No. 12 UW heads to Florida to open baseball season.
Feb. 3, 1998
THIS WEEK: The Pac-10 champion Washington Huskies, ranked as high as No. 12 in the nation, open the 1998 season next weekend at the Florida Marlins Invitational, a tournament played at the Marlins' spring training site in Viera, Fla., near Melbourne. The Huskies, ranked as high as No. 12 in the nation in the preseason polls, open the season against Florida Atlantic Friday at Viera, Fla. Gametime is 9:30 a.m. (PDT). Saturday, the Dawgs take on Central Florida at Viera, Fla. That game starts at 1:00 p.m. (PDT). The road trip winds up with Washington playing South Florida Sunday at 2:30 p.m. (PDT). Like the rest of their tournament games, this one takes place at Viera, Fla. Junior Matt Hampton (7-1 in 1997) is expected be the Huskies' opening day starter against Florida Atlantic. There will be no radio coverage of these games. Washington returns to another warm climate next weekend with five games in four days at the San Diego Baseball Classic. The home opener is Feb. 27 vs. Gonzaga.
SERIES HISTORY: Washington has never played Florida Atlantic, Central Florida or South Florida. In fact, the Huskies have never played any team from the state of Florida. Washington will, however, be playing its second set of games ever east of the Mississippi River. The eastern locale, however, is the second in a row for the Dawgs, as they completed the 1997 season at the NCAA Mideast Regional at Mississippi State, their first ever venture east of the Mississippi River.
COACH "K": In five seasons as the head coach of his alma mater, Ken Knutson has led the Dawgs to a Pac-10 championship, three Pac-10 Northern Division titles, two second-place finishes and two NCAA Regionals. His career overall record stands at 185-115 (.617). With those 185 wins, he is the third-winningest coach in Washington history, trailing only Tubby Graves (209 wins) and Bob MacDonald (422). Before becoming the Husky head man in 1993, Knutson served as the Husky pitching coach for eight seasons over two separate stints. In 1985, his UW pitching staff led the nation with a 2.80 earned run average. Knutson holds a 79-22 (.782) record at Graves Field. He is 94-44 (.681) 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, Kevin Johnston and Joe Weis.
PLAYER NOTES: Here's a look at the possible starters at each position, with 1997 stats and notes:
Pos. Player, Year Avg-HR-RBI Notes C -- Ryan Bundy, Jr. .311- 6-40 Baseball America's No. 44 prospect/14-of-16 SB in '97 Pete Orgill, Jr. .239- 3-19 Fully healthy after DH and 1B duties first two seasons 1B -- Ed Erickson, So. .333- 8-25 21 starts and 99 at bats a year ago/HR every 12.4 ab Dominic Woody, So. (C) .358- 3-17 Backs up at C and 1B/18 starts and 67 at bats in '97 2B -- Chris Whitemarsh, Sr. .262- 4-13 One of two seniors on UW roster/right-handed hitter Darin Nakagawa, Jr. .255- 0- 6 16 starts last season/lefty hitter/also backs SS, 3B Marc Rittenhouse, Fr. 1st season at UW MVP of all-state tournament/led Newport HS to title SS -- Kevin Miller, Jr. .384-12-73 Two-time Pac-10 North Player of the Year/holds RBI mark 3B -- Ryan Lentz, Jr. .327- 9-69 Baseball America's No. 50 prospect/26 doubles in '97 OF -- Chris Magruder, Jr. .400- 8-54 Batted .336 as starting right fielder for US National Team OF -- Jim Na, Jr. .365- 4-30 '98 co-captain with Magruder/left-handed hitter OF -- Nick Stefonick, Jr. .317- 5-39 May platoon with Na/13-of-15 stolen bases in '97 OF -- Kyle Woods, So. .333- 1-10 10-of-11 stolen bases as backup OF and PR last year OF -- Dwight DeMar, So. .333- 0- 1 One of Huskies' most improved players last fall DH -- Bryan Williamson, So. (P) .381- 4-58 Baseball America's No. 61 prospect/also starting RHP
LAST SEASON: Washington posted perhaps its best season ever last year, winning its first overall conference title since taking the Pacific Coast Conference crown in 1922. The Dawgs went 20-4 to win the Pac-10 Northern Division before beating Southern Division champion Stanford two games to one in the Pac-10 Championship Series. At the NCAA Mideast II Regional, UW jumped out to a 3-0 record and were one win from the College World Series before losing twice to host Mississippi State. For the year, the Huskies batted .340 as a team (third best in Pac-10 history, both divisions) and broke 32 school records, including almost every major team batting mark. Four different Huskies earned All-America honors of one sort or another.
