OSU Announces Baseball Signings

July 30, 2002

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State has added 11 players to its 2001-02 baseball recruiting class during the spring/summer signing period, OSU head coach Pat Casey announced Tuesday. Joining the Beaver program in the fall will be righthanded pitcher Ben Bracelin (Portland, Ore./Madison HS, Mt. Hood CC), infielder Tony Calderon (Orange, Calif./El Modeno HS, Santa Ana JC), shortstop Tyler Graham (Great Falls, Mont./C.M. Russell HS), shortstop Mark Jackson (Sacramento, Calif./Del Campo HS), lefthanded pitcher Todd Merz (Laguna Beach, Calif./Laguna Beach HS); righthanded pitcher Bryan Millikan (Olympia, Wash./Black Hills HS); catcher Billy Munich (El Macero, Calif./Jesuit HS); infielder Scott Nelson (Eugene, Ore./North Eugene HS); lefthanded pitcher and infielder Nathan Pendley (Albany, Ore./West Albany HS, Linn-Benton CC); infielder Robert Recuenco (Vancouver, B.C./St. Thomas Moore Collegiate HS, North Idaho JC) and righthanded pitcher Kurt Steele (Corvallis, Ore./Crescent Valley HS).

Those players join two OSU signees from last fall - outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (Madras, Ore./Madras HS) and shortstop/righthanded pitcher Cole Gillespie (West Linn, Ore./West Linn HS).

'We had some holes we wanted to fill,' Casey said. 'We lost several guys in our infield (to graduation and the Major League baseball draft), and they were guys who'd played a lot of baseball for us. We were able to go out and get good athletes; these are guys who are going to be good players in our program.

'We've also got a lot of returning players next season, so we should have a good mix. Most of the guys we signed are coming out of high school and this promises to be a great opportunity for them.'

OSU was 31-23 last season, winning at least 30 games for the fifth time in the last seven seasons.

Bracelin was a second-team all-league selection for Mt. Hood this spring. He was 5-0 with a 2.07 earned run average with 45 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings pitched.

'Ben is a junior college guy who we feel has great potential,' Casey said. 'He could fill a role out of the bullpen for us; he could be a setup guy or give us innings in the middle of a game.'

Bracelin, who is deciding on a field of study, said of choosing OSU: 'Oregon State was the most persistent in recruiting me. They were always calling, watching me throw and things like that.'

Calderon was a first-team all-league pick and a junior college All-America selection as a freshman at Santa Ana, and was second-team all-league as a sophomore despite fighting a hamstring injury during the season. As a freshman, he batted .327 with seven homers and 45 runs batted in and he managed a .317 batting average and .925 fielding percentage as a sophomore.

'Tony is one of the few junior college players we went after, and we went after him with a purpose' Casey said of Calderon, who was drafted in the 22nd round by the Chicago Cubs out of high school. 'We think he can come in and be an impact guy in the Pac-10. He's got great leadership qualities, he can hit, he can field and he runs well.'

Calderon had signed with Oklahoma a year ago but did not play for the Sooners last season.

'I felt really comfortable with Pat Casey,' said Calderon, who may study Sociology at OSU. 'He contacted me first of anyone and stayed with me through the whole recruiting process. He just promoted his own program and why I should go to Oregon State, and he didn't knock the other programs. I felt comfortable with him and heard a lot of good things about him; my coach at OU (Larry Cochell) said he felt it would be a perfect fit for me.

'I think Pat Casey and I have a lot in common - how we think about the game, how we think it should be played. We're like the same person, from talking with him. He likes hard-nosed players and guys who get after it, who aren't worried about their individual success; I'm much more in it as a team guy. Everybody is going to be seen if your team is successful.'

Graham did not play high school baseball; Montana's interscholastic athletic association does not sponsor the sport. However, the American Legion season begins in April and includes over 70 games per season. For the Great Falls Stallions in 2001, Graham was named the team's Most Valuable Player after batting .417 with 20 doubles, five triples, one home run and 48 runs batted in while going 37-for-38 on stolen base attempts; through July 10 this season, Graham was batting .430 with six doubles, two triples, 34 RBIs and is 45-for-48 on stolen bases while striking out just four times in 42 games.

'Tyler is a very good athlete,' Casey said. 'We feel he could play more than one position in our program.'

