Diamond Dawgs Hit The Road For Oxford Regional
June 1, 2004
COMING UP: The 14th-ranked Washington baseball team (37-18-1 overall, 15-9 (second) in the Pac-10) heads to the NCAA tournament for the eighth time ever and the seventh time in the last 13 seasons this weekend. The Huskies will play in the Oxford Regional at Swayze Field in Oxford, Miss. Friday, June 4, at 1 p.m. PDT, the second-seeded Huskies take on third-seeded Tulane (38-19, 21-9 Conference USA) in their opening game. Regional host and top-seeded Mississippi (39-19, 18-12 SEC), ranked No. 15 by Baseball America, hosts fourth-seeded Western Kentucky (34-26, 12-12 Sun Belt Conference) in the other first-round game, which is slated for Friday at 5 p.m. PDT. All of Washington's postseason games will air live on KKNW AM-1150. The winner of the double-elimination regional will play the winner of a regional at Fullerton, Calif. (participants: Cal State Fullerton, Arizona State, Minnesota, Pepperdine) in a best-of-three Super Regional the following weekend (June 11-13), with the winner of that advancing to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. The Huskies enter the regional as the highest ranked team (by Baseball America) of the four teams. The Dawgs are No. 14 in the Baseball America Top 25, No. 11 in the Collegiate Baseball poll and No. 21 in the latest Sports Weekly/ESPN coaches' poll. Mississippi is ranked No. 15 (BA), No. 14 (CB) and No. 13 (coaches) while Tulane is ranked No. 29 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 21 by the coaches. Western Kentucky is unranked in all three major polls. Here's a look at the upcoming games (tentatively, Washington will start RHP Kyle Parker in its first game, RHP Tim Lincecum in its second and RHP Matt Kasser in its third):
Fri., June 4 -- Game Two: #2 UW vs. #2 Tulane, 1:00 p.m. PDT Game One: #1 Mississippi vs. #4 Western Kentucky, 5:00 p.m. PDTSat., June 5 -- Game Three: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 9:00 a.m. PDT Game Four: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 1:00 p.m. PDT Game Five: Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 5:00 p.m. PDTSun., June 6 -- Game Six: Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5, 11:00 a.m. PDT (if nec.):Game Seven: rematch of game six if both teams have one loss, 45 minutes after game one ends
COACH 'K': Now in his 12th season in charge of the Washington baseball team, Ken Knutson has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments. Knutson has led the Dawgs to two Pac-10 championships, four Pac-10 Northern Division titles, three other second-place finishes and six NCAA Regional berths. His career overall record now stands at 426-271-2 (.611). With 426 wins, he is the winningest coach in UW history, having passed his former coach, Bob MacDonald (422-322-7). Before becoming the Husky head man in 1993, Knutson served as the Husky pitching coach for eight seasons. In 1985, his UW pitching staff led the nation with a 2.80 ERA. Knutson holds a 210-90-2 (.699) record in home games. He is 182-124 (.595) in Pac-10 games. Knutson has coached 40 first-team All-Pac-10 selections in 11 seasons, and has been named league coach of the year three times. A 1981 All-Pac-10 left-handed pitcher at the UW, he is joined by assistants Joe Ross, Travis Jewett, and Gregg Swenson and undergrad assistant Scott Robertson.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Here's a look at the probable starters at each position, with current stats and notes:
Pos. Player, Year Avg.-HR-RBI Notes C -- Aaron Hathaway, Jr. .303-7-35 Has made NCAA regional all-tourney teams in 2002 and 20031B -- Kyle Larsen, Jr. .333-10-50 Won Sun. game vs. UCI with ninth-inning, two-run single2B -- Greg Isaacson, Sr. .318-6-44 22 SBs leads Pac-10; has hit in 11 of last 13SS -- Nick Batkoski, Jr. (OF) .291-2-33 Has started 24 of last 25 at SS; .960 fielding pct.3B -- John Otness, Sr. .302-9-47 Ninth UW player ever to compile 200 career hitsOF -- Zach Clem, So. .345-13-46 Only 3 AB all last season; leads UW in avg., HR, slug.OF -- Brent Lillibridge, So. (SS) .323-11-36 14-game hit streak; 7 of 11 HRs have led off gamesOF -- Taylor Johnson, Jr. .252-5-26 Batted .302 with four HR, 18 RBI in 17 road startsOF -- Ben Johnson, Sr. (C) .221-7-28 Hit HRs from both sides of plate Mar. 23 at GonzagaOF -- Matt Tucker, RFr. (IF) .212-2-9 Has made 15 starts in RF, CF; also plays 2B, 3BDH -- Matt Lane, Fr. (C) .315-6-26 Started 31 of last 45; UW is 23-9 when he's the DHDH -- Tyler Mach, Fr. (3B) .221-4-15 22 starts as DH/3B; hit a HR off first college pitch
NCAA POSTSEASON HISTORY: See pages 7-15 of this guide for a complete rundown of Washington's history in the NCAA, complete with all box scores and individual postseason records.
