Bearcat Baseball Team Brings Experience, Speed into 2010 Season

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- A solid group of returning players, plus a quality recruiting class that includes 14 freshmen and two junior college transfers, has the Willamette University baseball team anticipating a successful season in 2010. The Bearcats hope to use increased speed and athletic ability to build on last year's 21-17 overall record and 18-13 mark in Northwest Conference action.

Providing leadership for the Bearcats will be four returning starters in the field, plus the starting pitcher who threw the most innings last spring.

The returning starters at field positions are Doug Bloom (Jr., SS, Salem, OR/South Salem, HS), T.C. Lee (Jr., LF, Lafayette, CA/Acalanes HS), Mitchell Rowan (So., RF/CF, Cotati, CA/Rancho Cotate HS) and Max Stepan (Jr., C, Pueblo, CO/Pueblo County HS). The top returner on the mound is Devin Grindy (So., Washougal, WA/Camas HS).

Last season, Bloom achieved a .290 batting average. He pounded out 10 doubles and three home runs. He scored 36 runs for the Bearcats and was 9 of 12 on stolen bases. He led Willamette with 122 assists as the team's starting shortstop. In his two years at WU, Bloom has a career batting average of .311 to go with 89 hits, 75 runs scored and 49 RBIs.

Bloom was chosen First Team All-NWC in 2008. He was an Honorable Mention All-NWC selection in 2009.

Lee batted .347 for the season, with nine doubles, one triple and nine home runs. He contributed a .669 slugging percentage. His career batting average is a solid .332 and he has earned 19 home runs and 15 doubles. He has 61 career RBIs and has scored 55 times. Lee was named Second Team All-NWC in 2008 and was Honorable Mention in 2009.

As a freshman last year, Rowan hit .296 for the Bearcats. He concluded the season with five homers and six doubles. He ranked second on the team with 32 RBIs and made 73 putouts in the outfield.

Stepan split time at catcher last season. He provided WU with a .273 batting average. He achieved nine extra-base hits with six doubles, one triple and two home runs.

Grindy led the Bearcats in wins and innings pitched with a 5-5 record and 55 2/3 innings on the mound. He recorded 15 strikeouts.

Ten of Grindy's 11 appearances were starts. His wins included victories over NWC opponents Lewis & Clark College, Whitworth University, Whitman College, Linfield College and Pacific University. Linfield was ranked #16 in NCAA Division III when Grindy earned a 4-3 complete-game victory on April 19 to help the Bearcats split a four-game series.

Willamette had nine seniors who graduated last spring, including Kyle Stalker (1B, Bellevue, WA/Sammamish HS) and Jack McGee (3B/P, Hillsborough, Ca/St. Ignatius Prep).

Stalker was named Third Team All-America and First Team All-NWC in 2008 and 2009. He set Willamette career records with 51 homers and 161 RBIs. In 2009, he hit .455 with a team-high 15 home runs. He established single season WU records with 22 homers and 63 RBIs in 2008.

McGee hit .413 at the plate last spring, while leading the team with 38 runs and 14 doubles. He also hit five home runs. As a pitcher, he was 3-0 with a 3.05 ERA and four saves. He made 11 appearances on the mound, including 10 relief appearances.

Grindy leads the way for the Willamette pitching staff as the most experience starter from a year ago, but he isn't alone in providing the Bearcats with strength on the mound. Junior transfer Jerris Van Hess (RHP, Aumsville, OR/Cascade HS), from College of the Siskiyous, will join Grindy in the starting rotation.

The #3 starting position is up for grabs between several players. Returning pitcher Chris Torgerson (Jr., RHP, Sacramento, CA/Jesuit HS), and freshmen Joseph Pelletier (LHP, La Habra Heights, CA/St. John Barco HS) and Jake Jones (RHP, Wilsonville, OR/Wilsonville HS) will battle for the starting spot. WU will primarily use a three-man rotation since each NWC series will be three games played over two days.

Starting assignments may change if Ryan Hood-Taylor (Jr., RHP, Scio, OR/Scio HS) is able to return to action. Hood-Taylor was Willamette's top starter at the beginning of last season, but missed most of the year due to injury. He was 2-0 with a 3.66 earned run average and 17 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings pitched prior to his injury.

Willamette's group of relief pitchers includes several quality arms. Scott Martin (Sr., RHP, Honolulu, HI/Punahou School), the only senior on this year's team, was 1-1 in 2009 and has made 31 appearances during his career. Andrew Wyman (Jr., RHP, Seattle, WA/Ballard HS) finished strong in 2009 with a 2.45 ERA and a 1-1 record. Wyman held opponents to a .227 batting average.

