face. I know he's got a long term job ahead of him, so we want to make sure he's in

Although Wheeler is not in a good position, it's still impossible to see him. He has improved dramatically since his bedrest days, but admitted that his sight isn't 100%.

When I close my left eye, there is still a smudge on my forehead. It's a macular hole. It's got to still close. But I'm still able to play.

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

Wheeler said there is no timeline for the perfect hole in his eye to close, but it may vary depending on the person and the injury, but things are gradually improving each day.

Long Beach State (15-17) was a good match. Wheeler wore a protective cage attached to his helmet and had the most damage of the day.

Wheeler stuttered a 2-1 run up the middle with Wade Meckler and Justin Boyd, bringing him to the base with his first base, and 3,217 people cheered. It was a special home debut for the community college transfer.

Wheelers scored 13 and 14th RBI in just eight games, and they proved to be the difference. On a day the Beavers had just four hits, including three singles.

The result was sufficient for a Beavers bullpen that pitched exceptionally well in relief of the Pfennigs. Brock Townsend earned his first win of the season, allowing 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, fittingly, ended with a win.

It's been a journey for the last month and a half, Wheeler said. It's certainly been challenging... but it was just a pleasure to be out there.

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