HISTORY vs. NCAA REGIONAL OPPONENTS: Washington has played Tulane three times (all three at the Riverside Baseball Invitational Tournament in Riverside, Calif., in 1982, 1986 and 1987 ... all were Tulane victories), but the Huskies have never played a game against either Mississippi or Western Kentucky during the 104-year history of Washington baseball. Here's a look at the Huskies' brief history against the Green Wave:
UW vs. TULANE: Washington and Tulane have played one another three times, with all three meetings coming at regular-tournament in Riverside, Calif., during the 1980s. Tulane is 3-0 all-time against the Huskies. In 1982, the Green Wave scored twice in the final inning of a seven-inning game to beat the Huskies, 2-1. Marc Desjardins threw a four-hitter for the win while Sam Manley went the distance in the loss. In 1986, Tulane met the UW again at the RBI, beating the Huskies 5-3. No further information on that game is available. In the 1987 RBI Tournament, the Green Wave beat the Huskies, 6-2. Tulane (17-4 on the year after that win), used three walks and two UW errors to score four runs in the fifth. Tulane first baseman Brian Reaney, who had three hits in the game, had a two-run double during the fifth and Tookie Spann hit his ninth homer of the year. Glen Leaveau got the win for the Green Wave. Brent Shimokawa was 2-for-5 with a triple for the UW and Pete Tjaarda threw a complete game in the loss.
UW vs. MISSISSIPPI: Washington and Ole Miss have never played one another.
UW vs. WESTERN KENTUCKY: Washington and Western Kentucky have never played one another.
HUSKIES EAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI: Washington has only traveled east of the Mississippi River three times in its history, but with a pretty fair amount of success. The Huskies made their first trip east for the 1997 NCAA Mideast Regional at Starkville, Miss. The Huskies started out 3-0 in the regional, but host Mississippi State came back to win the final two games and advance to the College World Series. In 1998, the UW opened the season with its longest ever road trip, trekking to Viera, Fla., for a three-game tournament at the Florida Marlins' spring training site. The Dawgs won all three on that trip, beating Florida Atlantic (18-4), Central Florida (8-4) and South Florida (15-3). April 16-18 of this season, Washington played Georgia Tech in a three-game series in Atlanta. After falling in the opener, 8-4, the UW beat the Yellowjackets 7-3 and 16-2 to win the series. Tech, incidentally, went on a 20-game win streak after the Huskies left town. So, the UW is 8-3 all-time in games played east of the Mississippi River.
HUSKIES vs. THE CONFERENCES: Washington has had very little interaction with teams from the conferences of the other three teams in the NCAA Oxford Regional. Washington has faced only three of the 12 baseball-playing teams in Conference USA: Tulane (0-3), Houston (1-0), South Florida (1-0), for a combined 2-3 all-time record vs. CUSA teams. The Huskies have played only two of nine current Sun Belt Conference teams: 1-0 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (at the 1997 regional) and 1-1 vs. New Mexico State, for a total of 2-1 all-time vs. Sun Belt teams. Finally, the UW has played three of the 12 members of the Southeastern Conference. The Dawgs are 1-0 vs. Kentucky, 1-1 vs. Tennessee and 1-4 vs. Mississippi State. All five games vs. MSU came in NCAA regional play (1997 at Starkville and 1998 at Texas A&M).