LID LIFTERS: Washington has lost three straight season openers and has a 4-6 record in such games over the last 10 years. Last year, the Huskies rallied from a 9-0 deficit, but still fell at UNLV, 12-10. Ryan Lentz went 4-for-5 with two doubles in that game and Kevin Miller also doubled twice in five ABs. Here's a rundown of the Huskies' last 10 season-opening games:
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. Toleda (at San Diego) Feb. 12, 1993 L, 2-3 at Texas A&M Feb. 12, 1992 L, 10-19 vs. Okla. (at El Paso) Feb. 1, 1991 W, 8-5 at Hawaii Feb. 22, 1990 W, 6-1 at Central Wash. Feb. 28, 1989 W, 12-1 Puget Sound Feb. 25, 1988 L, 5-6 Portland
PRESEASON PATTER: Washington received more preseason recognition this year than, probably, any year in its history. Both OF Chris Magruder and SS Kevin Miller were named first-team preseason All-Americans and the Huskies were ranked in every poll -- No. 12 in Baseball America, No. 15 in the Sporting News and No. 20 in Collegiate Baseball. The Huskies' No. 12 ranking is their highest ever in any poll, preseason or otherwise. Additionally, the Huskies' were the pick to win the Pac-10 North by BA and the Pac-10 Coaches. In Baseball America's top 100 college prospects (eligible for the 1998 draft), five Huskies (Ryan Bundy, Ryan Lentz, Bryan Williamson, Magruder and Miller) appeared, more than any school except for Stanford, with six.
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 its 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 281-178 (.612) overall record and a 136-66 (.673) mark in Pac-10 North play. Under coach Ken Knutson (1993-97), Washington is 136-57 (.705) against all teams from the Northwest (Washington, Oregon and Idaho) and 105-52 (.669) against Division I teams from the Northwest. Knutson has a winning record against every Northwest team (12) he has faced.
THE SCHEDULE: As usual, the Huskies begin this season largely on the road, with eight straight road games to begin the season. In addition, 16 of the Huskies' first 24 games are away from the new Husky Ballpark. However, this season's schedule (which totals 56 games) includes 27 home games, the most in the history of the program. Last season, Washington may have been the nation's winningest road team, with 30 victories away from Graves Field. This season's schedule is highlighted with three three-game series against Pac-10 Southern Division teams, the newest wrinkle in the ever-changing Pac-10 format. This year, each Southern Division team will play one road series and one home series against Northern Division teams, while each North team gets three series. The Huskies play at Stanford and face Arizona State and California at home. Also, should the Huskies win the Northern Division, they'll get to host the Pac-10 Championship Series.
HUSKY BALLPARK: This season marks the beginning of a new era for Husky baseball as Washington moves to a new home -- Husky Ballpark. Graves Field, where the Huskies played since the early 1960s, is gone and Washington will play its first game at the new park February 27 vs. Gonzaga. This season, the new facility will feature a new field, with the stadium to come in the future. The new field features 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 SCOOTER: Junior center fielder Chris Magruder (Yakima, Wash./ West Valley HS) returns to the Huskies for his third season as a starter. 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. 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 fo 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 National Collegiate Baseball Writers' second-team All-America while making the third team on two other lists. He has started 123 of the 124 games during his UW tenure at shortstop.
AT THE HOT CORNER: Junior Ryan Lentz (Woodinville (Wash.) HS) returns to his spot as the Husky starting third baseman for the third season this year. If the left-handed hitter with the strong arm improves this year as much as he did last year, his statistics will be monsterous. 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.
