Baseball Opens Season At Defending Champ Fresno State
Feb. 16, 2009
THIS WEEKEND: The Washington baseball team (33-22 overall, 11-13 in the Pac-10 last season) opens the 2009 season this weekend with a three-game series at defending NCAA champion Fresno State (47-31 overall, 21-11 in the WAC in 2008). It will be the first game action for the Bulldogs since their unlikely run to the College World Series championship last year. Fresno State lost a game at each step of the postseason and were one loss from elimination six times before beating Georgia for the title. The Bulldogs are ranked in several preseason polls: No. 16 by Collegiate Baseball, No. 17 by the NCBWA, and No. 19 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll. Washington received votes in the Collegiate Baseball and USA Today preseason polls, but are unranked. The season gets underway Friday night with a sold-out game at 6:00 p.m. PST. On Saturday, game time is 2:00 p.m. and the series wraps up Sunday with a 1:00 p.m. game. The Huskies will send senior right-hander Jorden Merry to the mound for the opener. Senior lefty Tyler Cheney will start Saturday's game and senior righty Jason Erickson will take the hill on Sunday. The following weekend, the Huskies travel to Minneapolis for the Dairy Queen Classic, where they'll face Minnesota, Hawai'i and UC Santa Barbara in the Metrodome. The home slate gets underway March 3-4 when Oregon, resuming its program for the first time since 1981, visits for a two-game, non-Pac-10 series. Here's a look at this weekend's action:
Fri., Feb. 20: UW at Fresno State, 6:00 p.m. PST
Sat., Feb. 21: UW at Fresno State, 2:00 p.m. PST
Sun., Feb. 22: UW at Fresno State, 1:00 p.m. PST
BROADCASTS ON THE WEB: Fans can catch live audio of every Husky road game and live video (with audio) of every home game this season via 'The Dawg Channel' at gohuskies. The cost to sign up for the entire season is just $9.95. Additionally, 20 games will be broadcast on live radio on KKNW AM-1150. Those 20 broadcasts, all of them Pac-10 Conference games, get underway with the series at Stanford, March 27-29. For more information, go to www.gohuskies.com and go to the audio/video streaming link under 'Multimedia.' Specific sign-up information for the baseball season package will be up later this week.
COACH 'K': In 2004, Husky baseball coach Ken Knutson became the winningest baseball coach in the history of the program. In 2007, he became only the 17th coach in Pac-10 history to reach 500 career wins. Last year, he became the winningest coach in any sport in UW history. Those are just a few of the many accomplishments on Knutson's impressive resume. In his 16 seasons at the helm of his alma mater's baseball team, Knutson has led the Dawgs to two Pac-10 championships, four Pac-10 Northern Division titles and six NCAA Regionals. His career record now stands at 559-369-2 (.602). Before becoming the head man in 1993, Knutson served as the UW pitching coach for eight seasons. In 1985, his staff led the NCAA with a 2.80 ERA. Knutson holds a 290-128-2 (.693) record in home games. He is 227-175 (.565) in Pac-10 games. He's coached 55 first-team All-Pac-10 selections in 16 seasons, and has been named league coach of the year three times. A 1981 All-Pac-10 pitcher at the UW, he is joined by assistants Joe Ross, Tighe Dickinson, Kevin Miller and Josh Scofield.
OPENING VS. THE DEFENDING CHAMPS: Not surprisingly, the Huskies have never opened a season against the defending College World Series champions, as they will this weekend at Fresno State. However, thanks to being a member of the Pac-10 Conference, Washington has faced a defending NCAA champion in seven different seasons, including several times in the last decade. Most of the Huskies' games against defending champs prior to the last decade came vs. USC teams. Washington lost two to the Trojans in a conference playoff series in 1959, the year after USC had won the '58 CWS title. In 1967, the Dawgs lost one game to Ohio State, which had won it all the previous year. The Huskies also lost three to the Trojans in 1969 and two in 1971. The Huskies picked up their first-ever victory vs. a defending champion in 1999, the first year that the old Pac-10 Northern and Southern Divisions had been merged into one league. The Huskies went to L.A. that year and won the middle game of a three-game series on the second-to-last weekend of the season. Most recently, the Dawgs have played Oregon State following the Beavers' national titles in 2006 and 2007. Two seasons ago in Seattle, the Huskies won two of three vs. OSU in Seattle (winning the first two of a three-game series). Last season, Washington won one of three (the middle game) in a series in Corvallis.
