May 18, 1998
THIS WEEK: The 14th-ranked Washington baseball (39-15) opens play at the NCAA Central Regional Thursday at College Station, Texas. The two-time Pac-10 champion Huskies, seeded third in the regional, will get a rematch against fourth-seeded Mississippi State (37-20) in the first round. Game time is 1:00 p.m. (PDT) and the game will air live on KRPM AM-1090 and on the internet (www.gohuskies.com). Last year, MSU beat the Huskies in the championship game of the NCAA Mideast Regional, which was played in Starkville, Miss. Washington will start sophomore righthander Jeff Heaverlo (5-2, 5.34 ERA) on Thursday. The other four teams in the regional are top-seeded Rice, No. 2 seed and host Texas A&M, No. 5 seed UNC Charlotte and sixth-seeded Oral Roberts. The regional runs through May 25 with the winner advancing to the College World Series. Here is the complete schedule of games for Thursday, May 21:
Game One: No. 1 Rice (45-15) vs. No. 6 Oral Roberts (44-18), 9:00 a.m.
Game Three: No. 3 Washington (39-15) vs. No. 4 Mississippi State (37-20), 1:00 p.m.
Game Two: No. 2 Texas A&M (43-18) vs. No. 5 UNC Charlotte (43-17), 5:00 p.m.
NCAA HISTORY: Washington is making its fifth-ever NCAA appearance, fourth in the 1990s and third under coach Ken Knutson. The Huskies have an overall record of 10-8 in NCAA play, including a 7-4 mark under Knutson. In each of the Huskies' four regional trips this decade (1992, 1994, 1997 and 1998), Washington has won its first two games and finished no lower than third. In every 90's appearance, the Huskies have been seeded higher than in their previous appearance -- No. 6 in 1992; No. 5 in 1994, No. 4 in 1997 and now a No. 3 seeding in 1998.
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 224-130 (.633). With those 224 wins, he is the second-winningest coach in Washington history, trailing only Bob MacDonald (422). He has passed the 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 Pac-10 Northern Division games and holds a winning record against every Nor-Pac team (including now-departed Portland and Gonzaga). A 1981 All-Pac-10 left-handed pitcher at the UW, he is joined by assistants Joe Ross, Joe Weis and Gary Blouin.
PLAYER NOTES: Here's a look at the possible starters at each position, with 1998 stats and notes:
Pos. Player, Year Avg-HR-RBI Notes C -- Ryan Bundy, Jr. .304-6-22 Baseball America's No. 21 prospect/hit in 10 of last 11 Pete Orgill, Jr. (1B) .321-8-30 30 RBI on 25 hits this year/16 career HR is 9th at UW 1B -- Ed Erickson, So. .368-11-43 19 career homers are 6th in UW history/4-for-10 in NCAA Dominic Woody, So. (C) .306-4-12 Backs up at C and 1B/10-for-30 vs. ranked opponents 2B -- Marc Rittenhouse, Fr. .267-2-8 Led Newport HS to state title/last 20 games: .327 BA Chris Whitemarsh, Sr. .204-1-6 One of two UW seniors/five of 11 hits are extra-base SS -- Kevin Miller, Jr. .330-11-54 Batted .389 (7-for-18) at Mideast Regional last year 3B -- Ryan Lentz, Jr. .319-15-59 One HR short of Mike Blowers' UW season record (16) OF -- Chris Magruder, Jr. .396-11-52 Batted .619 (13-21) at NCAA Mideast Regional last year OF -- Jim Na, Jr. .276-3-22 '98 co-captain/3-for-12, 2B, run at 1997 Regional OF -- Nick Stefonick, Jr. .420-6-46 .420 BA leads Pac-10/12-game streak (.519, 27-for52) OF -- Kyle Woods, So. .318-14-48 14 home runs 3rd in UW history/3 2-HR games this year DH -- Bryan Williamson, Jr. (P).300-3-19 Has played RF, DH, and P/7 K in 6.1 IP at NCAAs Kevin Ticen, Jr. (C) .375-1-18 Eight starts at DH/13 runs, 18 RBI in only 48 at bats
TRAVEL INFORMATION: The Huskies are leaving for College Station Tuesday morning at 4:00 a.m., and arriving Tuesday afternoon. The team will stay at the Best Western -- Chimney Hill (2504 Texas Avenue South). The phone number at the Best Western is (409) 764-9540 and the fax number is (409) 693-2430. Media relations director Jeff Bechthold will be with the team and may be reached at the hotel.
SERIES HISTORIES: Mississippi State holds a 3-1 series advantage over Washington. Last year, the Huskies beat the Bulldogs, 5-4, in their second game at the NCAA Mideast Regional in Starkville. In the championship round, MSU came up with the necessary two wins (7-5 and 4-3) to knock off the Huskies and get to the World Series. The other meeting was an MSU win in 1967. Texas A&M is 6-0 against Washington. In Ken Knutson's first four games as the Husky coach (Feb. 12-14, 1993) at Olsen Field, the Aggies swept Washington (3-2, 8-4, 7-4 and 6-5), with the first and fourth games going extra innings. A&M went on to spend much of that season at No. 1. The Aggies also beat Washington twice in 1991. Oral Roberts is 2-0 against the UW, having beaten the Huskies in regular-season tournaments in 1980 and 1982. Washington has never played either UNC Charlotte or Rice.
