February 4, 1999
NEXT WEEK: The 20th-ranked Washington Huskies open the 1999 season at the Dixie Tournament at Dixie College (Hurst Field, St. George, Utah). Washington, the two-time defending Pac-10 champion, gets the season underway Thursday, Feb. 11, in a 5:30 p.m. game against tourney host Brigham Young. Friday, Feb. 12, the Dawgs take on Southern Utah in a noon game. Saturday, Feb. 13, the UW closes out the weekend with a 4:00 p.m. game against the BYU Cougars. Next weekend, the Huskies travel to the Los Angeles area to face Cal State Northridge in a three-game series. Feb. 25-28, the Dawgs head to Las Vegas for the UNLV/Coors Desert Classic, where they will face UNLV, Nevada, Clemson and Creighton (twice). Washington's home opener is Friday, Mar. 5, vs. Gonzaga at 2:00 p.m. Here's a look at next weekend's games, with the probable Husky starting pitchers:
Thurs., Feb. 11: UW vs. Brigham Young, St. George, Utah, 5:30 p.m. -- RHP Jeff Heaverlo (5-3, 5.63 in '98)
Fri., Feb. 12: UW vs. Southern Utah, St. George, Utah, 12:00 p.m. -- RHP Travis Anderson (4-2, 4.11 in '98)
Sat., Feb. 13: UW vs. Brigham Young, St. George, Utah, 4:00 p.m. -- RHP Jeff Carlsen (7-3, 4.39 in '98)
PAC-10 NEW ERA: The 1999 season marks a new era in Pacific-10 Conference baseball as the league returns to a unified, one-division schedule after spending the past 30 seasons broken into northern and southern divisions. The change, which would probably have come in the next few years anyway, was hastened after Portland State dropped its baseball program last June. That left the Northern Division with only three teams, too few to make a division. This year, the nine Pac-10 teams (Oregon doesn't have a baseball team) will play a 24-game schedule, with the regular season champion earning the league's automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. For the last four seasons, the winners of the two divisions met in a three-game series for the Pac-10's overall title. After USC won the 1995 and 1996 titles, Washington went on to wear the 1997 and 1998 Pac-10 crowns.
COACH "K": In six seasons as the head coach of his alma mater, Ken Knutson has led the Dawgs to two Pac-10 championships, four Pac-10 Northern Division titles, two second-place finishes and three NCAA Regionals. His career overall record stands at 226-132 (.631). With those 226 wins, he is the second-winningest coach in Washington history, trailing only Bob MacDonald (422) and having passed legendary Tubby Graves (209), who coached 24 seasons. 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 102-28 (.785) record in home games. He is 111-51 (.685) in conference games, the highest mark (percentage-wise) of any active Pac-10 coach. A 1981 All-Pac-10 left-handed pitcher at the UW, he is joined by assistant coaches Joe Ross, Ed Gustafson, Joe Weis and Brett Merrick.
PLAYER NOTES: Here's a look at the possible starters at each position, with 1998 stats and notes:
C -- Dominic Woody, Jr. .295-4-21 Career .323 hitter/UW 17-5 when he started last year
C -- Jake Gann, RS-Fr. Red-shirted '98 All-State catcher/pitcher at Eastmont HS in Wenatchee
1B -- Ed Erickson, Jr. .283-14-51 22 career HRs are fifth in school history -- 8 shy of record
1B -- Todd Linden, Fr. 1st season at UW All-state at Central Kitsap/switch-hitting power hitter
2B -- Marc Rittenhouse, So. .259-3-9 Batted .304 (21-for-69) over last 24 games of last season
SS -- Greg Brooks, So. .286-0-0 Backed up three-time All-Pac-10 SS Kevin Miller in 1998
3B -- Kevin Ticen, Sr. .346-1-17 Co-captain/moving from C to 3B/.358 career hitter
OF -- Nick Stefonick, Sr. .407-7-54 Led Pac-10 North with .407 BA/16-game hitting streak
OF -- Bryan Williamson, Sr. .298-4-21 Will also DH and pitch in relief/Drafted twice ('95 and '98)
OF -- Kyle Woods, Jr. .314-14-49 14 homers last year are second-most in UW history
OF -- Tyson Boston, So. .318-2-6 Five starts as freshman in 1998/known for speed and arm
OF -- Dwight DeMar, Jr. .294-0-7 Top pinch runner and defensive replacement in 1998
OF -- Matt Hollod, RS-Fr. Red-shirted '98 Batted .320 in Northwoods League over summer
DH -- Pete Orgill, Sr. .309-8-30 Co-captain/16 career HRs are ninth most in UW history
DH -- Daniel Jahn, So. .333-0-2 Also a left-handed pitcher/batted .390 in summer ball
TRAVEL INFORMATION: The Huskies depart the Graves Building for the airport Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 2:00 p.m. and fly to Las Vegas, from where they will drive to St. George, Utah. In St. George, the Huskies will stay at the Ramada Inn. The phone number there is (435) 628-2828 and the fax is (435) 628-0505. The team returns to Seattle early Sunday morning, Feb. 14, arriving at Sea-Tac at 1:17 a.m.
