March 2, 1999
SEATTLE - THIS WEEK: The Washington baseball team (7-4), after opening the season with 11 straight games on the road, open the home schedule this Friday, March 5, when Gonzaga comes to Husky Ballpark for a one-game visit. Game time for Friday's opener is 2:00 p.m. Saturday, the Dawgs play an exhibition game against the National Baseball Institute of Canada, a team consisting of Canadian players that attend college in the Vancouver, B.C., area. The following weekend, the Huskies host George Washington in a three-game series at Husky Ballpark. That weekend will feature the first home night game ever on the UW campus, Friday, March 12 at 6:30 p.m. That game will also be the first UW baseball radio broadcast of the season (KSRB AM-1150). Here's a glance at this week's UW baseball schedule:
Fri., March 5: UW vs. Gonzaga, Husky Ballpark, 2:00 p.m., starter -- RHP Jeff Heaverlo (2-0, 2.95)
Sat., March 6: UW vs. National Baseball Institute, Husky Ballpark, 1:00 p.m. (exhibition)
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 233-136 (.631). With those 233 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 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 current stats and notes:
Pos. Player, Year Avg.-HR-RBI Notes C -- Dominic Woody, Jr. .455-8-21 Eight home runs are halfway to UW record of 16 Jake Gann, RS-Fr. .600-0-2 3-for-4 with two RBI, 2B in first career start (2/25) 1B -- Ed Erickson, Jr. .341-5-18 27 HRs are 3rd in school history -- 3 shy of record 2B -- Marc Rittenhouse, So. .400-0-9 6 doubles this year leads team/had only 2 2B in '98 Brent Robertson, Fr. .667-0-3 First start came Saturday at UNLV/2-for-4, 2 RBI SS -- Greg Brooks, So. .222-0-4 Backed up 3-time All-Pac-10 SS Kevin Miller in 1998 3B -- Kevin Ticen, Sr. .325-5-12 Co-captain/moved from C to 3B/9 BB co-leads team OF -- Nick Stefonick, Sr. .444-3-10 21-game hit streak/May return from injury this week OF -- Bryan Williamson, Sr. .400-1-8 Improved average 200 points with 14 hits last week OF -- Kyle Woods, Jr. .304-1-5 12-for-24 last week/Avg. improved from .091 to .304 OF -- Tyson Boston, So. .143-0-2 Five starts as freshman in 1998/4 starts this season OF -- Dwight DeMar, Jr. .222-0-0 Top pinch runner and defensive replacement in 1998 OF -- Matt Hollod, RS-Fr. .409-0-8 Has started in Stefonick's place/4 2Bs is 2nd on UW DH -- Pete Orgill, Sr. .321-2-7 Co-captain/18 career HRs are seventh in UW history Daniel Jahn, So. .250-0-2 Also a left-handed pitcher/batted .390 in summer ball
SERIES HISTORY: Washington and Gonzaga, a former member of the Pac-10 Northern Division, have played each other 91 times, with the Huskies winning 51 of those games. Last year, the Dawgs and Zags met three times, in the first series ever played at the new Husky Ballpark. Gonzaga won the new stadium opener, 4-3, before Washington came back to win the next two games, 5-1 and 19-4. Husky coach Ken Knutson is 20-11 against Gonzaga, having played the Bulldogs in each of his six seasons as head coach.
LAST WEEK: Washington posted a 3-2 record at the UNLV/Coors Desert Classic, good enough to win the tournament championship (Creighton also went 3-2, but UW won based on scoring more runs). Jeff Heaverlo pitched the UW to a win in Thursday's 16-12 win over Creighton, allowing only three runs and no walks while fanning seven in seven innings. In game two, the Huskies' rally fell short in a 13-12 loss to No. 12 Clemson. Friday, the Dawgs got strong pitching from Jeff Carlsen (one run (unearned) in seven innings) in a 12-8 win over Nevada. Freshman Shawn Kohn threw four and one-third relief innings for a win in a 14-7 win over UNLV on Saturday and on Sunday, the Huskies nearly clawed back from an 8-1 deficit, but still lost to Creighton, 9-6. Several Huskies posted outstanding hitting performances over the weekend. Bryan Williamson batted .560 (14-for-25) while Kyle Woods went 12-for-24 (.500). Both Ed Erickson and Dominic Woody hit three homers over the five games.
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 329-198 (.624) overall record and a 155-73 (.680) mark in Pac-10 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.
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 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.