LAST WEEK: Washington won its second straight Pacific-10 Conference championship, sweeing the best of three series from Stanford, 16-4 and 12-8, at Husky Ballpark. In Thursday's opener, the Huskies scored in six of their nine at bats to win, 16-4, scoring eight runs on 10 hits in 4.2 innings against Cardinal starter Chad Hutchinson. Chris Magruder reached base all six times and scored five runs. Nick Stefonick, Ed Erickson and Jim Na each had three RBI and Jeff Heaverlo went the distance for the win. Friday, the Dawgs wrapped up the title, coming back from a 3-0 first-inning deficit. Magruder was 4-for-6 while Stefonick and Ryan Bundy each had three hits in the game. Reliever Mike Bomar picked up the win.
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 fourth Pac-10 North title in the 1990s, won the Pac-10 overall championship and came within one win of the College World Series. In the 1990s, Washington has made three NCAA Regional appearances, more than any team from the Northwest. During the current decade, the Huskies have posted a 320-192 (.625) 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.
HUSKY BALLPARK: This season marks the beginning of a new era for Husky baseball as Washington has moved to a new home -- Husky Ballpark. Graves Field, where the Huskies played since the early 1960s, is gone as Washington played its first game at the new site Feb. 27 vs. Gonzaga. This season, the new facility features a new field, with the stadium to come in the future. The new field includes an AstroTurf infield and a beautiful view of Lake Washington, the Cascades and Mount Rainier. Already, the new field, which includes a state-of-the-art outfield drainage system, has paid dividends as the Huskies have been able to practice on a real baseball field every day since opening spring practice on January 6. In past years, the Huskies have often been able to practice only on the football turf prior to playing the first game of the year. The new home has been friendly to the Dawgs thusfar, as the UW went 23-6 and has hit 64 home runs in 29 home games.
THE SCOOTER: Through his nearly three full seasons at Washington, junior center fielder Chris Magruder (Yakima, Wash./West Valley HS) has established himself as one of the best players in Pac-10 North history. He ranks in the top 10 in virtually every important UW career category only part way through his third season. He stands second in UW lore with his 250 career hits and holds the Husky record for runs with 221. His runs total is the sixth highest in Pac-10 history and most ever by a three-year player. Despite being a leadoff man, he's third on the Washington career home runs list (with 26) and fourth in career RBI with 151. A month ago, he broke the Husky career steals record and now has 92. This year, he also broke the single-season walks record with 54. He has reached base in all but four games this year, and over the last 16 games, he's batting .542 (32-for-59) has 36 runs, 15 walks, 21 RBI, seven doubles, three triples, four home runs and reached base in 62 of his last 94 plate appearances (.660). The speedy leadoff man was named a first-team preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball and a second-teamer by the Sporting News. Last year, he broke UW records for hits (104), runs (96) and steals (43) while batting .400. He completed the 1997 season on a tear, batting .619 at the NCAA Mideast Regional and closing out the year with a 16-game hitting streak and batted .619 (13-for-21) at the NCAA Mideast Regional at Mississippi State. He went on to start in right field for the USA Baseball National Team, batting .336 over the summer.
MILLER TIME: Junior shortstop Kevin Miller returns to defend his back-to-back titles as the Pac-10 North Player of the Year as he was the first man ever to win the award twice (and, in 1996, the first freshman to win it). The power hitter from Seattle's Ballard High was named a first-team preseason All-American by the Sporting News and a second-teamer by Collegiate Baseball this year. Last year, he batted .384 and broke the UW RBI record with 73 while leading the team with 12 home runs. After his sophomore season, he was named to the NCBWA second-team All-America while making the third team on two other lists. He has started 176 of the 178 games during his UW tenure at shortstop, and may have established himself as the greatest power hitter in school history. Only a junior, he's set new school records for career RBI (163), home runs (29) and triples (12) and is mounting attacks on several other UW marks. A career .354 hitter and one of only seven Huskies ever to record 200 hits, he ranks in several career categories other than homers: hits (third with 233), runs (3rd with 179) and doubles (fifth with 40). A strong defensive shortstop, Miller has made only 12 errors (for a very respectable .948 fielding pct.).
AT THE HOT CORNER: Junior Ryan Lentz (Woodinville (Wash.) HS), another of the fabulous junior class, is in his third season as the everyday starter at third base. Thanks to consistent improvement, Lentz might be the greatest left-handed power hitter in UW history. Last year, he started 64 of the Huskies' 66 games at third, batting .327 with nine home runs and 69 RBI. He also broke the UW doubles record with 26, smashing the old record by eight. His 251 at bats, 82 hits and 58 runs were all among the top 10 in Husky history and his 69 runs batted in would have broken the school record except that Kevin Miller had 73 in 1997. Named a third-team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers in 1997, he was tabbed the No. 50 college prospect in the nation by Baseball America this preseason. As a sophomore, he improved his average by 65 points and posted 30 more extra-base hits over his freshman season. Currently, Lentz is batting .323 with a team-high 59 RBI and 18 doubles. His 15 home runs land him one short of Mike Blowers' season record of 16 (1986). Lentz ranks in the UW career top three in three important power categories: doubles (1st (tied) with 48), home runs (2nd with 27) and runs batted in (3rd with 156).