Graham plans to study Business at Oregon State.

'I was thinking of going to a junior college,' Graham said. 'But this was a chance to get into a good four-year program and I thought it would be a good opportunity.'Jackson was first team all-league and first team all-city for Del Campo this spring, batting .416 with 10 doubles, four triples, two homers, 25 runs batted in and 22 stolen bases.

'Mark has been a very successful high school player,' Casey said. 'He's a good athlete who can play the infield. He was a shortstop in high school, and he's got a chance to be a very good offensive player for us.'

Jackson, who is considering studying Business, said of choosing OSU: 'Their baseball field is awesome. It's in the Pac-10, and I liked the small-town, homey atmosphere. I'm looking forward to it.'

Merz was named first team all-league and was selected for an all-star tournament featuring the top players from four Southern California leagues; he was also named Laguna Beach Athlete of the Year by the Orange County Register. He had a 5-3 record with a 2.41 earned run average and 59 strikeouts in 47 innings; he also batted .433 with eight doubles, five homers and 21 RBIs.

'Todd has shown command of three pitches and we're hoping he can grow into a middle relief role as a freshman, then throw significant innings for us as a sophomore and junior,' Casey said.

Merz, who may study Communications, said of opting for OSU: 'When I went up there on my visit, it was just a great atmosphere. The coaches are all great people and I really respect them. I just really liked the area and the people.'

Millikan was 7-1 with a 0.14 earned run average this spring for Black Hills, allowing just one earned run in 50 innings of work; he gave up just 16 hits and 14 walks while striking out 80. Millikan was named to the state all-star squad for the Washington-Oregon All-Star Series; he was also selected for the Washington all-star series and earned first team all-league honors. He was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 18th round of this year's Major League Baseball draft.

'He's a high school pitcher with a great upside,' Casey said. 'He's got good size (6-foot-5, 190 pounds) with tremendous potential to get stronger. He's just going to be a quality student-athlete to have in our program. He has the potential to make an impact here as a freshman.'

Millikan, who plans to study Business, said of choosing OSU: 'Coach Casey came and talked with me and my family, then I visited the school ... the campus is incredible, I liked all the coaches - everything just seemed to click for me there.'

Munich batted .372 with eight doubles, three triples, one homer, 38 RBIs and a pair of stolen bases this spring to help Jesuit to a league title; Jesuit also won the sectional champion during Munich's junior season. As a senior, Munich was first-team all-league and second team all-city.

'We were looking for a freshman catcher, and we felt Billy fits into our plans well,' Casey said. 'He's someone who can come in and develop; we wanted to make sure we had someone with the potential to be a quality catcher here who could develop with the guys we have coming in.'

Munich, who plans to study Construction Engineering and Business Management at OSU said of his choice: 'Corvallis is a lot like (nearby) Davis - it's a really nice small city, and I liked that.'

Nelson was a first team all-league and first team all-state pick this spring for North Eugene. He batted .516 with five homers, five doubles and 20 runs batted in despite missing approximately half the season with a hand injury.

'Scott is having a great summer offensively (in American Legion baseball),' Casey said. 'He has the ability to play a lot of positions, and he's a real offensive threat.'

Nelson, who is considering studying Health and Human Performance, said of selecting OSU: 'It was because of Oregon State's facilities, and the Pacific-10 is good competition.'

Pendley was second team all-region pick as a utility player this spring. On the mound, he had a 2-3 record with a 3.64 earned run average and 39 strikeouts in 47 innings; at the plate, he batted .260 with 8 homers and 30 runs batted in.

'Nathan has some power potential, and he also has the ability to pitch,' Casey said. 'He could be a two-way guy for us, and he could have a key role on our ballclub.'

Pendley, who plans to study Business, said of his choice: 'It's close to home so my family can still watch me play.'

Recuenco batted .336 with six doubles, two triples, 17 runs batted in and eight stolen bases this spring.

'Robert has good speed, and we're looking to increase our team speed,' Casey said. 'He can definitely help us out in that area.'

Recuenco, who is considering studying Exercise and Sport Science, said of choosing OSU: 'I visited there and the baseball stadium is great, the players seemed cool and the campus looked really nice.'

