Ace Mike Stutes Has Excelled At Oregon State

May 2, 2007

By Casey Grogan OSU Daily Barometer

May 2, 2007

Corvallis, OR (CSTV U-WIRE) -- A year at Santa Clara and a year in the shadows at Oregon State has allowed pitcher Mike Stutes to do a couple of things: learn from the best and grow up.

While Lake Oswego High School is now known as the school of Kevin Love, a few years ago it was Stutes who was the big name in the Lakers' halls. The 17-year-old senior was already a dominant force on the hill for the school's baseball team, but entering that fall his focus was elsewhere.

In the fall of 2003, Stutes stood behind center as an all-league quarterback while taking recruiting calls regarding baseball. The constant bombardment of calls from college coaches led Stutes to make a quick decision. Stutes decided on Santa Clara and looked forward to being away from home and going his own way.

'It started to stress me out so I kind of jumped the decision of Santa Clara,' Stutes said.

'It was the first school I felt comfortable with so I said 'alright I'm going there.' By senior year it felt like I was getting everything handed to me, so I felt it would be good to get out of my comfort zone. Spending a whole year away from home never being able to come home, it was a good experience for me.'

As his final year at Lake Oswego wound down, Stutes was helping to lead his baseball team into the playoffs. Stutes dominated the Three Rivers League, leading the Lakers to the conference title. It was an obvious that head coach Jake Anders would allow Stutes to pitch his way to a state title.

'When we were on our stretch run in 2004 he was lights out,' Anders said. 'He pitched an 18 strikeout, no-hitter against Wilson in the first round and 10-2 game against Gresham in the third round. In the semi's against South Salem he did not have his best stuff but still kept them to three runs. In the final he was just lights out.'

After winning a 4A state title, Stutes added Player of the Year honors to his resume and was set to join Santa Clara for his first year of college baseball. Despite pitching in only 11 games for the Broncos, Stutes was third on the team in strikeouts. As a high school pitcher, Stutes overpowered younger hitters with his fastball and baffled them with his breaking ball. With the Broncos, his strikeout total was spread over all 11 games.

After being granted a release from his scholarship, Stutes was recruited once again by colleges around the country. A connection with players on the OSU roster and a desire to play for a top team, Stutes walked through the open door provided by Beavers head coach Pat Casey.

'I was excited, once he got his release he was like a recruit again,' Casey said. 'It's just like recruiting him again. I was 0-for-1 and I didn't want to go 0-for-2, so I was happy and he is happy. I've got a lot of respect for what he's done since he's been here.'

Upon his return to Oregon State, it became apparent that Stutes would have to earn his way with the Beavers. On a pitching staff led by Dallas Buck and Jonah Nickerson, Stutes was slipped into the three-spot in the rotation. Stutes excellence on the field earned him respect from his fellow teammates and a nomination for Newcomer of the Year at last year's Benny Awards.

One of the pitchers that Stutes was excited to be around was former Three Rivers League rival Jonah Nickerson. The former Oregon City pitcher had matched up against Stutes through out their high school careers and Stutes was eager to learn from the pitcher that had beaten him so many times.

'Even when playing against him in high school I'd watch him pitch and try to take some of the stuff he does and try to incorporate some of that into my game,' Stutes said. 'With Jonah, you didn't even need to pitch; you could just sit there and listen to what he says and see the set up for how he gets ready for games.'

On a staff with Buck and Nickerson, Stutes was able to learn from the older arms and see what it meant to be a Beaver pitcher. With the two starters and closer Kevin Gunderson around allowed Stutes see how to prepare for games and how to lead his team even when not on the mound.

'Last year I would be asking guys 'what are we doing next in practice?'' Stutes said. 'Now it's instinctive from watching Gunderson, Dallas and Jonah and how they handled the younger guys. I try and do the same things they did.'

In the process of maturing on the field and becoming a team leader, Stutes' pitching has not suffered. His stats have actually gotten better, especially his strikeout total. Stutes is returning to his form from Lake Oswego where he earned plenty of outs off of three strikes. At last seasons end, Stutes had 77 total strikeouts. With a full month of the regular season schedule left this year, Stutes has already reached the 77-strikeout mark.

'The coaches are always telling me to slow down and pitch to early contact, get the ground ball,' Stutes said. 'That is something I've been trying to do and because of that my strikeouts have increased but also my ERA has gone way down, innings pitched way up, hits way down and walks way down. I'm a better pitcher throwing the way I am now, but I'm more then comfortable striking guys out.'

Stutes has proved he can be a student of the game, but most importantly, he is a competitor. Whether it is a game of H.O.R.S.E. with Anders in the high school gym or squaring off against the top arms in the Pac-10, Stutes is confident that he will get the win and help his team.

'He has a great deal of confidence which really helps our team,' relief pitcher Mark Grbavac said. 'You want your Friday guy to go out there knowing he is going to win and knowing he is the best guy.'

All that confidence has helped Stutes to a 9-1 record this season. Stutes' success is not a surprise to those who have followed his career or to his teammates and coaches. Former teammates realizing that this would be Stutes' year are more than happy to hear that their former teammate is stepping into his role with plenty of confidence.

'At the end of our season last year, I knew he was going to be the Friday starter,' Nickerson said. 'If he had been on any other pitching staff in the country he would have been the Friday starter last year and would have done just fine. I have pitched against Mike ever since we were in high school, so I've known what a great pitcher he is and it does not surprise me.'

'Mike obviously was good enough to start Friday nights last year for us but was behind Dallas and Jonah,' Gunderson said. 'He has thrown the ball well this year and I wish him the best of success this year.'

(C) 2007 OSU Daily Barometer via CSTV U-WIRE

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