SERIES HISTORIES: Brigham Young holds a commanding 11-2 record against Washington, though the two teams haven't met since 1994, when the Cougars beat the Huskies, 12-6, in the Kingdome as part of the Husky Baseball Classic. In three meetings against BYU, coach Ken Knutson is 0-3. Washington has never played Southern Utah, nor have the Huskies ever played a game in the state of Utah.
LAST YEAR: Washington won its second straight Pac-10 title after winning a third straight Pac-10 North crown last season. The Huskies finished the year 41-17 overall and 17-7 in the Northern Division. After beating No. 1 Stanford, two games to none, for the Pac-10 Championship, the Dawgs went on to the NCAA Central Regional in College Station, Texas, where they finished third with a 2-2 mark. Husky coach Ken Knutson was named Pac-10 North Coach of the Year for the third straight season and six Huskies -- Jeff Carlsen, Wayne Lee, Kevin Miller, Ryan Lentz, Chris Magruder and Nick Stefonick -- were named first-team All-Pac-10 North. Four Huskies (Magruder, Miller, Lentz and Ryan Bundy) were drafted in the top five rounds in June, the second-most in the country behind Miami, with five in the top five.
DOMINATING THE NORTHWEST: If there was any question about the Huskies' recent dominance of college baseball in the Pacific Northwest, it was quelled last season when the Huskies won their fifth Pac-10 North title in the 1990s and won its second Pac-10 overall championship. In the 1990s, Washington has made four NCAA Regional appearances, more than any team from the Northwest. During the current decade, the Huskies have posted a 322-194 (.624) overall record and a 155-73 (.680) mark in Pac-10 North play. Under coach Ken Knutson (1993-97), Washington is 162-65 (.714) against all teams from the Northwest (Washington, Oregon and Idaho) and 127-60 (.679) against Division I teams from the Northwest. Knutson has a winning record against every Northwest team (12) he has faced.
LID LIFTERS: UW broke a three-year losing skid in season openers with an 18-4 win over Florida Atlantic at the Space Coast Invitational at Viera, Fla. Over the last 10 seasons, the Huskies are 5-5 in season-opening ballgames, and coach Ken Knutson is 2-4 in openers. Here's a look at the last 10 season openers:
Feb. 13, 1998 W, 18-4 vs. Fla. Atlantic (at Viera, Fla.) Feb. 7, 1997 L, 10-12 at UNLV Feb. 16, 1996 L, 2-5 at Long Beach State Feb. 17, 1995 L, 8-9 at Cal Poly-SLO Feb. 18, 1994 W, 8-4 vs. Toledo (at San Diego) Feb. 12, 1993 L, 2-3 at Texas A&M Feb. 12, 1992 L, 10-19 vs. Oklahoma (at El Paso) Feb. 1, 1991 W, 8-5 at Hawai'i Feb. 22, 1990 W, 6-1 at Central Wash. Feb. 28, 1989 W, 12-1 Puget Sound
PRESEASON ACCOLADES: For the third straight season, Washington has earned a spot in the preseason polls. Baseball America ranks the Huskies No. 20, the Dawgs' highest spot in the three polls released thusfar. Baseball America also named Husky junior pitcher Jeff Heaverlo a first-team All-American, making him the first UW player to ever make that particular team, and named him the preseason Pac-10 pitcher of the year and the No. 5 college prospect. Baseball America also picked the Huskies to finish fourth in the Pac-10, named Kyle Woods the No. 10 prospect in the Pac-10 and listed Travis Anderson as having the conference's best fastball. Collegiate Baseball named the Huskies the No. 24 team in the country and the Dawgs were ranked No. 21 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Poll.