SERIES HISTORY: Washington and Fresno State have squared off the baseball diamond 11 times in their histories, with the Huskies winning six and losing five. Most recently, the Huskies took two of three in an early-season series in Fresno in 2002. The UW won the opener, 5-1 (a three-hitter from Shawn Kohn), lost the second, 13-9 (UW squandered a 6-0 lead) and won the third, 10-7. The first UW-FSU games came in the 1959 NCAA District 8 playoffs, when the Bulldogs won two of three to advance to the College World Series. In 1984, FSU beat the Huskies, 12-5, at the Best in the West Classic in Fresno. The teams met again in the 1992 NCAA West I Regional in Tucson, where the Huskies scored two in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Bulldogs, 4-3. In the second weekend of the 1997 season, Washington travelled to Fresno for a three-game series. The Huskies won the first two games, 7-4 and 8-6, beating future big leaguers Jeff Weaver and Adam Pettyjohn, before losing the finale, 4-2.
SQUAD BREAKDOWN: Washington's 35-man roster, like most college baseball rosters, is bit on the young side this year. Among the 35 players, there are six seniors, six juniors, 11 sophomores and 12 freshmen, meaning that 23 of 35 (66 percent) players are freshmen or sophomores. The squad includes 23 returners and 12 newcomers (all of them true frehsmen). The UW's returning players have competed in a total of 909 Husky baseball games. Thirteen different veteran position players have combined for 1,951 career at bats while returning pitchers have made 81 career starts and pitched 643.2 innings in a UW uniform.
ANOTHER TOUGH SCHEDULE: Each year, Washington boasts one of the toughest schedules in the season, if only by virture of playing the rigorous Pac-10 Conference. According to well-regarded college baseball website, boydsworld.com, the Huskies have the fourth-toughest schedule in the country, behind three other Pac-10 teams: UCLA, Stanford and California. The Huskies, of course, face the nine other Pac-10 teams (Oregon returns to Division I baseball this year). Three Pac-10 teams (Stanford, ARizona State and UCLA) were ranked in both the Baseball America and USA Today coaches' preseason polls. Oregon State was No. 25 in the BA ranking and also received votes in the coaches' poll, as did Arizona, UCLA and California. Additionaly, the Huskies open the season at defending College World Series champion Fresno State, also a ranked team. Additionally, the Dawgs play host to a tough UC Irvine program in non-conference play.
WASHINGTON'S TEAM: The Husky baseball roster has always been dominated by in-state players, as most college baseball rosters are. The squad consistently has about 90 percent of players from the state of Washington. For the second straight season, however, this year's squad consists entirely of student-athletes who played their high school ball in Washington. Not surprisingly, the majority of the team comes from western Washington as 29 of the 35 come from west of the Cascade Mountains. Thirteen players come from King County, the county in which the UW is located, and 27 of 30 come from King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, which, essentially, form the Seattle metropolitan area.
TRAINING ROOM: Washington lost two veteran players for the season due to Tommy John elbow surgery. Starting second baseman Bradley Boyer and catcher Max Kwan should return in 2010, but aren't on the roster in 2009, thanks to new NCAA roster limits. Other players who will miss at least the first portion of the coming season due to injury include: OF/DH Ty Rasmussen, P Cam Nobles, OF Sean Meehan, P J.D. Awald, P Matt Gorman.
POSITION PLAYER NOTES (in alphabetical order):
#1 David Bentrott, So. SS: Returning starter at shortstop ... started 40 games at shortstop as a freshman in 2008 ... leadoff-type hitter ... earned first-team all-league honors during summer ball, playing for the Bend (Ore.) Elks ... all-state shortstop, running back and punter in high school.
#15 Andy Bethel, Fr. IF: Will push for playing time at one of the middle infield spots ... batted .500 as a senior at Seattle Prep last year ... 3A all-state first-team selection.
#21 Caleb Brown, Fr. IF: Expected to contend for the starting job in center field ... earned 4A first-team all-state as a junior and senior at Central Kitsap High ... hit .507 as a senior ... drafted by the Red Sox in the 42nd round of the 2008 draft ... also unanimous all-state tight end.
#3 Doug Cherry, Jr. IF: Was limited at th start of last year with an injury ... fighting for starting spot at second base in 2009 ... started 11 games last season, second-team all-league during summer, playing for Corvallis (Ore.).
#29 Kyle Conley, RS-Jr. OF: Earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors last year after batting .337 with 19 homers and 57 RBI ... second in the Pac-10 in slugging and fourth in HRs in 2008 ... led UW in nearly every offense statistic ... drafted by the Dodgers in the 16th round of 2008 draft, but elected to return to college ... during summer, hit league-leading 8 HRs in regular season and then five more in six playoff games for the Newport (R.I.) Gulls ... along with fellow Husky Tyler Cheney, led Richland High to the 4A state title in 2005 ... all-state first-teamer as a senior OF and P in high school.
#37 Brendan Gardner-Young, So. OF: Left-handed hitter will contend for the starting spot in center field ... played in 15 games, starting one, last season ... second-team all-state at P and OF as a HS senior, when he was a Collegiate Baseball honorable mention All-American.
