Kyle Ottoson's college career should be over.
It should have ended in an Arizona State uniform. It should have ended in Austin, Texas. It should have ended 10 months ago.
But, nearly a year after the fact, Ottoson isn't fresh off his first spring training, working his way through the minor leagues.
No, the left-hander is now a key member of Oklahoma State's rotation, preparing for a return trip to Texas this weekend as one of only three Cowboys to play in the Big 12's biggest park.
And when he takes the mound for Saturday's start, center stage in the stadium his college career was thought to have already climaxed, Ottoson's strange 10-month ride will come full circle.
ASU-Texas in last year's Super Regional. Series tied 1-1. Winner gets a coveted spot in the College World Series.
With the season on the line, Ottoson was handed the ball.
“At Texas with that hostile crowd, it was great to get that start,” Ottoson said. “A good experience for sure.”
He did his job, pitching into the fourth inning and leaving with a 2-1 lead.
“Yeah, I had just given up just that one run,” Ottoson said. “But coach planned to split the game in half with another lefty.”
Texas rallied for three runs, ASU's bats went silent and the Longhorns won 4-2, punching a ticket to Omaha.
That was June 12, five days after he was drafted in the 24th round by the Washington Nationals. That was supposed to be the last game of Kyle Ottoson's collegiate career.
“Everyone was saying, your junior year is your year to go,” Ottoson said. “Take your money and run your junior year.”
But things got complicated. Washington lowballed its offer, knowing Ottoson was eager to sign. Normally, the threat of returning to college can be a large bargaining chip, but not this time. The Nationals knew he didn't want to return to Arizona State. No junior would.
The Sun Devils just lost their appeal of recent NCAA violations, and the baseball program was under three-year probation, including a postseason ban for the 2012 season, Ottoson's would-be senior year.
Ten ASU juniors were drafted. Only Ottoson didn't sign.
“I didn't like the offer I got from the Nationals,” Ottoson said. “And I didn't want to go back to Arizona State knowing they weren't going to be in the postseason.”
So it was a summer in limbo, pitching in the famed Cape Cod League with a distracted mind.
While being announced to crowds as a Sun Devil, Ottoson was frantically searching for his new home.
“It was a weird situation,” Ottoson said. “I was just trying to figure out if I could transfer without sitting out a year.”
The NCAA was stalling with its answer, so Ottoson made a gut decision.
Oklahoma State had always intrigued the Greeley, Colo., native. He said it was between OSU and ASU out of junior college.
So he got in contact with the Cowboy coaching staff and said he wanted to transfer.
Wasn't a tough answer for coach Frank Anderson.
Ottoson was 27-15 with a 2.18 ERA in junior college. He was 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA in his only year at ASU. When a proven starter falls in your lap, you take advantage.
“I had never really seen him pitch live,” Anderson said. “He's a guy that's been drafted four times, started a Super Regional game. So we felt like we were getting a staple in our weekend rotation.”
After a grueling three-week waiting period, which included morning classes and afternoon calls to the OSU compliance office, Ottoson was finally informed that the one-year transfer rule would be waived.
Good for him. Great for OSU.
Over the past month, Ottoson has been the Cowboys' most consistent and effective starter, throwing seven-plus innings in four consecutive starts.
His 2-4 record is misleading, since OSU scored seven combined runs in his four losses. His 2.95 overall ERA and 2.13 conference ERA are a lot more telling.
“That record is not indicative of how he's pitched,” catcher Jared Womack said. “These last few starts he has been lights out. I've been impressed. I'm just glad we were able to get him.”