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.
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 will move into the starting rotation and play only DH in the batting order. A tricky, but 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 nad had an 11.12 earned run average. This preseason, Williamson was named the No. 61 college prospect in the nation by Baseball America.
NOT TO MENTION . . . : Other than the above five returners, there's a long list of experienced talent returning for the Huskies in '98. Junior captain Jim Na and junior Nick Stefonick may end up platooning in right field for the Dawgs. Na batted .365 with 20 extra-base hits in 115 at bats last season. Stefonick was a .317 hitter in his first season at the UW last year. He also stole 13 bases and knocked in 39 runs. The other returning outfielder is sophomore Kyle Woods, who hit .333 in 78 at bats and stole 10 bases in 11 tries as a freshman. Returning at second base are senior Chris Whitemarsh and junior Darin Nakagawa, who at the close of last season were playing in a regular platoon. Both can play all three infield spots. At first base, soph slugger Ed Erickson is slated to fill Ryan Soules' spot. Erickson got 99 at bats as a freshman belting eight homers and batting .333. Two other experienced hitters return in junior Pete Orgill and soph Dominic Woody. Both back up and catcher and first base and may DH. Orgill is a strong left-handed hitter and Woody batted .358 in 67 at bats a year ago. On the mound, the primary returning starter is Matt Hampton, who won seven of eight decisions last year. He picked up a win over Georgia Tech at the Regionals and became a reliable starter in the second half of the year. Senior closer Cody Morrison posted nine saves and was the All-Pac-10 North closer two seasons ago. He missed much of last season with an injury, but is back for 1998. A submarining righty, he's almost unbeatable when throwing strikes. He allowed only 10 hits and four runs in 15.2 IP last year. Junior Wayne Lee and sophomores Travis Anderson and Ken Ferguson round out the corps of returning moundsmen.
YOUNG GUNS: Despite the fact that the Huskies return a long list of veterans, they will rely on their freshmen this season, particularly on the mound. As many as 10 freshmen could make the travel squad for the trip to Florida (31-man travel squad), and any of them could play. Fortunately, the Huskies' '98 recruiting class, comprised completely of freshmen, was ranked No. 15 in the nation. Even better, the class is loaded with pitchers, the primary area in which the Huskies are lacking experience. Four of the UW freshman pitchers were selected in last June's draft: Mike Bomar, Jeff Carlsen, John Gillespie and Daniel Jahn. In addition, freshmen Matt Gardner, Matt Hollod and Matt Massingale are expected to see plenty of relief duty and 2B Marc Rittenhouse will fight for a starting spot.
RANDOM NOTES: Washington will have 27 games (plus any postseason action) air on live radio this season . . . games will air on KRPM AM-1090 and on the internet (via AudioNet), beginning with the game at Stanford, March 21 . . . the Huskies were last shut out in the final game of the 1996 season (5-0 at USC), meaning that they've gone 66 straight without being blanked . . . in fact, the Dawgs scored in double figures 29 of 66 games last season, and lost only two games when they scored more than seven runs (and those two losses both came in the opening weekend of the season) . . . last year, Washington averaged 9.54 runs per game . . . 15 Husky players that had at least one at bat last year return for 1998 . . . combined, those 15 hitters batted .344 (639-for-1,857) and scored 485 of the Huskies' 624 runs last season . . . Washington finished the 1997 season on a hot streak, with 16 wins in the last 19 games and 31 of the last 39 . . . over the last 19 games, Washington scored an average of 10.79 runs per game . . . for the first time in school history, the Huskies had five players steal 10 or more bases last season . . . four of those players (Magruder, 43; Bundy 14; Stefonick, 13; and Woods, 10) return in 1998 . . . combined, those four we caught only nine times in 89 attempts . . . the Huskies' 37-man roster includes 12 players that have been previously selected in the major league draft, certainly one of the higher totals in the nation . . . with junior LHP Matt Hampton scheduled to start on the mound in the season opener, Ken Knutson, a former UW southpaw himself, will have started a lefty on opening day in each of his six seasons at the Husky head coach.