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By Ethan Erickson
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By UCLA pitcher Grant Watson delivers against San Diego during the first inning of an NCAA college baseball tournament regional game against San Diego, Sunday, June 2, 2013, in Los Angeles. San Diego won 8-5. (AP Photo/Bret Hartman)
BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
A year ago, Tyler Painton had just finished up a season where he pitched for his father, Tim, the coach at Bakersfield College.
He could have returned to BC, where he was 8-1 with a 1.69 ERA.
"I realized there wasn't much more I could accomplish from the JC level," he said. "Oregon State came up with a nice offer."
Painton's season continues as Oregon State is among the eight-team field starting the College World Series today in Omaha, Neb. The Beavers (50-11) face Mississippi State (48-18) today at noon in a game televised on ESPN2.
Painton, a left-handed pitcher for the Beavers, is one of two Centennial High graduates pitching at the College World Series. UCLA sophomore left-hander Grant Watson is the Bruins' No. 3 starter.
"This is everything we've worked for,” said Painton, was 0-0 with a 2.40 ERA in 11 games for the Beavers this season. “We’ve had a great year.”
Painton had a new role this season. Throughout his years at Centennial and his only season at BC, he was assured of pitching extensively and was also a middle-of-the-order hitter.
This season, Painton has been effective when called on to pitch, but he has yet to throw in the postseason.
“Honestly, our starters give us seven, eight, nine innings every time out, and then it’s turned over to the closer,” he said. “But we find time to get our throwing in. We throw side sessions and throw against hitters during the week.”
The reduced role has been tough mentally at times, Painton admitted.
“That was something I struggled with for awhile,” he said. “I got down on myself and got a little depressed.
“But then I sat down and said, ‘Why am I mad?’
“Mentally you’ve got to be ready. You never know when your name will be called.”
Painton said he’s added a change-up to the fastball and slider he threw at Centennial and BC.
“In high school you could blow people away with a fastball and get away with it. Last year (at BC), the fastball and slider,” he said.
“But now you can’t get away with just those two. You have to be able to locate it on every count and I had to develop a change-up.”
Painton was recruited to the University of San Diego out of Centennial, but biceps tendinitis kept him from pitching for the Toreros.
“That’s the only time I’ve had an arm problem,” Painton said. “It wasn’t too serious. It was fine after rehab and some time off.”
Painton is aware of Watson and UCLA. Watson could not be reached for this story.
“I’ve played with him since we were 10 years old,” Painton said of Watson. “Going through high school with him (Watson was a junior when Painton was a senior), we were the 1-2 starters. It’s neat for the two of us to be here and represent Bakersfield.”
Watson, who joined UCLA’s team as a walk-on in the fall of 2011. In 2012, he went 9-2 with a 4.45 ERA, tying UCLA’s regular-season record for most wins in a season by a freshman.
This season, Watson is 8-3 with a 3.22 ERA in 17 games. He ranks third on the Bruins in innings pitched (86-2⁄3) and starts (16).
In his most recent appearance, Watson pitched UCLA into the Super Regional round with a 6-0 win over San Diego on June 2. He allowed one hit and two baserunners in seven innings that day.
“He’s a very good team guy,” UCLA coach John Savage said after Watson’s dominant game against San Diego. “He’s had a tremendous start to a young career. I don’t think there are a lot of left-handers in the country who have won 17 games at this level.”
UCLA (44-14) faces Louisiana State (57-9) in a first-round game Sunday at 5 p.m., which will be telecast on ESPN2.