March 23, 1999
THIS WEEK: The Washington baseball team (12-6 overall, 1-2 Pac-10) returns to Seattle for a six-game homestand this week at Husky Ballpark. First up are two games against No. 12 Wichita State Wednesday and Thursday. Then, Saturday through Monday, UCLA comes to town for a three-game Pac-10 series. Saturday's opener will air live on Fox Sports, with Barry Tompkins and Jerry Kindall calling the action. The six-game stand concludes vs. Lewis-Clark State next Tuesday, March 30. Here's a look at the next five games with the Huskies' probable starting pitchers:
Wed., March 24: UW vs. Wichita State, 6:30 p.m. -- LHP Matt Hampton (0-0, 10.45)
Thu., March 25: UW vs. Wichita State, 6:30 p.m. -- LHP Mike Bomar (0-1, 6.23)
Sat., March 27: UW vs. UCLA, 1:00 p.m. -- RHP Jeff Heaverlo (4-1, 3.54)
Sun., March 28: UW vs. UCLA, 1:00 p.m. -- RHP Jeff Carlsen (3-0, 2.25)
Mon., March 29: UW vs. UCLA, 2:00 p.m. -- RHP Travis Anderson (1-1, 5.40)
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-plus 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 238-138 (.633). With those 238 wins, he is the second-winningest coach in Washington history, trailing only Bob MacDonald (422), and has 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 106-28 (.791) record in home games. He is 112-53 (.679) 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 current stats and notes:
Pos. Player, Year Avg.-HR-RBI Notes C -- Dominic Woody, Jr. .451-12-34 Three homers at Cal/12 HR is 5th in UW history Jake Gann, RS-Fr. .375-0-2 Two career starts as Woody's backup 1B -- Ed Erickson, Jr. .361-8-26 30 career HRs tied for school record (Kevin Miller) 2B -- Marc Rittenhouse, So. .368-0-12 7 doubles this year leads team/had only 2 2B in '98 Brent Robertson, Fr. .444-0-3 Two starts at second base/1 of 2 Husky triples in '99 SS -- Greg Brooks, So. .229-0-6 Backed up 3-time All-Pac-10 SS Kevin Miller in 1998 Richard Hall, Fr. .429-0-0 Broke left little finger in Jan./started Sun., Mon. at Cal 3B -- Kevin Ticen, Sr. .297-6-15 Co-captain/former walk-on moved from C to 3B OF -- Nick Stefonick, Sr. .349-5-18 Hit two home runs in Monday win at California OF -- Bryan Williamson, Sr. .338-2-12 Pac-10 Player of the Week after Las Vegas tourney OF -- Kyle Woods, Jr. .239-1-5 12-for-24 at UNLV Tournament/6-for-6 stealing OF -- Matt Hollod, RS-Fr. .290-0-9 Four doubles among his nine hits/6 starts in LF DH -- Pete Orgill, Sr. .350-3-9 Co-captain/19 career HRs are seventh in UW history
SERIES HISTORY: Washington is 3-7 all-time vs. Wichita State with all 10 meetings occurring in since 1993. The UW won the first three games (1993 and 1994), but has lost seven straight since, including a 9-2 loss last year in Wichita (the other two games of the series were cancelled due to rain and snow). The UW has never beaten UCLA in 16 tries. Most recently, the Bruins beat the Huskies in the Metrodome in 1997 and took a two-game series from the Dawgs at Jackie Robinston Stadium in 1995.
LAST WEEK: Washington opened the Pac-10 season by going 1-2 at California. Jon Shirley held the Huskies to only two hits in the opener, beating the Dawgs, 10-0. Sunday, in game two, the Huskies rallied behind two homers from Dominic Woody, but lost, 6-5, on a 10th inning home run by Jason Dennis. In Monday's series finale, Washington trailed 8-1 after three innings, but came back. Woody hit his 12th HR of the year to start it, and the Dawgs scored five runs in the ninth for a 10-8 win. In the ninth, Nick Stefonick tied it at 8-8 with his second homer of the game, and after Woody was intentionally walked with one out and no runners on base, Ed Erickson drove him in with a double for the go-ahead tally.
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 334-200 (.625) overall record and a 156-75 (.675) mark in Pac-10 play. Under coach Ken Knutson (1993-97), Washington is 163-65 (.715) against all teams from the Northwest (Washington, Oregon and Idaho) and 128-60 (.681) against Division I teams from the Northwest. Knutson has a winning record against every Northwest team (12) he has faced.
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 have been 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 all 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 last Friday vs. George Washington was postponed due to rain. The first official game is now slated for March 24 vs. Wichita State.
FRIENDLY CONFINES: Washington has been very tough at home in the 1990s, posting a mark of 147-40 (.786) over the last nine seasons. Under coach Ken Knutson, the Huskies have posted a remarkable 106-28 record in home games, good for a .791 mark. Last year, the Huskies moved into Husky Ballpark and have notched a 27-6 (.818) record so far. The 29 home games last season were the most ever in school history, a mark that should fall this year as the Dawgs are scheduled to play 34 home contests.
THE POWER HOUSE: History will eventually be the judge of whether the new Husky Ballpark favors the hitters or the pitchers. So far, however, it definitely has been advantageous to the offense. Through 33 games at Husky Ballpark (29 last season, four this year), the Huskies have belted 70 home runs, an average of 2.1 per game, while visitors have hit 49 home runs, or 1.5 per game. In 33 games, a total of 477 runs have been scored (both teams combined) with the Huskies scoring 9.5 runs per game and the visitors scoring an average of 4.9 runs per contest.
