From the OREGONLIVE website…
CORVALLIS — Oregon State’s 2017 baseball season was fast approaching, and the team was wrapping up its final scrimmage when a freshman took the mound.
The Beavers lit up left-hander Jake Mulholland.
“His last outing, it was funny,” Beavers coach Pat Casey said. “I think we got him for four or five or six runs in about two innings. We hit balls all over the place.”
Still, throughout the offseason, the OSU coaches liked what they had seen from Mulholland. While he lacked the overpowering fastball of bigger name recruits, the freshman threw strikes consistently, showed dynamic command and dived into additional work outside of practice.
They went to him for 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief on opening day in a 1-0 game. It was the start of scoreless streak that lasted the first 22 2/3 innings of his college career, when Mulholland became the go-to reliever for the consensus No. 1 team in the nation.
“It’s pretty amazing what he’s been able to do,” junior reliever Mitch Hickey said. “When he came in here, we knew he’d be good. He’s definitely surpassed some expectations.”
Asked last week about his scoreless streak, Mulholland deflected.
“It’s not something I’m worried about,” he said. “That streak is going to come to an end sometime. I’m just focused on throwing my next pitch and my next inning.”
In his next two outings, Mulholland sure enough gave up the first earned runs of his career. He also became the first Oregon State freshman to win Pac-12 pitcher of the week since team co-captain Drew Rasmussen in 2015, a reward for 10 2/3 innings of work in which he earned two wins and a save.
He is now 4-0 this season with a 0.55 ERA in 33 innings, along with 30 strikeouts to six walks. His ERA ranks second in the nation. He has emerged to throw the most innings among a strong freshman pitching class, leading a deep bullpen with a collective 1.71 ERA.
If Mulholland’s early success has come as a surprise, his arrival in Corvallis seemed unlikely on multiple occasions. Jake was raised in Corona, California, a city east of Los Angeles. But he and his family moved north of Seattle to Snohomish, Washington, when his father’s job moved before Mulholland entered eighth grade.
Father Mike Mulholland said there was a “good chance” his son would have stayed in Southern California for college if not for the move.
Snohomish High School baseball coach Kim Hammons said Mulholland lived in the weight room during a prep career in which he never lost a game. Consistent and confident, Mulholland was the team’s go-to leader even as he did not pitch the first portion of his senior season while resting a sore arm.
When he returned to the mound, Mulholland did not give up an earned run.
Roles reversed when Mulholland first stepped on campus at OSU.
Pitching coach Nate Yeskie was impressed with the thoughtful questions that came from the prospect. He inquired specifically about improving his fastball command. He tinkered with his delivery and adjusted the grip on his slider to sharpen his fourth pitch.
“What separates Jake from everyone else is just his hard work,” junior first baseman and catcher KJ Harrison said. “He gets after it and he’s a quiet guy, but when he’s on the mound, he’s got that fire.”
Mulholland pursued advice from veterans instead of leading an array of teammates, primarily relying on junior lefty Luke Heimlich, now Oregon State’s top starter and on the watch list for the Golden Spikes Award.
Since taking the field after the beating he suffered in the final scrimmage, Mulholland has excelled by locating his fastball, changeup, curveball and slider with precision and working both sides of the plate.
“He’s always ahead in the count,” Heimlich said. “Even if he does fall behind 2-0 or something, the hitter can’t always just jump a fastball because he’s able to throw something else in there.”
Yeskie said Mulholland is ahead of where other top pitchers to come through Corvallis were during their freshman seasons, in large part because of his command and work ethic. The coaches expect him to develop further as he adds strength throughout his college career.
As Yeskie started his post-practice remarks about why the freshman found such early success, a series of baseballs rattled into a nearby bucket. Yeskie motioned to Mulholland and looked around, signaling that he was the only pitcher left continuing to complete drills.
Said Yeskie: “It’s no mystery.”