Bearcats Keep Playing Baseball in Summer Leagues

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Fifteen Willamette University baseball players are keeping their skills fine tuned and staying in shape by playing in summer leagues between now and the start of the fall semester. Most are playing in leagues using wooden bats, allowing WU athletes to find ways to adapt after using aluminum bats in high school and college.

The 15 Bearcats are playing for a total of 10 teams in six states. WU has players competing in Oregon, Washington, California, Utah, Montana and Wisconsin.

Many of the Willamette players are starting for their respective squads. All are getting significant experience against other talented athletes.

"Summer baseball is a great opportunity for our players to get better," said Willamette Head Coach Aaron Swick. "They will compete against guys from Division I, Division II and NAIA programs from all over the country. It will test their physical and mental skills on a daily basis, but will be an invaluable experience for each of them."

The Atwater Aviators in Atwater, Calif., have the greatest number of Bearcats on their roster this summer with three players. They are Doug Bloom (Jr. in 2009-10, SS, Salem, OR/South Salem HS), T.C. Lee (Jr., LF, Lafayette, CA/Acalanes HS) and Max Stepan (Jr., C/DH, Pueblo, CO/Pueblo County HS).

Bloom, Lee and Stepan all played for the Manitowoc Bandits in Manitowoc, Wisc., a year ago. They had a successful experience, with all three athletes earning All-Star honors in the Wisconsin State Baseball League (WSBL).

Two Bearcats are competing in Manitowoc this year. Parker Johnson (Fr., RHP, Carlsbad, CA/La Costa Canyon HS) is pitching, while Galen Duff (Fr., 2B, Spokane, WA/Gonzaga Prep) is an infielder for the Bandits.

There are two other teams with two Willamette players on their respective rosters.

Dylan Summers (So., C, Lake Oswego, OR/Lakeridge HS) and Jake Jones (Fr., RHP, Wilsonville, OR/Wilsonville HS) are members of the Portland (Ore.) Ports of the West Coast League Portland. Blake Paisley (So., RHP, Saratoga, CA/Saratoga HS) and Adam Reid (So., OF, San Jose, CA/Lynbrook HS) play for the Nor Cal Longhorns in San Jose, Calif.

Mitchell Rowan (So., DH/RF, Cotati, CA/Rancho Cotate HS), who led Willamette this spring with a .403 batting average and 12 home runs, is playing for the Folsom Pioneers in the West Coast League Tri-State. Rowan faced the Nor Cal Longhorns, including WU teammates Paisley and Reid, in non-league action June 2-3.

The Portland (Ore.) Bucks of the WCL Portland have Kyle Kirwan (Fr., 1B, Hillsboro, OR/Glencoe HS) on their roster. Kirwan will have a chance to take on Bearcat teammates Summer and Jones when the Bucks meet the Portland Ports in league play.

Sky Kelley (Fr., RF, Canby, OR/Jesuit HS) is competing for the Triple Play Hornets in Tacoma, Wash. Alex Brown (Fr., C, Farmington, UT/Davis HS) is a member of the Woods Cross Cats of the Utah Baseball Academy Collegiate League in Davis, Utah.

A pair of Willamette baseball players are participating on American Legion teams. Tyson Giza (Fr., CF, Salem, OR/Sprague HS) is playing for the Withnell Dodgers in Salem, Ore., and Samuel Sopko (Fr., OF, Missoula, MT/Loyola HS) is an outfielder for the Missoula Mavericks in Missoula, Mont.

Nearly all of the Bearcats involved in summer leagues this year will use wooden bats. The exceptions are Giza and Sopko since American Legion teams play with aluminum bats.

"Having to use wooden bats will make each of the position players (on those teams) better hitters," Swick said. "In addition, summer leagues allow our players to experience other parts of the country like Wisconsin and Central California. I am very excited about our guys playing this summer and how it will positively affect our team in the future."

Bearcats Playing Baseball in Summer Leagues (Year at WU is 2009-10)

Doug Bloom (Jr., SS), Atwater Aviators, Atwater, Calif.
Alex Brown (Fr., C), Woods Cross Cats, Davis, Utah
Galen Duff (Fr., 2B), Manitowoc Bandits, Manitowoc, Wisc.
Tyson Giza (Fr., CF), Withnell Dodgers, Salem, Ore.
Parker Johnson (Fr., RHP), Manitowoc Bandits, Manitowoc, Wisc.
Jake Jones (Fr., RHP), Portland Ports, Portland, Ore.
Sky Kelley (Fr., RF), Triple Play Hornets, Tacoma, Wash.
Kyle Kirwan (Fr., 1B), Portland Bucks, Portland, Ore.
T.C. Lee (Jr., LF), Atwater Aviators, Atwater, Calif.
Blake Paisley (So., RHP), Nor Cal Longhorns, San Jose, Calif.
Adam Reid (So., OF), Nor Cal Longhorns, San Jose, Calif.
Mitchell Rowan (So., DH/RF), Folsom Pioneers, Folsom Calif.
Samuel Sopko (Fr., OF), Missoula Mavericks, Missoula, Mont.
Max Stepan (Jr., C/DH), Atwater Aviators, Atwater, Calif.
Dylan Summers (So., C), Portland Ports, Portland, Ore.

T.C. Lee is one of three Bearcats playing for the Atwater Aviators. Lee hit .389 for WU this past season.

T.C. Lee is one of three Bearcats playing for the Atwater Aviators. Lee hit .389 for WU this past season.

Mitchell Rowan hit .403 for WU this spring. He was named First Team All-NWC and First Team All-West Region.

Mitchell Rowan hit .403 for WU this spring. He was named First Team All-NWC and First Team All-West Region.