BEHIND THE PLATE: Ryan Bundy (Lake Stevens (Wash.) HS) is another star member of the Huskies' junior class. A tremendous defensive catcher, Bundy's offense has shown steady improvement over the last two seasons. Last year, he batted .311 with 17 doubles, six homers and 40 runs batted in over 193 at bats. Perhaps, most impressive, he stole 14 bases in 16 attempts and is one of the Huskies' fastest players. He showed great improvement over his freshman year in the power categories as he had only three doubles, no homers and 19 RBI in 135 ABs as a freshman. This preseason, Baseball America called him the No. 44 college prospect in the nation, the highest of the five Husky players to make the top 100. Several weeks ago, Baseball America put out an updated prospect list and named Bundy the No. 21 college prospect in the nation. Bundy has started 39 of 54 games at catcher and is batting .304 with six homers, 22 RBI and 10 stolen bases.
BIG WILLY: Last season, junior Bryan Williamson (Kennewick, Wash./Kamiakin HS) developed into one of the nation's top two-way players, posting a 4-2 record with six saves and a 2.89 ERA on the mound and a .381 batting average with 58 RBI as a designated hitter and outfielder. At the conclusion of last season, the 6-foot-6 righthander was given a tryout with the USA National Team, but withdrew with a shoulder injury that was repaired in the off-season. This year, Williamson still hopes to move into the starting rotation and plays only DH in the batting order. A tricky, yet hard-throwing pitcher, Williamson fanned 49 batters and allowed only 34 hits in 43.2 innings a year ago. All of his statistics were a vast improvement over his freshman season, when he batted .254 and had an 11.12 earned run average. This preseason, Williamson was named the No. 61 college prospect in the nation by Baseball America. Williamson is currently batting .300 with 19 RBI in 22 starts. On the mound, he has a 2-0 record and turned in his longest outing (6 IP) May 3 vs. Oregon State.
NICK THE QUICK: Junior right fielder Nick Stefonick (Seattle/O'Dea HS) has emerged in the second half of the season as one of the West Coast's top outfielders. Stefonick enters postseason play as the Pac-10's top hitter with his .420 batting average. If he's able to finish the season with that mark, it would be the second-highest average in UW history (.426, Jeb Best, 1981). He's also been on fire recently. During his current 12-game hitting streak, he's batting .519 (27-for-52) with 15 runs, 23 RBI, four doubles, two triples, three homers and five stolen bases. Over the last 22 games, he batted .500 (46-for-92), raising his batting average from .313 to .420. Stefonick began the year in a platoon in right field, but his hot hitting has made him an everyday player.
FAST RELIEF: One advantage the Huskies may have heading into the postseason is its deep bullpen. Sophomore RHP Ken Ferguson leads the Huskies with his 3.58 ERA. He's 3-0 and has fanned 37 and allowed only 17 hits in 27.2 innings. Junior righty Wayne Lee is 1-0 and has struck out 42 batters and allowed only 22 hits in 30.2 frames. Lee has performed as both a long reliever and a closer. Freshman Matt Massingale, a side-arming righty, is the Husky set-up man. He leads the club with 23 appearances and has surrendered only 22 hits in 29 innings. Senior right-hander Cody Morrison leads the team with his six saves. He's allowed only 13 hits in 20 innings while fanning 29. Freshmen lefties Daniel Jahn and Mike Bomar have both seen spot starting duty, but are primarily long relievers while split-finger specialist Tom Linarelli has worked his way into some action the last few weeks. Combined, these seven pitchers have struck out 180 batters and allowed only 117 hits in 155 innings.
RANDOM NOTES: The UW has had a player hit two home runs in a game 14 times this season . . . Washington has stolen over 100 bases for the fifth time ever and the fourth time in six seasons under Ken Knutson . . . as a staff, Washington pitchers have allowed only 446 hits in 463.2 innings, an average of only 8.66 hits per nine innings . . . of the 14 Husky pitchers that have thrown this season, only four are allowing more than one hit per inning . . . Washington smashed the team HR record this year with 98 . . . prior to last year, when the Huskies hit 84, the school record had been 47 . . . only five players in UW history have hit 20 career home runs, and three of them are current Huskies -- Miller (29), Lentz (27) and Magruder (26) . . . those three are also the only three Huskies ever to collect both 200 hits and 20 home runs in a career . . . Washington is 11-8 against ranked teams this year (that figure includes all teams that have been ranked at any time this season) . . . the Huskies enter postseason play having won 16 of their last 18 games . . . during that 18-game span, the Huskies have scored 193 runs (10.72 per game) while allowing only 99 (5.5 per game) . . . in six year under Ken Knutson, the Huskies have won four Pac-10 Northern Division titles . . . in the 40 years prior to his arrival, they won three.