With 15 national
titles in the last 24 seasons – far and away the most
impressive streak in the history of the National
Association of Intercollegiate Athletics – reloading
each year would seem to just come naturally to the
Lewis-Clark State College baseball program.
This season, there
is talent on the roster. The team has four returning
position starters, two key returning starting pitchers,
and a strong nucleus of newcomers. If the Warriors can
put all the pieces together, they should challenge for
their third straight Avista NAIA World Series title as
coach Ed Cheff goes for his 16th title in his
32nd season at the college.
Although each team
leaves its own mark on the program, this year’s squad
has the tough task of following the impressive numbers
put up by last season’s team when it rolled to a 58-5
record and outscored its five World Series opponents
43-17 to claim its fifth national championship in the
LCSC had a program
record eight players selected in last season’s Major
League draft, including the NAIA’s Player of the Year,
Beau Mills, who was selected in the 1st round
by the Cleveland Indians. Mills hit an NAIA record 38
home runs in the season, including three in the World
Series title game, a 9-2 win over Spring Arbor. Seven of
the eight drafted signed with teams, while an eighth
player signed a free-agent contract.
“I think generally
we probably lost as many talented players who either
graduated or went to professional baseball last season
than at any point in the program’s history,” Cheff said.
“That being said, I have to think this year’s club could
be a good club. That really speaks well of the type of
team we had last year.”
The Warriors again
will play a Region I schedule with six games – three at
home and three away – against the other five Region I
teams. In Region I are College of Idaho, University of
British Columbia, Corban, Concordia, and Oregon
Institute of Technology. LCSC again will not be allowed
to host the Region I Tournament, but the Region I
tournament winner, even if it is LCSC, will play host to
the Super Regionals in mid May.
As the host
institution, LCSC still receives an automatic berth to
the Avista NAIA World Series, which will be held May
23-30 this year at LCSC’s Harris Field.
season from LCSC’s schedule is the annual Banana Belt
Baseball Tournament because a couple of NCAA Division I
schools backed out of the tournament. The Warriors will
play two games against Gonzaga, home and away, this
season, along with two games at the University of
The coaching staff
has made a couple of changes with Roberto Saenz and
former Warrior Matt Vogel joining as assistant coaches.
Here’s a preview
broken down by position for the 2008 Warriors.
With Jessie Mier
now playing in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization,
LCSC returns only one player with experience behind the
plate from a year ago in sophomore Travis Georguis from
position has been a little disappointing because
Georguis is the only guy who has stepped up,” Cheff
said. “We recruited him with the idea that he would be
pretty good as a sophomore and I think he can be.”
signed three junior college catchers – Chris Lum of
Orange County CC, Bernard Pena, of Cochise JC, and Brian
Ward of Golden West CC. Cheff says once the coaching
staff can evaluate the three and learn their strengths
and weaknesses, the Warriors could be OK, or he may
decide to move versatile Brent Wyatt behind the plate.
Wyatt, the team’s starting center fielder last season,
could stay in the outfield, move to shortstop, or catch.
He spent part of the winter workouts at the position.
“Catcher is such a
crucial position,” Cheff said. “But it’s a lot easier to
learn than you think. Brent has real good hands, a
strong arm, and a short release, so it should be easy
for him. It is something we will have to look at.”
return first basemen Kyle Greene and Ikaika Lester,
along with second baseman Kyle Melton. Lester is moving
to third base this season to replace Mills, which will
free up the designated hitter spot. For most of last
season, when Lester was healthy, either Greene or Lester
would play first while the other was the DH.
“We really like
the three guys who played an awful lot,” Cheff says.
“Lester moving to third base for us is the real key. If
he can play there as well as I think he can, then he and
Greene will give us two really solid corners. Having
Lester play well at third is really big. We don’t have
anyone proven or that we like there right now besides
Lester hit .398 with a .660 slugging percentage. He came
especially strong at the end of the season and earned a
spot on the Avista NAIA World Series All-Tournament
Greene, who played
at Lewiston High, gives LCSC a solid left-handed bat in
the lineup. He earned all-Region I honors last year when
he hit .324 and tied for second on the team in home runs
Melton was part of
a group that battled for the second base position for
most of the year. He started at second, third and at
designated hitter during the Series.
infield is a little bit of a question,” Cheff said.
“Melton is back and played well last year and we’d like
to see him play second. Josh Ashenbrenner is a transfer
from Washington State and if he plays as well as we
think he will at shortstop, he will be a good player for
us. He is a lot better offensively than he was in the
Also in the mix in
the middle are Ryan Anderson and Ricky Reavis, both
transfers from the University of Washington. Anderson
played with LCSC last year, but struggled at the plate.