HEAVERLO: Thanks to a hard fastball and one of college baseball's hardest and 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 221 career strikeouts he is one of only two UW pitchers ever to record 200 Ks, plus he has two of the top five strikeout seasons in UW history and is only 38 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. With a 4-1 record, a 3.54 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 40.2 innings, he's off to a solid start in 1999.
WOODY: In his first season as a full-time starter, junior catcher Dominic Woody has made the most of his opportunity. In only 18 games this season, Woody has already blasted 12 home runs, three-quarters of the way to the UW school record of 16, set in 1986 by Mike Blowers and tied last season by Ryan Lentz. Already, his 12 homers rank him fifth (tied) in single-season UW history and his 19 career bombs rank him seventh (tied) on that ledger. Woody is also leading the Dawgs in batting with a .451 mark and in slugging with an amazing 1.042 mark. He has scored 26 runs and driven in 34 in 18 games. His totals in hits, RBI and homers lead the Huskies. In his 32 career starts at catcher, Woody, a Richland (Wash.) High graduate, has batted .432 (51-for-118) with 54 RBI and 38 runs. Also, 17 of his 19 career homers are as a starting catcher. In all other games, he has hit .287 (31-for-108).
ERICKSON: By tying the UW career home runs record March 14, junior first baseman Ed Erickson has the credentials to rank as, perhaps, the best left-handed power hitter in UW history. Erickson, from Yakima, Wash., tied Kevin Miller's mark of 30 home runs, and now has eight on the year. With more than 35 games to go in his junior season, he's certain to set a new standard that may last a while longer than the one that Miller set last year. As a freshman in 1997, Erickson belted eight homers in only 99 at bats, and after a slow start last year, came on to hit 14 home runs in 166 ABs. Over his career, he has homered once every 11.2 at bats, and dating back to last season, he has hit 14 home runs over his last 23 games. With eight homers this year, he's chasing Dominic Woody to set the new single-season UW record.
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. In the 1999 opening weekend at Dixie Tournament, he earned MVP honors after extending his hitting streak to 19 games by going 6-for-12 with six runs, 10 RBI, two doubles and three home runs. Feb. 20 at Cal State Northridge, he bumped it up to 21 games, one short of the school record, but dislocated his shoulder sliding into second base in that game. March 5, he returned to the lineup and saw his streak broken at 21 games.
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 starting in right field, batting second or third in the batting order and serving as a 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 .343 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. Williamson slumped through the first six games, batting only .200 (4-for-20), but has hit .392(20-for-51) over the 12 games since. He was named the Pac-10 Conference Player of the Week after collecting 14 hits in five games at the UNLV Desert Classic (Feb. 25-28).
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. Feb. 13 against BYU, Carlsen picked up a win with a five-inning, four-hit performance. Feb. 26 vs. Nevada, he allowed only one run (unearned) and one walk while fanning five in seven innings. Last weekend, he threw seven shutout innings, allowing only three hits, against GWU. Heading into this weekend, he has allowed only one earned run in his last 21.2 innings of work. In 1999, Carlsen is 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA.
WOODS: Heading into last season, everyone knew that outfielder Kyle Woods had great 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 36 career steals, he needs only one more to reach the Husky career top 10 list. In its draft preview, Baseball America named him the nation's No. 50 college draft prospect this year. Through six games, Woods had a .091 average, but has 14-for-46 since to improve to .239.
RITTENHOUSE: Perhaps never before in UW baseball history has a player had bigger shoes to fill than sophomore 2B/SS Marc Rittenhouse did this year. In taking over the leadoff spot, he replaced All-American Chris Magruder, who scored more runs than any three-year player in Pac-10 history and left the UW with career and single-season records in hits, runs and stolen bases. But Rittenhouse, from Bellevue's Newport High, has performed up to those high standards so far. In 18 games, he is batting .368 and leads the team with his 28 runs scored, seven doubles and seven stolen bases. He's also walked 18 times and has posted an solid .946 fielding percentage while playing both middle infield positions. Last year, in a veteran-riddled lineup, Rittenhouse batted ninth once he cracked the lineup about a third of the way through the year. He closed his freshman season by batting .304 over the last 24 games.
NOTABLES: Reserve outfielder Matt Hollod has played in 17 of 18 games this year and started in six in left field . . . in Las Vegas, Hollod went 6-for-13 with four doubles and six RBI . . . despite having a third as many at bats as many of his teammates, his four two-baggers are fourth on the team . . . in 11 of his 25 appearances last year, sophomore reliever Matt Massingale did not allow a hit . . . this year, Massingale is 3-for-4 in save opportunities and hasn't allowed a run in eight of his nine appearances . . . co-captain Pete Orgill ranks seventh in UW history with 19 career HR . . . 17 of senior Kevin Ticen's 39 career hits have gone for extra bases . . . freshmen Brent Robertson and Jake Gann both got their first career starts in Las Vegas . . . Gann went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI in his debut and Robertson was 2-for-4 with a triple and two ribbies . . . freshman Richard Hall, who sat out the first month after breaking a finger in January, started at shortstop twice at Cal . . . he went 2-for-2 in his debut on Sunday.
RANDOM NOTES: 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) . . . 33 of the 36 players on the UW roster are from the state of Washington . . . Wichita State is the first ranked, non-Pac-10 team ever to play the Huskies on the Washington campus (UW has played such teams at the Kingdome) . . . the UW has scored in double figures eight times this year (7-1).