Ryne Nelson let out a yell of triumph as he strode off the mound. The reason? He had just struck out the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft, Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, with a 100 mph fastball to strand the bases loaded.
“That was really cool. Their guy versus our guy — big on big,” Oregon third baseman Spencer Steer said. “That was going to decide the ballgame. I had 100 percent confidence Nelly would get him out.”
At 6-foot-3, Nelson has an intimidating presence on the mound. He glares at opposing teams’ hitters, covering everything but his eyes with his glove until he delivers each pitch. That competitive spirit is what drives Nelson each and every day.
“It’s what you live for,” Nelson said. “That is the kind of situation you want to put yourself in. Face the best, and prove yourself against the best.”
Nelson, a junior from Henderson, Nevada, has been the Ducks most consistent performer on the mound. Having bounced around his first two years, including playing some shortstop last season, year three has had him solely focus on the mound.
In addition to his fastball and curveball combination, Nelson has developed a cutter as his outpitch this season.
“I’m really liking how that is coming along,” Nelson said.
No matter the role, Nelson has dominated opposing hitters, striking out 102 batters, including a season high 12 against Oregon State on May 11, even though he has switched between starter, middle reliever and closer. He is only the third pitcher in the modern era of Oregon baseball (2009-present) to surpass 100 strikeouts. The other two are David Peterson and Tyler Anderson, who were first round picks in the MLB draft.
“He is a very unselfish player and great team guy,” head coach George Horton said. “I would have liked to see his junior year unscathed, health wise, and then with a complete pitching staff, he probably could have pitched where he belonged.”
In addition to the two former first rounders for the Ducks, there are two major leaguers that Nelson enjoys watching pitch: Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard of the New York Mets.
“Those are a couple of lights out guys, and are out there touching high 90s and doing it for the whole game,” Nelson said. “I wish I could do that. That would be pretty fun.”
While citing that he still has a few improvements to make in his game, Nelson is arguably a first round selection come the MLB amatuer draft on June 3, but he tries to remain focused on his task at hand.
“It definitely crosses my mind,” Nelson said on the upcoming draft. “I talk to a lot of scouts and it’s hard not to think about it. But right now, definitely focused in on the team. And if this is my last year, I want to end with the team fighting and win something.”