#28 Justin Gunn, Fr. IF/RHP: In the mix at third base and can also pitch ... spent last fall as a walkon quarterback on the UW football team ... standout baseball, football and basketball player at Renton ... four-year starting QB in high school.
#8 Kevin Komstadius, Fr. 1B: Earned 2A state player of the year honors at East Valley High in Yakima ... 10 homers and 50 RBI as a senior ... drafted by Pirates in 29th round ... father Kirk played JC baseball with Ken Knutson and was an All-American at Lewis-Clark State.
#4 Brady McGuire, Fr. C: In the mix at catcher ... didn't fully participate in fall ball due to injury, but is back and ready for the spring ... four-year letterman and two-time all-leaguer at Kentridge High.
#10 Sean Meehan, So. OF: A strong contender to start in any of the three outfield spots, but will miss start of the season after off-season surgery on left (non-throwing) shoulder ... solid freshman season in 2008, when he played in 32 games and bated .323 with four homers ... 2A all-state as a HS senior at Centralia HS ... drafted by Rangers in 2007.
#33 Julien Pollard, So. IF/OF: Potential starter at second base or in the outfield ... switch hitter ... played in 19 games, starting four, as a freshman last year ... second-team All-Jayhawk League during the summer, when he batted .340 for the Liberal (Kan.) Beejays, who were managed by former big-league manager Mike Hargrove.
#12 Pierce Rankin, So. C/IF: Probable starting catcher, despite having made the move to the position on a full-time basis just this season ... began the transition from shortstop during the 2008 season ... started 11 games at SS last year ... two-time team MVP at Shorecrest, where he played for former Husky Alan Bruns ... grandson of two-time Rose Bowl MVP and college football hall of famer Bob Schloredt (UW '61).
#25 Ty Rasmussen, RS-Jr. OF: Likely starting DH will miss beginning of season after foot surgery ... started 36 games, all at DH, last year ... hit .308 with 10 homers as a redshirt freshman in 2007 ... honorable mention All-Pac-10 as a RS-freshman ... spent the 2006 season at Louisiana-Lafayette, but redshirted.
#6 Jake Rife, Sr. OF: Senior is a good contener to start in left field ... could also DH ... probably the fastest player on the team ... has 75 career starts at UW ... enters the season as a .272 career college hitter ... played summer ball for Liberal (Kan.), playing for longtime big-league player and manager Mike Hargrove ... 2A state MVP as a high school senior.
#43 Aaron Russell, Jr. IF: Likely starter at third base ... started 25 games last season, including seven at 3B ... a career. 348 hitter in 112 at bats ... had a 6-for-6 game last season at UC Riverside, in his first game of the season ... hit .360 for the Southern California Fire during summer ball.
#18 Cody Ryckman, Fr. C: Three-time team captain at White River High ... expected to push for time behind the plate ... first-team All-SPSL catcher as a senior in 2008.
#32 Troy Scott, So. 1B: Reutrning starter at first base ... started 49 games at first base last season ... seven homers and 36 RBI last year ... honorable mention All-Pac-10 in 2008 ... during summer ball, led the Alaska League in both doubles and runs batted in ... batted .600 with 9 homers, 27 runs and 17 steals as a high school senior at Auburn High ... league MVP and Rawlings All-American ... taken by Twins in 2007 draft.
#44 Brett Wilcox, Sr. C: Possible starter behind the plate ... lefty hitter strated 12 in 2007 and 28 last season ... joined the UW team at midseason in 2007, transferring from Belleuve CC .. a .324 career hitter in 136 at bats entering the season ... KingCo 4A Most Valuable Player as a senior at Bothell High.
PROBABLE STARTING PITCHER NOTES:
FRI. - Jorden Merry, Senior RHP: A regular member of the UW starting rotation last year ... started 14 and appeared in relief twice ... was 4-1 with a 1.60 ERA to start the season ... had a stretch of 22.2 consecutive scoreless innings in the early part of the year ... threw 6.0 shutout innings in the Huskies' 8-2 win over UCR, allowing 4 hits to beat Riveside ace James Simmons ... came to UW after one season at Lower Columbia CC in Kelso, Wash.
SAT. - Tyler Cheney, Senior LHP: Enters senior year with 51 career appearances and 18 career starts ... tied for second on the team with 20 appearances in 2008, all of them in relief ... had a string of nine straight scoreless outings last season ... started 12 games as a regular in the rotation as a freshman in 2006 ... also made six starts as a sophomore in 2007, but did not start a game last year ... high-school classmate of fellow Husky Kyle Conley ... state's 4A MVP after leading Richland High to state title his senior year.