AGAINST THE NCAA FIELD: The Huskies have played a total of 21 games against teams that made the 64-team NCAA tournament field. The Huskies played three-game series against four Pac-10 teams that made it: Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford and UCLA. The Dawgs alos played three-game sets vs. Missouri, Georgia Tech and UC Irvine. Washington swept both Arizona and UC Irvine (both series in Seattle); took two of three from Stanford (home), Georgia Tech (away) and Arizona; lost two of three to UCLA (home); and won one, lost one and tied one against Mizzou (home). Washington has played three of the NCAA's eight national seeds -- ASU, Stanford and Georgia Tech -- and went a combined 6-3 in those games.
POWER SHOW: Blame it on the new ballpark if you must (Husky Ballpark opened in 1998), but the Huskies have three players with double-figure home runs for the sixth time in the last seven years, and for only the sixth time in history. In fact, prior to 1997, the Huskies had never had more than one player with more than 10 home runs in a season on the same team at the same time. This year, Zach Clem, Brent Lillibridge and Kyle Wagner have all hit 10 or more home runs. Lillibridge reached double digits for the second times in his two seasons at Washington, having hit 13 as a freshman in 2003. As a team, the Huskies' 84 total home runs rank only behind Stanford's 89 in the Pac-10 and are tied for fourth-most in UW lore, ranking behind 1998 (110), 2003 (96) and 1999 (89) and tied with 1997 (84). This season, Washington hit at least one home run in 44 of 56 games and never went more than two straight games without a homer.
ON THE BASES: While Washington's 67 stolen bases might not be enough to put the Huskies among the national leaders, it is the second-highest total in the Pac-10 Conference, only two behind Arizona's total of 69. What's perhaps more impressive is that the Huskies have been caught stealing only 22 times (67-for-89) and that the UW has allowed opponents to steal only 26 bases on 53 attempts on the year. Senior second baseman Greg Isaacson leads the charge with 22 steals in 25 attempts. Sophomore center fielder Brent Lillibridge is 17-for-19 and had a streak of 16 straight successful steals broke May 23 vs. UCLA. Additionally, junior right fielder Taylor Johnson is 10-for-13 on the year. Defensively, junior catcher Aaron Hathaway has allowed only 19 steals while throwing out 19 and picking off seven others.
COACH K TAKES OVER TOP SPOT: In the Huskies' 7-2 win over UCLA on May 22, Washington head coach Ken Knutson became the winningest coach in Husky baseball history. That win was No. 423 in his 12 seasons in charge of his alma mater and moved him ahead of his former coach and mentor, Bob MacDonald, who won 422 games from 1997 to 1992. Knutson spent one season (1981) as a pitcher under MacDonald, helping the Dawgs to the Pac-10 Northern Division title, and then another eight years as an assistant coach before MacDonald moved to the U.S. Naval Academy following the 1992 season.
TOUGH AT THE REGIONALS: Washington will be making its eighth NCAA tournament appearance this year, seven of which have come in the last 13 seasons (1992, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004). With the exception of the 1959 NCAA District 8 Playoffs (UW lost a best-of-three series to Fresno State, 2-1), the Huskies have never finished a regional with a losing record. The Huskies were 2-2 in 1992 at Tucson, 4-2 in 1994 at Wichita, 3-2 in 1997 at Starkville, 2-2 in 1998 at College Station, 3-2 in 2002 at Houston and 2-2 last year at Long Beach. In all, the Dawgs are 17-14 in NCAA tournament games and 16-12 in actual 'regionals' (not counting 1959). The Huskies have not, however, ever won a regional, coming one win away on four occasions (1959, 1994, 1997 and 2002).
WHAT DO COACHES KNOW?: For the third straight season, Washington easily exceeded the expectations set forth in the preseason Pac-10 coaches' poll. The last two years, 2002 and 2003, the nine conference coaches chose Washington to finish seventh in the Pac-10. Both years, the Huskies finished third and made it to a regional. This year, the Huskies were tabbed to finish in fifth place, but finished alone in second place and had a chance to win the title up until the next-to-last day of the season, and, obviously, earned another NCAA tournament berth.