LET THERE BE LIGHTS: Along with the move into a unified Pac-10 and the expansion of the NCAA Tournament field from 48 to 64 teams -- not to mention the infamous bat controversy -- there's another new wrinkle for the Washington baseball program the year as lights will be installed at Husky Ballpark, allowing the Huskies to play their first night home games ever. The Huskies will play most weekday games at 6:30 p.m. (some are 2:00 p.m. games due to the opponents' travel needs), while Saturday and Sunday games are scheduled for 1:00 p.m. Currently, 19 of the Huskies' 34 home games are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. starts. The first-ever night game at Husky Ballpark is slated for March 12 against George Washington. Husky Ballpark is in its second year of existence, having opened at the start of last season. The stadium surrounding the new park is scheduled to be completed in the next few years.
STILL STREAKING?: Several Husky baseball players completed last season on a hot streak, most obviously outfielder Nick Stefonick. Stefonick enters his senior season on a 16-game hitting streak, only six short of tying Kevin Miller's school record, set in 1997. Over the 16-game streak, he has batted .465 (33-for-71) with 19 runs and 31 RBI. Stefonick also finished the '98 season having hit safely in 25 of the last 26. Two other Husky hitters have respectable streaks alive heading into the 1999 campaign: first baseman Ed Erickson has hit in seven straight (.400; 12-for-30 with seven runs, 13 RBI and four homers) while outfielder Kyle Woods has an eight-game streak (.333, 10-for-30 with nine runs and five RBI). As a team, the Huskies have won 10 of their last 13 and 17 of their last 21.
FRIENDLY CONFINES: Washington has been very tough at home in the 1990s, posting a mark of 143-40 (.781) over the last nine seasons. Under coach Ken Knutson, the Huskies have posted a remarkable 102-28 record in home games, good for a .785 mark. Last year, the Huskies moved into Husky Ballpark and notched a 23-6 (.793) record in those games. The 29 home games last season were the most ever in school history, a mark that should fall this year when the Dawgs are scheduled to play 34 home contests.
HEAVERLO: Thanks to a hard fastball and one of college baseball's nastiest sliders, junior Jeff Heaverlo has earned a national reputation as one of the country's best pitchers. Heaverlo, a right-hander from Ephrata, Wash., enters the season as one of the the NCAA's hottest prospects. In its college preview, Baseball America named him college's No. 5 draft prospect, a first-team preseason All-American and the Pac-10's preseason pitcher of the year. The magazine also said that "Heaverlo may be the most polished pitcher in college baseball." With 88 strikeouts as a freshman in 1997 and 84 last year, he has two of the top five strikeout seasons in UW history and is 87 Ks shy of Jake Kringen's career mark. Heaverlo greatly improved his reputation over the summer when he was named the Cape Cod League's co-pitcher of the year after posting a 7-1 record with a 3.09 ERA and 94 Ks in 67 innings.
STEFONICK: If there was a player anywhere that finished the 1998 season on a hotter streak than Husky senior Nick Stefonick, that player must truly have been on fire. After all, Stefonick, an outfielder from Seattle, closed out his junior year with a 16-game hitting streak, a tear that covered the Pac-10 Championship and the NCAA Central Regional. Stefonick, who was batting .313 through 25 games, hit safely in 25 of his last 26, a span during which he hit .464 (52-for-112) with 31 runs, 43 RBI, 13 doubles, three triples and three homers. His final batting average of .407 was tops in the Pac-10 North and the second-highest in UW history, earning him a spot on the All-Pac-10 North first team. Stefonick heads into his senior season with a career .367 batting average and should, presumably, work his way onto the Huskies' career top 10 lists in doubles, runs, RBI, stolen bases and possibly hits.
