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Baseball: South Forsyth alum Ben Ferrer finds home at Oregon State, eyes CWS title
South Forsyth's Ben Ferrer throws a pitch against Lambert on Friday, March 18, 2018. - photo by Ben Hendren

Ben Ferrer had a decision to make following his freshman year at USC Upstate.

As a senior at South Forsyth, he had successfully navigated the perils of college recruiting, then followed that up with an impressive spring with the War Eagles. Ferrer then fell right in with the Spartans, pitching 30 1/3 innings across 15 appearances during a productive rookie season. 

But how far did he really want to take his baseball career?

"There's a lot of kids that go play college baseball, and you really have to decide how committed you are to it," Ferrer said. "A lot of people stop playing after a year or so and just kind of go through the motions throughout their college career. So, I really decided, after my freshman year especially, that this is something I want to do and love to do, so I started taking it more seriously. I got in the weight room and took that way more seriously. I just decided this is something I want to do for a long time."

It didn't take long for that decision to bear fruit. 

He dazzled in his sophomore debut, pitching 7 1/3 innings and striking out 13 batters in a win against Long Island University. A week later, he collected his second victory in as many tries and was off to a roaring start. 

Then the season was canceled. 

"Yeah, when the 2020 season got canceled I was on a pretty good roll," Ferrer said. "Obviously, it sucks for a little bit but then just got back to work over that COVID summer, went back to school and trained even harder for the upcoming season, because I knew what was ahead."

What was immediately ahead for the Spartans was a 37-win season, but even further up the road for Ferrer was a chance to parlay his experience at USC Upstate into a chance to play for one of the nation's top programs.

Ferrer committed to Oregon State following that season, signing with a Beavers program that is 44-15 and reached the Pac-12 Tournament championship on Sunday, rising to No. 2 in the country earlier this month.

Ferrer is a large part of that success. Through 55 1/3 innings pitched this season, Ferrer is 4-0 with a 1.79 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 21 appearances, emerging as one of the team's top options out of the bullpen.

Ferrer was a starting pitcher in high school, posting a 1.84 ERA and 76 strikeouts across 64 2/3 innings — he also hit .421 with 16 doubles at the plate — but has made the transition to reliever in college.

"I love it. There's no better real adrenaline rush out there that I've found," Ferrer said. "Just coming into high-pressure situation games when the team needs you most and I can be my best."

Ferrer didn't give up a single run through his first five appearances with Oregon State, which included an outing against UC Irvine when he pitched 3 1/3 innings of hitless relief with seven strikeouts.

It was the first of 17 scoreless appearances made by Ferrer this season.

"It was a big part. It's a new team, so you've got to show what you can do a little bit," Ferrer said. "I wouldn't say there's very much pressure to it. There are high expectations here at Oregon State, and there's a reason I came here. I didn't come across the whole country to come to a mediocre program. I came to be the best, and I truly believe we are the best. So, I don't really think there's much pressure; it's just the high expectations of winning a national championship."

If Oregon State does win a championship, it would be the second straight year that a South Forsyth alum has led his team to a national title [Landon Sims won a national championship with Mississippi State in 2021].

The two helped South to a Region 5-7A championship and an appearance in the Class 7A Sweet 16 in 2018.

"We ended up going 14-1 in region play that year, and a lot of it was accredited to when you have two people on your staff by the name of Ben Ferrer and Landon Sims, it makes a big difference," South coach Russ Bayer said. "Ben was just the same way he is now — uber competitive, extremely intense competitor. Just extremely efficient on the mound. Almost every last one of his starts he went deep in games for us, mainly because he was a strike-thrower and went right after guys."

Perfect Game rated Ferrer as a top-500 player in high school, but he surprisingly wasn't heavily recruited. According to Ferrer, USC Upstate was his only Division I offer.

Bayer estimates that has more to do with baseball's fascination with arm speed rather than Ferrer's ability to pitch effectively.

"That was, I think, one of the factors that kind of was taboo, because he wasn't a guy who was in the low 90s — at least he wasn't as of yet," Bayer said. "In our eyes, it didn't matter. He was a pitcher, not necessarily a thrower. He understood how to pitch, always filled the zone and had three plus pitches. Whether he was 84, 88 or 94, it didn't really matter. Those secondary pitches made that fastball that much better.

"Unlike most throwers, he understands pitching, understands sequences behind it and was able to read hitters. I'm very confident that a lot of his success — other than the fact that he's just naturally developed and gotten better — is because he's so cognitive on the mound. He always a step ahead of those hitters."

Ferrer's development in college has made him that much better of a pitcher. He earned first-team Pac-12 honors last week, and his microscopic 0.76 WHIP [walks and hits per innings pitched] is among the best in the entire nation.

As impressive as he's been during his debut with the Beavers, Ferrer is the first to admit that the part of the season he's most looking forward to has yet to happen. 

"I'm really looking forward to hosting Regionals and Super Regionals here in Corvallis," Ferrer said. "There's nothing better than playing at home in front of our fans. Then Omaha after that, and we know what's there: Win a national championship."