Steele was first team all-state and league player of the year this spring. He was taken in the 31st round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Chicago Cubs, and was selected for the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars that helps determine the United States Junior National Team. On the mound this spring, he had a 8-2 record with a 1.01 earned run average and 146 strikeouts in 90.0 innings; at the plate, he batted .427 with 1 homers and 30 runs batted in.

'We're very high on Kurt,' Casey said. 'He has the ability to come in as a freshman and have in impact on our program. He's got good mental toughness and the makeup to fit into our program; we're excited about his potential. And it's always important to us to keep the good local talent here at home - Kurt will be the latest in a long line of high school players from Corvallis to come to Oregon State and contribute to its baseball success.'

Steele selected OSU early in the recruiting process.

'I'd decided by December that I wanted to stay in the state,' Steele said. 'Oregon State was always where I'd wanted to go because I'd grown up in town and watched them play. I didn't really look anywhere else; I was just hoping that OSU would come through and it did.'

OREGON STATE BASEBALL SIGNINGS - SPRING/SUMMER, 2002

Ben Bracelin, RHP; Portland, Ore. (Madison HS/Mt. Hood CC)

Second team all-league in 2002

Had 5-0 record, 2.07 ERA, 65.1 innings, 45 strikeouts in 2002

Tony Calderon, IF; Orange, Calif. (El Modeno HS/Santa Ana JC)

Second team all-league in 2001

Batted .317 in 2001

Tyler Graham, SS; Great Falls, Mont. (C.M. Russell HS)

(Montana does not have high school baseball; Graham played American Legion baseball)

Batted .417 with 20 doubles, 5 triples, 1 homer, 48 RBIs, 37 stolen bases in 2001; 2002 season still in progress

Mark Jackson, SS; Sacramento, Calif. (Del Campo HS)

First team all-league, first team all-city in 2002

Batted .416 with 10 doubles, 4 triples, 2 homers, 25 RBIs, 22 stolen bases in 2002

Todd Merz, LHP; Laguna Beach, Calif. (Laguna Beach HS)

First team all-league in 2002

Had 5-3 record, 2.41 ERA, 47 innings, 59 strikeouts; batted .433 with 8 doubles, 5 homers, 21 RBIs in 2002

Bryan Millikan, RHP; Olympia, Wash. (Black Hills HS)

State all-star team, first team all-league in 2002; drafted in 18th round by San Francisco Giants

Had 7-1 record, 0.14 ERA, 50.0 innings, 80 strikeouts in 2002

Billy Munich, C; El Macero, Calif. (Jesuit HS, Sacramento)

First team all-league, second team all-city in 2002

Batted .372 with 8 doubles, 3 triples, 1 homer, 38 RBIs in 2002

Scott Nelson, IF; Eugene, Ore. (North Eugene HS)

First team all-state in 2002

Batted .516 with 5 doubles, 5 homers, 20 RBIs in 2002 (missed half of season with hand injury)

Nathan Pendley, LHP/IF; Albany, Ore. (West Albany HS/Linn-Benton CC)

Second team all-league in 2002

Had 2-3 record, 3.64 ERA, 47 innings, 39 strikeouts; batted .260 with 8 homers, 30 RBIs in 2002

Robert Recuenco, IF; Vancouver, B.C. (St. Thomas Moore Collegiate HS/North Idaho JC)

Batted .336 with 6 doubles, 2 triples, 17 RBIs, 8 stolen bases in 2002

Kurt Steele, RHP; Corvallis, Ore. (Crescent Valley HS)

First team all-state, league player of the year in 2002; drafted in 31st round by Chicago Cubs

Had 8-2 record, 1.01 ERA, 90.0 innings, 146 strikeouts; batted .427 with 7 doubles, 4 triples, 1 homers, 30 RBIs in 2002

OREGON STATE BASEBALL SIGNINGS - FALL, 2001

Jacoby Ellsbury, OF; Madras, Ore. (Madras HS)

First team all-state, league co-player of the year in 2002; drafted in 23rd round by Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Batted .430 with 9 doubles, 4 triples, 3 homers, 20 RBIs, 29-for-29 stolen bases in 2002

Cole Gillespie, SS/RHP; West Linn, Ore. (West Linn HS)

First team all-state, league co-player of the year in 2002

Had 5-2 record, 0.76 ERA, 46 innings, 42 strikeouts; batted .532 with 7 doubles, 3 triples, 6 homers, 19 RBIs in 2002

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