Other important relievers are transfer Ben Schreiner (Jr., RHP, Salem, OR/McNary HS/Lane CC), sophomore Blake Paisley (RHP, Saratoga, CA/Saratoga HS), and freshmen Parker Johnson (RHP, Carlsbad, CA/La Costa Canyon HS), Brandon Simon (RHP, Los Angeles, CA/Pacific Hills HS) and Cameron DeLasantos (LHP, Salinas, CA/Palma HS).

Pitching depth will be provided by Quinn Humphries (Jr., RHP, Littleton, CO/Chatfield HS), Nate Bender (Jr., RHP, Seattle, WA/Roosevelt HS), George Colton (Jr., RHP, Pasadena, CA/La Salle HS) and Sam Ellsworth (Fr., LHP, Bellevue, WA/Sammamish HS).

Stepan platooned behind the plate last season and also contributed on offense as a designated hitter. He has a career batting average of .304 with nine career home runs. He also has a .972 career fielding percentage behind the plate. Also receiving playing time at catcher will be Dylan Summers (So, Lake Oswego, OR/Lakeridge HS).

Depth at catcher will be supplied by Ross Knutsen (Jr. Warrenton, OR/Seaside HS) and Alex Brown (Fr., Farmington, UT/Davis HS).

Bloom will continue to anchor the infield as the Bearcats' shortstop. He will be working with new starters at all of the other infield positions.

At first base, talented freshmen Kyle Kirwan (Fr., Hillsboro, OR/Glencoe HS) and Derek Collins (Fr., Yorba Linda, CA/Esperanza HS) will battle for the starting job. Freshman Galen Duff (Spokane, WA/Gonzaga Prep) has earned the starting spot at second base.

Returning players Tim Schilf (So., Honolulu, HI/Iolani School) and Michael Oliver (So., Seattle, WA/West Seattle HS) will compete for playing time at third base. Oliver played in 11 games last season, mostly at first base, and hit .455. Schilf saw action in 15 games and earned four runs and four RBIs in just 18 at bats.

The Bearcats have their greatest depth in the outfield, led by returning starters in Lee and Rowan. Lee will remain in left field, where he achieved 56 putouts and two assists a year ago.

Rowan will be one of four players rotating in center field and right field. He will be joined by returner Adam Reid (So., San Jose, CA/Lynbrook HS) and freshmen Sky Kelley (Fr., Canby, OR/Jesuit HS) and Tyson Giza (Fr., Salem, OR/Sprague HS).

Another player who will contribute in the outfield is Sam Sopko (Fr., Missoula, MT/Loyola HS). Utility players Mikey Lemon (So., McMinnville, OR/McMinnville HS/Linfield College) and Eli Kass (Fr., Santa Cruz, CA/Santa Cruz HS) will give the Bearcats depth at a number of positions.

Overall Team

The team's top returning players -- Bloom, Lee, Rowan, Stepan and Grindy -- give the Bearcats a quality core to build around. The team lost some offensive power with Stalker and McGee graduating, but this year's squad is more athletic and has greater team speed.

Pitching depth also is deeper at Willamette this season, with a combination of improvement by returning players plus the addition of several strong new pitchers. WU returns pitchers who threw 60% of the innings for the Bearcats last season.

"Overall, it is an incredibly talented group, the most talented team in my four years here," said Head Coach Aaron Swick, who enters his second season as head coach following two seasons as an assistant. "Our pitching is significantly better than a year ago. We won't hit as many home runs as in years past, but we're more athletic and have some guys who can really run. With only one senior, our young players need to gain experience early to be tested for the remainder of our tough schedule."

Willamette opens the season at the Northwest Nazarene Tournament in Nampa, Idaho, on Feb. 19-20. The Bearcats will take on the Oregon Institute of Technology in a doubleheader on Feb. 19 and will play single games against Whitworth University and Northwest Nazarene University on Feb. 20.

The Bearcats will travel to California for four games from Feb. 26 through Feb. 28. Willamette will open its home schedule and NWC schedule with a three-game series against Lewis & Clark College at John Lewis Field in Salem, Ore., on March 6-7.

Doug Bloom

Doug Bloom

T.C. Lee

T.C. Lee

Devin Grindy

Devin Grindy

Max Stepan

Max Stepan

Michael Oliver

Michael Oliver

Mitchell Rowan

Mitchell Rowan

Scott Martin

Scott Martin