AT HOME ON THE ROAD: While the Huskies posted a solid 20-8-1 record in games played at Husky Ballpark this year, they were also no slouch away from their home field. The Dawgs went 16-9 in true away games, plus 1-1 at neutral sites, for a total of 17-10 in non-home games. And, despite the fact that Husky Ballpark is generally considered to be more friendly to the hitters than the pitcher, the Huskies had a better batting average outside of Seattle than they did at home. In 29 home games, the Dawgs hit .290 with 42 home runs. Away from their home field, the Huskies hit .306 with 41 home runs in two fewer games. Washington scored an average of 6.4 runs per game at home and 9.0 on the road.
RANDOM NCAA NOTES: The Huskies' No. 2 seeding at the regional is its highest ever ... last year, the Dawgs were the No. 3 seed in Long Beach ... the UW was No. 6 in 1992, No. 5 in 1994, No. 4 in 1997, No. 3 in 1998, No. 3 in 2002 (four-team regional) and No. 3 again last year ... Washington has made it to the championship game of a regional three times (not counting 1959), losing to Nomar Garciaparra-led Georgia Tech (after forcing a second championship game with a 14-inning win) at Wichita State in 1994; to Mississippi State in Starkville (4-3 in front of a then-NCAA postseason record crowd of 10,688) in 1997; and to Rice in 2002 after forcing a second title game with a two-out, three-run homer in the ninth in a 7-6 win ... in their six trips to regionals in the last 12 years, the Huskies have gone 4-2 in opening games, winning all four times in games in which they were the lower seed ... the Huskies are the only team from the Pacific Northwest to make it into NCAA postseason play since 1991, when the University of Portland won the old Pac-10 North tournament and made it to a regional ... during that 13-season span (1992-2003), the Huskies have played in seven NCAA tournaments while Oregon State, Washington State, Portland State (now a defunct program), Gonzaga and Portland (the other Division I teams in the Northwest) have not been to any ... only four of Washington's players come from outside the state of Washington (and only two members of the NCAA travel squad): LHP Trent Baysinger (Moscow, Idaho), OF Matt Tucker (Aurora, Colo.), OF Devin Warner (Fort Collins, Colo.) and 1B James Allan (Gresham, Ore.) ... Baysinger, one of two non-Washingtonian on the travel roster, grew up about a mile and a half from the Washington border in Moscow ... Tucker's older brother, Michael Done, was the UW's starting third baseman from 2000 to 2002 and his father, Dave, played at the UW with Coach Knutson ... Washington enters the postseason having won 10 of its last 13 and 18 of its last 23 games since breaking a four-game losing streak with two straight wins at Georgia Tech ... incidentally, after the Huskies took that Tech series in Atlanta, the Yellowjackets ran off 20 consecutive wins ... Washington scored in double figures in 15 games this year while allowing double digits to opponents only eight times (two of those were UW wins) ... Washington reached 20 or more runs on three occasions (March 20 at Washington State, 20-8; May 1 at Oregon State, 26-14; May 11 vs. Portland, 20-4) ... the Huskies had a 14-run first inning in that Washington State game and a 13-run ninth inning in that win over Oregon State ... Washington scored in the first inning in exactly half of its games this year -- 28 of 56 -- and scored more runs in the first (65) than in any other inning ... the UW has four pitchers that have pitched in NCAA regional games -- David Dowling, Will Fenton, Matt Kasser, and Trent Baysinger ... none of those four has allowed an earned run over a combined total of 17 and one-third innings ... every game the Huskies play this postseason will be their latest ever in a calendar year ... in 2002 at the Houston Regional at Rice, the Huskies played two games on June 2, their latest games ever up to this point ... Washington is the only team in the Pac-10 that has a winning record against every other conference opponent over the last three years (2002-04) ... the Huskies' current ranking of No. 11 in the Collegiate Baseball poll is its highest-ever ranking in any of the three major polls ... freshmen pitchers have started 37 of 56 games this year for the UW.