Nate Yeskie Named Pitching Coach Of Year

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Nate Yeskie has been named Collegiate Baseball’s Pitching Coach of The Year for 2017.

The Oregon State pitching coach will be the 15th recipient of this award at the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Indianapolis this January. He is the first two-time winner of the award.

Yeskie completed his ninth season at Oregon State in 2017 and guided the staff to the lowest ERA in the nation at 1.93, nearly one run better than No. 2 Illinois-Chicago’s mark of 2.65.

It was the lowest ERA in school history.

OSU held opponents to two runs or less in 39 of 62 games, and the Beavers produced 23-game winning streaks twice during the 2017 season as OSU was ranked No. 1 for a record 14 consecutive weeks by Collegiate Baseball.

The staff also finished with a national-best 6.27 hits allowed per nine innings, a 0.98 WHIP (walks plus hits per nine innings) and 14 shutouts. OSU had the fewest runs allowed at 141, the fewest earned runs at 121 and the team’s 2.59 walks per nine ranked seventh.

The Beavers also held opponents to a Pac-12 Conference low .196 batting average and set the program’s single-season record with 506 strikeouts while only allowing 162 walks.

Over 62 games, the pitching staff and catchers only allowed 17 stolen bases in 33 attempts.

It marks the second time that Yeskie has been named Pitching Coach of The Year. He was also honored in 2013 by Collegiate Baseball.

Unusual Season
“You set out with ideas at the beginning of the year of how you plan on using pitchers,” said Yeskie.

“Often, that plan doesn’t work out. Somebody will pitch better than anticipated and earns more of a spot in the rotation or bullpen. You get the other side of that as well when somebody doesn’t meet expectations from what he has done the year before. Typically everything is fluid with pitching staffs.

“Last season, we utilized 13 pitchers. Out of the shoot, pitchers did well. The way that games played out, everybody got to get their feet wet, and they did their job.

“As the season unfolded, it was almost like we were replaying those first couple of weeks over and over again. Everybody had a moment.

“Mitchell Verburg didn’t throw a lot of innings (9 2/3 with a 0.93 ERA) but he got a save to clinch the Pac-12 title against Oregon. He also pitched in a huge Sunday game at UCLA where we won the series. Here’s a guy who only pitched a little over nine innings, and he had three important outings.

“Jake Mulholland was a freshman last season and did some great things in save situations. Sam Tweedt was a guy who was in the rotation early in the year and pitched in some big spots out of the bullpen. He won an important game against Vanderbilt in the Super Regionals.

“I have never been involved with a team which had so many pitchers produce like last year’s ball club. When you look at the history of college baseball, it would be difficult to find a staff of 13 pitchers who accomplished what they did.”

Having Your Pitcher’s Back
Starting with the 2011 season, Yeskie utilized a unique plan.

He grew tired of some pitchers never pulling for their teammates while others simply sulked when they didn’t get to pitch. This goes with the territory in competitive sports.

Yeskie’s plan was to have every pitcher and catcher on the staff walk to the bullpen as the starting pitcher warmed up for the game.

When he was done and walked off the bullpen mound toward the dugout, the entire pitching staff and catching corps was waiting for him in a line as each player individually shook his hand or hugged him in a show of solidarity.

Instead of the pitcher being alone with his own thoughts after warming up, he knew every pitcher and catcher on the staff had his back. His mindset switched to not letting his teammates down instead of hoping he had a good performance.

“It was the start of something very valuable in our program, and we have continued it for the past seven years,” said Yeskie.

“It was simply a way of showing your teammate that everyone had your back. I’m here for you. Whatever it takes is whatever it takes today. If you give us four innings, and that’s all you got, I got your back. I will pick you up if I’m the next guy up. If I don’t pitch today, and you go nine or a couple of other guys around me pitch behind you and we win, I still have your back.

“I’m your biggest fan in the dugout, and we’re in this thing together. It is human nature for individuals to think about excelling individually in sports. You want to have a lot of strikeouts or a high batting average. But being that baseball is a team game, we have to count on one another. And we have to support one another when it is going our way and at times when it’s not so we can establish some type of consistency.