WHAT BAT RESTRICTIONS?: Despite the NCAA bat restrictions put in place this season, not to mention the loss from last year's team of three of the best offensive players in school history, Washington's power hitting has yet to see any fall off from the last few seasons' output. In each of the last two years, the Dawgs have broken the school's team home runs record with 84 in 1997 and 110 last year. This year, that mark could be in jeopardy once again. Through only 11 games, the Huskies have already hit 25 home runs, a pace that would give them 127 for the season (not counting any possible postseason play). Already, junior Dominic Woody is halfway to the individual season record of 16 with eight this year, while both Kevin Ticen and Ed Erickson are well ahead of record pace with five homers. By way of comparison, UW opponents have hit 11 home runs this year, or one per game. The Huskies have hit a home run in 10 of 11 this season, only failing to go deep in the win over UNLV.
STREAKING: Several Huskies are on hot streaks right now, including injured outfielder Nick Stefonick. Stefonick, who missed last weekend with a slight left shoulder dislocation, currently has a 21-game hitting streak, only one game short of tying Kevin Miller's school record of 22, set in 1997. Over the 21-game streak (which includes the final 16 games of last season), he has batted .461 (41-for-89) with 25 runs and 41 RBI. Stefonick has also hit safely in 30 of the last 31 games. Three other Huskies have streaks going: sophomore second baseman Marc Rittenhouse has hit in 10 straight (.400; 18-for-45, 17 runs, nine runs batted in); junior catcher Dominic Woody has hit in eight straight (.429; 15-for-35, 12 runs, 16 RBI, six HR); junior first baseman Ed Erickson has a six-game streak (.400; 10-for-25, 11 runs, 13 RBI, three homers); and two players have five-game streaks -- junior RF Bryan Williamson (.560; 14-for-25, nine runs, seven RBI) and junior CF Kyle Woods (.500, 12-for-24, eight runs, four RBI).
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 as the Dawgs are scheduled to play 34 home contests.
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 88 strikeouts as a freshman in 1997, 84 last year and 21 in 1999, he has two of the top five strikeout seasons in UW history and is 66 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. He has won his last two starts, beating CS Northridge and Creighton. He's 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA and 21 Ks in 18.1 innings.
WOODY: In his first season as a full-time starter, junior catcher Dominic Woody has made the most of his opportunity. In only 11 games this season, Woody has already blasted eight home runs, halfway to the UW school record of 16, set in 1986 by Mike Blowers and tied last season by Ryan Lentz. Woody is also leading the Dawgs in batting with a .455 mark and has scored 17 runs and driven in 21 in 11 games. His totals in runs, hits, RBI and homers lead the Huskies. In his 26 career starts at catcher, Woody, a Richland (Wash.) High graduate, has batted .432 (41-for-95) with 41 RBI and 31 runs. Also, 13 of his 15 career homers are as a starting catcher. In all other games, he has hit .279 (29-for-104).
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. He sat out last week's games with the injury, but may return against Gonzaga.
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 .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. Williamson entered last weekend in a batting slump, batting only .200 (4-for-20), but proceeded to hit .560 (14-for-25) over the five games in Las Vegas. With his performance, he increased his season average to .400.
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. Last weekend vs. Nevada, he allowed only one run (unearned) and one walk while fanning five in seven innings. In 1999, Carlsen is 2-0 with a 3.86 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 34 career steals, he needs only three 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. Woods entered last week with a .091 average, but went 12-for-24 for the weekend to improve to .304.
NOTABLES: Through only two-plus seasons, junior first baseman Ed Erickson already ranks third on the UW career list with 27 home runs . . . he enters this weekend only three homers short of the UW record of 30 (Kevin Miller, 1996-98) . . . reserve outfielder Matt Hollod has played in all 11 games this year and started in five following Stefonick's injury . . . last weekend in Las Vegas, Hollod went 6-for-13 with four doubles and six RBI . . . despite having half the at bats as many of his teammates, his four two-baggers are second 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-3 in save opportunities and hasn't allowed a run in six appearances . . . co-captain Pete Orgill ranks seventh in UW history with 18 career HR . . . after collecting only two doubles as a freshman last year, second baseman/shortstop Marc Rittenhouse leads the Huskies with six this year . . . 16 of senior Kevin Ticen's 32 career hits have gone for extra bases . . . freshmen Brent Robertson and Jake Gann both got their first career starts last weekend . . . 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.
RANDOM NOTES: Having just completed 11 straight road games, the Huskies now play 34 of their next 48 games at home and only 14 more on the road . . . three Huskies -- Dominic Woody, Pete Orgill and Nick Stefonick -- already have two-homer games in 1999 . . . freshman Richard Hall, who was a possible starter at shortstop, broke his left little finger in practice in January and will likely be out for one more week . . . 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) . . . the Huskies have lost three straight home openers -- to Gonzaga (1998), Portland (1997) and Navy (1996) . . . 33 of the 36 players on the UW roster are from the state of Washington.