Canby grad leads Ducks bullpen
Down 6-4 in the ninth inning at Gonzaga, Nico Tellache begins getting loose in the bullpen as Oregon attempts to rally.
With one out and runners on second and third base, sophomore outfielder Tanner Smith hits a three-run homer to put the Ducks on top 7-6.
Tellache quickly warms up. His number has been called.
"When you're doing all the workouts, that's what you have in the back of your mind," Tellache says of closing a game. "It's a great honor. I never take it for granted."
Tellache, a lefty from Canby whose arsenal includes a low 90s fastball, changeup and slider, gives up a single to lead off the bottom of the ninth at Gonzaga, and then a two-out double.
With the tying run at third base and go-ahead runner at second, Tellache needs one more out to earn his fifth save of the 2019 season.
He is ready for this moment.
"It comes back to how you prepare, just trusting yourself and believing in yourself and just knowing that the preparation you did is going to lead you to success," Tellache says. "There's no reason to be nervous if you prepare well. Just go out there and have fun. Just focus on your breath and attack hitters and do what you've been doing since youth ball."
Tellache gets a ground ball to second base to preserve the 7-6 victory on April 15 in Spokane.
No Oregon pitcher appeared in more games than Tellache last spring, 28, all out of the bullpen. He led the Ducks with six saves and finished his junior year with a 4-1 record and 5.01 ERA. He struck out 39 batters and walked 23 in 32 1/3 innings.
Tellache was an all-state player his senior year at Canby, striking out 71 batters in 45 innings on the mound and hitting .482 with 13 doubles and four triples. But Tellache, who was also the starting quarterback on Canby's football team, put all of his attention into pitching once he arrived at Oregon.
"Hitting is twice as hard at this level," Tellache says. "I thought it was in my best interest just to focus on pitching and giving myself the best chance of playing here and getting to the next level. That's always what I wanted to do is be a pitcher, so when I got here it was a no brainer that's what I would do."
Tellache says he mostly spent his freshman year learning, getting stronger and developing his off-speed pitches. He threw a total of five innings over eight games.
"You think you know everything and you get here and holy cow, you've got a lot of work to do," Tellache says. "Your freshman year everything goes so fast, study hall and traveling and just the speed of the game itself. You're still 18 or 19 and you're playing against 21 and 22 year olds."
Tellache also went from starting in high school to working in relief at Oregon.
"Everyone that gets recruited here is probably the best player on their (high school) team, so they're probably starters," Tellache says. "Being a bullpen pitcher is just a whole different animal, getting your body ready to go multiple times a week off the mound, it's something that you have to learn and you need to know your body and how to prepare well. I had a lot of older guys that were great mentors teaching me the game and learning routines and all that good stuff."
Tellache appeared in 22 games during his sophomore year before becoming one of the Ducks' closers in 2019.
With the departure of Ryne Nelson, who after leading the Pac-12 with 104 strikeouts was selected in the second round of the MLB Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Tellache could earn more save opportunities in 2020.
"I hope to get a lot more (saves) in my career here," Tellache says. "We've got a lot of guys returning and a lot of guys with experience."
The Ducks also have an all new coaching staff as Mark Wasikowski replaces George Horton. Wasikowski, a former Oregon assistant from 2011-16, helped recruit Tellache before leaving to become the head coach at Purdue.
"He's a great guy," Tellache says. "I'm super excited to play for him."
Tellache is getting his bachelor's degree in political science and taking summer classes, so he can graduate before next baseball season. He is thinking about going to law school. There is also the 2020 MLB Draft to consider.
"I'm hoping I get that opportunity," Tellache says of playing baseball professionally. "We'll see how this year goes. If I just stay healthy and throw strikes, I think I've got a good opportunity of doing that."
Before he graduates, Tellache also wants to help turn the Oregon baseball program back around.
The Ducks have missed the postseason the last three years after qualifying for a regional in four of the previous five seasons, and advancing to the super regionals in 2012.
"I'm really just excited to get this year going and make it to a regional and make it to Omaha and play for some championships," Tellache says. "Put the program back on the right track before I leave. That's really important to everyone coming back."
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