“It’s funny how far this has gone. One of our position players, Cadyn Grenier, picked up on it and came out to meet out starting pitcher from the bullpen with a handshake. Then Steven Kwan started doing it. Then it spread like wildfire. When the pitchers were done with the starting pitcher, they turned around and did the same thing with our position guys. That is players doing it on their own which has led the team to being closer.”

Disarming Potential Bomb
Yeskie said he tries to disarm the potential bomb of a pitcher sulking and not actively backing his fellow pitchers in games.

“That’s why I tell each pitcher that he won’t pitch because everybody else stinks. You’re going to pitch because you have performed. I tell pitchers to be up front enough and man enough to understand that you will support that guy no matter what. At the end of the day, he is part of your team, and how he performs, good or bad, really has no bearing on how you should go about your work. The focus needs to be on your work and supporting your teammates.”

Yeskie said this philosophy of pitchers having everyone’s back is not something that is talked about from day one of fall practice.

“We have been doing this since 2011, and all the returning pitchers understand what is expected and relay this to new pitchers. We talk about it usually after we get back from Christmas break to use it as a point of focus to establish what we are doing here.

“There are added things that go into that such as our overall approach. To me, this is the last piece of the puzzle prior to playing games in the spring. It gives kids something to rally around and something good to feel about so they can feel good about being part of this program.

“That’s what I try to remind everyone. When someone chooses to be part of Oregon State, they choose to be part of a program. They didn’t come here just to be a superstar on their own accord. That doesn’t work anywhere to be honest with you. And that is especially true in a team environment.

“When someone is feeling sorry for himself in the dugout or pouting without supporting his teammates, it infects your team instead of affecting them in a positive manner.

“I don’t think it is any coincidence that in 2011 we started to turn a corner with our pitching staffs as far as what I thought we were capable of doing on an annual basis.

“I saw friendships formulating. We have a young man now from Boise, Idaho who lives with a kid from Agoura Hills, Calif. They are the best of friends. Baseball brought them together, and they have established a special bond that will last a lot longer than their baseball careers will.

“Again, when we started this back in 2011, it was an opportunity to shake the starting pitcher’s hand, look him in the eye and tell him you have his back. That’s not just on game day. It is all the time.”

Selfish Element Gone
Yeskie said that the selfish element of players is tossed aside when they become true teammates who care for each other.

“It takes the singular focus away from it. It isn’t about you anymore. It is about your teammates.”

Oregon State’s baseball sports information director Hank Hager has been tracking quality starts by OSU pitchers for years.

He defines a quality start as three earned runs or less in six or more innings pitched in a start.

Since 2011, the numbers have been revealing:

2011: 23 quality starts in 60 games (38.3 percent)
2012: 29 quality starts in 60 games (48.3 percent)
2013: 39 quality starts in 65 games (60 percent)
2014: 41 quality starts in 59 games (69.4 percent)
2015: 36 quality starts in 57 games (63.1 percent)
2016: 24 quality starts in 53 games (45.2 percent)
2017: 39 quality starts in 62 games (62.9 percent)
Total: 231 quality starts in 416 games (55.5 percent)

To read more of this article, purchase the Jan. 5, 2018 edition of Collegiate Baseball which is the 2018 College Preview edition or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. Yeskie delves into why being brutally honest with pitchers is essential, why constantly educating yourself as a coach is crucial, utilizing video and why this tool can be great or bad for pitchers.

He also explains why getting back to basics is important when everything hits the fan, the importance of catchers, why the game doesn’t change. . .only the variables a bit, how Oregon St. prepares for opponents, the value of utilizing pitchers with many different skill sets, his recruiting philosophy and much more.

Past CB Pitching Coaches of Year

  • 2016: Jason Dietrich, Oregon
  • 2015: Alan Dunn, Louisiana St.
  • 2014: Karl Kuhn, Virginia
  • 2013: Nate Yeskie, Oregon St.
  • 2012: Shaun Cole, Arizona
  • 2011: Phil Cundari, Seton Hall
  • 2010: Mark Calvi, South Carolina
  • 2009: Jerry Weinstein, Colorado Rockies
  • 2008: Scott Forbes, North Carolina
  • 2007: Dan Spencer, Oregon St.
  • 2006: Gordie Alderink, Grand Valley St.
  • 2005: Tom Holliday, Texas
  • 2004: Derek Johnson, Vanderbilt
  • 2003: Mark McQueen, Va. Commonwealth