For the first time since Kevin Abel underwent Tommy John Surgery 22 months ago, the right-hander made his long-awaited return to the mound as the Oregon State baseball team took on Kansas State in its home opener on Friday.
But it wasn’t the outcome the Beavers standout could have hoped for on his 22nd birthday.
Behind the dominance of left-hander Jordan Wicks, K-State outscored the Beavers 3-2 in the season opener of the Sanford Ford College Baseball Classic in Surprise, Arizona. Oregon State starts the season 0-1 and dropped its season opener for the first time since 2011.
Abel suffered just the second loss of his career after striking out seven in 4 2/3 innings in the opener. He gave up one hit with two walks, and allowed two runs, one of which was earned, and had 79 pitches.
While the Beavers may have been upstaged by the Wildcats on Friday, Abel is officially back for the first time since March 1, 2019 when he led the Beavers to a 9-2 runaway victory over Western Virginia while matching a career-high 11 strikeouts in six innings of work.
Days after that performance, the then-sophomore righty announced he would undergo Tommy John surgery to repair his right elbow.
“Upon my return to throwing, we discovered some forearm tightness after throwing a couple bullpens,” Abel said. “Went and got that checked out, had an MRI and the reason why it’s taken so long to figure it out is I went and saw specialists. I really wanted to make sure I’m making the right decision as far as making sure I can play baseball as long as I can."
Abel heroically led the Beavers to their third-ever College World Series as a 19-year-old with a 5-0 win over Arkansas. Abel threw a complete shutout in one of the best games in CWS history and had 129 pitches through the game.
Now that Abel is back and at full strength, he’ll have an opportunity to remind the nation that he’s still the hero we all witnessed on the 2018 national championship squad.
Next up, the Beavers will look for their first win of the young season on Saturday at 11 a.m vs. New Mexico as the Sanford Ford College Baseball Classic continues.