Cheff said Reavis needs to prove himself as a hitter,
although he did play well at Skagit Valley Community
College two years ago when he was the NWACC’s Northern
Ashenbrenner is the key,” Cheff says. “If we didn’t like
anything in the middle, we could move Wyatt there. He is
our best all-around player on the team, hands down. So
Wyatt could play center, shortstop or possibly catch.”
Cheff also expects
redshirt freshman Brian Bollwitt to see playing time in
the middle, and behind Greene at first base are a bunch
of good hitters who will likely see time as the
designated hitter. That group includes Sean Halton, a
first-team all-JC selection last year, and Kepa Wong.
Cheff also said Armando Reyes and Zach Adam could be
part of the mix, but have been plagued by injuries
throughout their Warrior careers.
“With those five
guys, one of them should be the DH, and a lot of them
will share pinch-hitting roles,” Cheff said.
Wyatt, who is a
preseason NAIA All-America selection, had a solid season
a year ago as the center fielder. Despite a slow start,
which included a facial injury from a ball early in the
season, he wound up fourth among the regulars with a
.357 average. He also tied for second on the team with
seven home runs and was third in RBI with 52.
“The big thing in
the outfield is everything involves Wyatt again,” Cheff
said. “He is our only true center fielder. Wyatt is a
great teammate and highly competitive player. We need to
get some guys to play like he plays.”
If Wyatt isn’t in
center, last year’s left-fielder, Paul Martin, could
move to center. Nic Benton, a fifth-year senior
also has looked good in early spring workouts and could
be a factor as well.
Cheff said Martin
is a lot like Wyatt in that both play hard every day.
The two newcomers
to the outfielder who could fill the corner spots are
senior Mickey Pingree, the son of former Warrior Mark
Pingree, and Chris Valencia, who played at Los Angeles
Harbor JC last year. Pingree played at Illinois-Chicago
a year ago and was the Horizon League’s Newcomer of the
Year. Valencia was a JC All-American last season when he
had a 40-game hit streak.
Also competing for
playing time in the outfield are seniors Mike Rivera and
Thomas Lees, and junior Kyle Douglas, all returning
players. And Reavis could also see time in the
The area that
seems to separate LCSC from the rest of the NAIA is
pitching depth and this staff could fit that mold,
although there are some big shoes to fill from last
year. Right-hander Matt Fitts was drafted last summer
but chose to remain at LCSC and earned NAIA Preseason
All-America honors. Last year, he went 10-1 with a 2.08
ERA and earned all-Region I honors and a spot on the
Series all-tournament team.
The other key
returner is senior Brad Schwarzenbach, who went 7-0 with
a 2.54 ERA last year. He made 16 appearances, including
seven starts, and struck out 60 with only 13 walks.
“I thought Brad
might have been drafted last summer, but those two
coming back gives us two really good starters,” Cheff
said. “From there, we will see what the new guys
Matt Duryea and
Brian Bird are the only other returnees who made at
least 10 appearances a year ago, and could be in the mix
as well this season.
“The key thing for
our pitching staff is that Gus (assistant coach Gus
Knickrehm) did a great job last year putting that staff
together and getting everyone sorted out into different
roles,” Cheff said. “I think we got talent, it’s just a
matter of how are we going to use guys in starting roles
and how to identify a couple of closers. If we’re lucky
and find two closers like we did last year, we could be
really good again. There are a lot of good arms.”
bolstered the staff with some left-handers, including
Blaine Hardy, Mike Guerrero, and Matt Stabelfeld, all
junior-college transfers. Add Duryea to the mix, and
Cheff said the team has four interesting left-handers
and he’s hoping to be able to use one in a closer role
or in relief. All are candidates to start.
Nick Masters, who
played at Lewiston High, tops the list of right-handed
pitchers who transferred to the program. Kevin Camacho
and Cameron Litzenberger also looked good during winter
Cheff says Ryan
Woods, a transfer from Everett, could be the team’s new
“At times, he has
maybe the best velocity and breaking ball on the staff,
but he hasn’t been consistent with it,” Cheff says of
Justin Mace also
should be in the running for a closer spot and appears
to be fully recovered from an injury that sidelined him
last season. Dustin Willis also has been bothered by
injuries since arriving at LCSC, but should be in the
mix if healthy.
Tyler Knigge, a
freshman from Lewiston whose father also played for the
Warriors, will need to start out the season strong and
get some innings, or the team may redshirt him, Cheff
“I like the
mentality of our pitching staff,” Cheff said. “We have
an army of guys who could be good. This could be a real
“I think, overall,
the key thing is having guys like Wyatt, Martin, Lester
and Greene back gives you a nucleus of players who know
how to play and influence the other guys.”