SUN. - Jason Erickson, Senior RHP: Enters senior season with 35 career appearances, including 14 starts, during his career ... started six games last season, but missed a portion of the season with a broken hand ... after missing nearly two months, returned to the starting rotation for the last part of last season ... durign the summer,w ehtn 7-1 with a 2.56 ERA and an Alaska League-leading 42 strikeouts for the Mat-Su Miners ... named Mat-Su's team MVP and earned first-team all-league ... as a sophomore in 2007, started and got the win in the Huskies' 6-2 victory over Oregon State in front of 10,421 fans at Safeco Field.
BULLPEN NOTES: J.D. Awald (Fr. LHP) played at Cedar Park Christian, north of Seattle, but last high school season was 2007 ... league MVP as a junior and senior ... 9-3 with a .617 batting average as a high-school senior ... Geoff Brown (So. LHP) appeared in 20 games, starting four, as a freshman last season ... 20 appearances were second on the team ... got a win in first college start, Mar. 21, 2008, vs. Utah Valley, when he threw five one-hit innings ... worked 8.0 shutout innings, allowing only two hits, in a no-decision start vs. Portland last year, as the UW won 3-0 on a homer in the ninth ... during summer ball, helped the Newport (R.I.) Gulls to the championship round of the NECBL playoffs .. allowed only 21 hits and fanned 38 in 32.1 IP during the summer, and won his only start of the postseason, allowing one ER on three hits over 6.0 IP ... Jacob Clem (RS-So. RHP) redshirted the 2007 seaosn and then pitched in only three games last year before a season-ending injury ... gave up one run over 2.1 IP last year ... also listed as a backup first baseman ... younger brother of former Husky standout Zach Clem ... Paul Dickey (Sr. RHP) pitched in 16 games, all in relief, last year ... spent a good portion of the season as the UW's closer, compling a team-high five saves, good for sixth in the Pac-10 ... didn't allow a run in 10 of 16 appearances ... transferred to UW after two-year career at Lower Columbia CC ... earned first-team All-NWAACC as a sophomore ... has been drafted twice, by the Rockies in 2006 and the Pirates in 2005 ... Adrian Gomez (So. LHP) returns to the UW after a two-year church mission in Mexico ... was married in December ... last pitched in a game in 2006 ... in 2006, went 1-1 with a 4.45 ERA over eight appearances, including three starts ... win came in relief vs. Portland ... Matt Gorman (Fr. RHP) helped lead Meadowdale to fourth place in the state as a junior and senior ... an all-league baseball and basketball player ... older brother, Don, played baseball and was a swimmer at the UW ... Ben Guidos (RS-Fr. LHP) appeared in eight games, starting three, last year ... went 3-0 with a 5.92 ERA ... won first start, last March 20 vs. Utah Valley ... alos beat Hawai'i-Hilo and Portland ... sat out 2007 season after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery ... three-time all-league pitcher and 3A state player of the year in 2006 at Highline HS ... HS teammate of fellow Husky Brendan Gardner-Young ... Justin Gunn (Fr. RHP) is primarily an infielder, but could also pitch ... three-sport standout at Renton High ... played quarterback on the UW football team in the fall ... Seth Haehl (Fr. RHP) earned all-league and team MVP at Eastmont High last year ... 1.25 ERA and a .443 batting average as a senior ... Andrew Kittredge (Fr. RHP) was a three-time all-league pick at Spokane's Ferris High ... league MVP and 4A all-state as a senior ... drafted by the Mariners in 2008 ... Cam Nobles (Jr. RHP) was a regular in the starting rotation last year, but broke his arm during fall ball and is not yet back to full strength ... pitched in 15 games, starting 11, last year ... led the Pac-10 with a .192 opponent batting average in 2008 ... also ninth in the conference with a 3.74 ERA ... went 4-3 with a 2.39 ERA and .186 opponent average for the Waterloo (Iowa) Bucks during the summer ... Brian Pearl (So. RHP) has been a regular third baseman during his UW career, but will be primarily a pitcher this year, starting the season as the Husky closer ... appeared in relief in 10 games last year, going 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA and two saves ... also pitched in two games as a freshman in 2007 ... went 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA for the Green Bay (Wis.) Bullfrogs during the summer ... Brandon Rohde (Fr. LHP) went 6-1 as a senior at Gig Harbor High last year ... team MVP and all-league ... limited in the fall due to injury ... Forrest Snow (Fr. RHP) appeared in six games as a freshman in 2008 ... picked up lone win with a 3.0-inning outing vs. Portland ... was a two-time All-Metro pitcher at Seattle's Lakeside School ... first player ever drafted out of Lakeside, as the Mariners took him in 2007 ... Aaron West (Fr. RHP) went 7-0 with a 0.62 ERA for state-champion Snohomish High last year ... threw a two-hitter in the title game to beat Kentlake ... team finished second in the state his junior year.