WILLIAMSON: In its college preview edition, Baseball America called senior Bryan Williamson the Huskies' "X-Factor." It's not a bad description of the 6-foot-6 outfielder/pitcher from Kennewick, Wash. Williamson, the UW's most experienced player, is expected to start in right field, bat third in the batting order and serve as the Huskies' do-all relief pitcher -- all that from a guy that started only 23 games in the batting order and worked only 32.2 innings last season after undergoing shoulder surgery. A career .335 hitter, Williamson has twice been drafted (1995 and 1998). As a sophomore in 1997, he batted .381 with 58 RBI in 52 games and posted a 4-2 record with six saves and a 2.89 earned run average, earning a tryout with the USA National Team and a selection to the All-Pac-10 team. An excellent contact hitter with good power, he uses different arm angles and an array of pitches on the mound.
CARLSEN: At 6-foot-7, freshman right-hander Jeff Carlsen is the tallest member of the Husky roster, but that's not what makes him notable. Instead, Carlsen made a name for himself last season by acting as the most consistent member of the Husky pitching staff. The sophomore from Poulsbo, Wash., posted a 7-3 record and a 4.39 earned run average, best on the team among starters. He was the only freshman to be named to the All-Pac-10 North first-team while he also earned first-team freshman All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball. On April 4 of last season, Carlsen hurled the most impressive game in recent UW history when he threw a one-hit shutout against Washington State. For that performance, he earned Pac-10 North Pitcher of the Week and TPX National Player of the Week.
WOODS: Heading into last season, everyone knew that outfielder Kyle Woods had serious speed. What they may not have anticipated was the power he'd show in his first season as a full-time starter. Woods, a junior from Marysville, Wash., belted 14 home runs as a sophomore, the third-highest total (tied) in Washington history. Woods was twice named the Pac-10 North player of the week in 1998 and earned a tryout with the USA National Team after the season. Woods also stole 20 bases in 24 attempts, scored 48 runs and drove in 49. With 30 career steals, he needs only seven more to reach the Husky career top 10 list. In its college preview, Baseball America named him the Pac-10's top 10 draft prospect this year.
NOTABLES: A former walkon, junior Travis Anderson will be counted on as a top starter this year . . . last year, he struck out 45 in 46 innings and opponents batted only .221 against him . . . through only two seasons, junior first baseman Ed Erickson already ranks fifth on the UW career list with 22 home runs . . . he enters his third year only eight homers short of the UW record of 30 (Kevin Miller, 1996-98) . . . opponents are batting only .205 against junior reliever Ken Ferguson during his 44.2 career innings . . . senior lefty Matt Hampton's 25 career starts are tied with Heaverlo for most on the team . . . in 11 of his 25 appearances last year, sophomore reliever Matt Massingale did not allow a hit . . . co-captain Pete Orgill ranks ninth in UW history with 16 career HR . . . nine of senior co-captain Kevin Ticen's 19 career hits have gone for extra bases . . . in 16 career starts at catcher, junior Dominic Woody (who is expected to be the starting catcher) has batted .400 (22-for-55) with 22 RBI and 15 runs . . . in all other games, he has hit .280 (28-for-100) . . . five of Woody's seven career home runs are as a starting catcher.
RANDOM NOTES: Freshman shortstop Richard Hall, who was a possible starter, broke his left little finger in practice in January and will likely be out for two to three more weeks . . . Washington has broken the team home runs record in each of the last two seasons, a trend that may be ended by the new bat restrictions . . . prior to 1997, the school record for home runs was only 47, set in 1986 . . . in 1997, the Huskies belted 84 homers, and last season, they shattered that mark with 110 round-trippers, good for 14th in NCAA Division I . . . in 1998, the Huskies also ranked 11th in the nation in scoring (9.50 runs per game), 13th in slugging (.574) and 21st in winning percentage (.707) . . . 13 players that had at least one at bat last season return in 1999 . . . combined, they batted .316 (329-for-1,042) . . . 10 pitchers that threw last season return . . . those 10 men combined to throw 418.0 innings (of 498.2 total) . . . the UW coaching staff includes three former All-Pac-10 North pitchers: head coach Ken Knutson (1981), assistant Ed Gustafson (1989 at WSU) and undergraduate assistant Brett Merrick (1994, 1995) . . . in each of the six seasons that Knutson has been the UW head coach, he has started a left-handed pitcher on opening day, a streak that will be broken this year . . . 33 of the 36 players on the UW roster are from the state of Washington . . . 29 of the 30 travel squad members for this trip are Washingtonians.