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Knights Look to Defend WCL Crown.

May 24, 2012

Corvallis Opens Season June 1 in Walla Walla; 13 Players Return from Championship Club

Knights Look to Defend WCL Crown.

The Corvallis Knights of the West Coast League begin their quest for their sixth consecutive West Division title on June 1-3 with three games at Walla Walla. It's a rematch of the 2011 WCL Championship Series, which the Knights won 2-0.

It also signals the start of what should be another exciting summer for the Knights, who kick off their 31-date, 32-game home schedule on June 5th against the Klamath Falls Gems at Goss Stadium.

In all, a 59-game season is planned. Corvallis native Brooke Knight, who this past winter led the Perth Heat to their second consecutive Australian Baseball League crown, enters his fifth season as head coach with a 137-55 (.714) WCL record and an equally-outstanding 160-64 (.714) overall mark.

Ex-Washington State standout Connor Lambert returns for his second summer as pitching coach and former Oregon State star Andy Jenkins makes his debut as an assistant coach after retiring from professional baseball.

"We expect to compete for the WCL championship. That never changes, even though our personnel may," Knight said. "We've lost a couple players to injuries. The draft and some other factors may impact our prospective roster a bit more, but we think we'll field a very competitive team."

Many familiar faces are back for another summer in the Willamette Valley as 13 players return for another summer in Corvallis.

Pitchers Max Beatty (Pacific Lutheran) and Chris Mendoza (Santa Clara) return for their third seasons. Pitchers Dylan Stuart (UC Riverside), Kyle Hart (Redlands), Chris Johnson (Portland), Aaron Corwin (Texas Tech) and Mark Trentacosta (UC Irvine); catcher Dane Lund (Mt. Hood); infielders Alex Foulon (Mt. Hood CC) and Nate Roberts (Seattle) and outfielders Connor Hofmann (Oregon), Matt Nylen (Western Oregon), Nathan Blackham (Washington State) and Cade Gotta (Riverside CC) each return for a second season.

Several Knights-to-be earned postseason honors in their respective conferences. Pitchers Rob Dittrick (Pacific) and Alex Keenan (George Fox) were All-Northwest Conference; Marc Gallegos (Corban) earned All-NAIA West honors. Nylen was a First-Team All-Great Northwest Conference; WOU pitcher A.J. Burke earned honorable mention. They helped lead the Wolves to a GNC championship and the NCAA Division II tournament.

UC Santa Barbara freshman first baseman/pitcher Greg Mahle, the initial product of our new partnership with the Gauchos, is on the 20-man watch list for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award.

Lund was named the first-team catcher on the NWAACC Southern Division all-star team; Linn-Benton pitcher/shortstop Austin Hamilton was a first-team all-star at utility. Mt. Hood outfielder Tristan Metcalf was a second-team selection.

Other 2012 Knights, such as newcomer Nick Torres of Cal Poly (pictured), are candidates for postseason awards but their spring seasons have not concluded.

The Knights drew a franchise-record 42,447 fans in 2011; and hope to surpass that this summer. Every home game has some sort of promotional tie-in.

Top attractions are Fireworks Nights on July 2 and August 4; a June 15 return of the Famous San Diego Chicken; ZOOperstars! on July 11; two $1,000 Kids Dash for Cash Nights, and a July 28th Bobblehead Night commemorating former Knight Brent Morel (2006-07), now the starting third baseman for the Chicago White Sox.

"We encourage families to come on out and enjoy an evening at Goss Stadium. It's affordable and wholesome entertainment. It's the place to be in the mid-valley during the summer," Knights' president Dan Segel said.

Did you know?

* All games will be broadcast on KEJO-AM 1240. Recent Virginia Tech graduate Kevin Burke will be the voice of the Knights.

* Brooke Knight is the WCL's winningest coach over the past four seasons, with 137 league victories. Wenatchee's Ed Knaggs is second with 127. Knight was the WCL Coach of the Year in 2008, 2009 and 2011.

* The Knights have captured five consecutive West Division regular-season titles. They are the only club from that division to make the playoffs in each of the past five years.

* Corvallis has a winning regular-season record against every active or defunct WCL franchise except Wenatchee since the league's 2005 inception. They are 30-16 vs. Bellingham; 33-18 vs. Bend; 10-2 vs. Cowlitz; 30-9 vs. Kelowna; 37-12 vs. Kitsap; 8-1 vs. Klamath Falls; 21-6 vs. Moses Lake; 19-8 vs. Spokane; 19-20 vs. Wenatchee, and 8-4 vs. Walla Walla.

* The Knights have won more regular-season games (164) than any other of the six franchises to play in the WCL every summer since the Knights moved to Corvallis for the 2007 season. Wenatchee has 148 victories, followed by Bend (127), Kitsap (111), Bellingham (101) and Kelowna (98).

* Corvallis advanced to the best-of-3 WCL Championship Series in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011. It defeated Walla Walla in 2011 and Wenatchee in 2008, and lost to Moses Lake in 2007 and to Wenatchee in 2009. Each series was a sweep.

* Total and per-game attendance has increased every year. The Knights drew 12,729 fans in 2007; 17,929 fans in 2008; 30,064 fans in 2009; 30,888 fans in 2010 and 42,447 in 2011. The average crowd has increased from 439 (2007) to 640 (2008) to 911 (2009) to 996 (2010) to 1,286 (2011).

* The Knights hosted the 2011 West Coast League All-Star Game after a two-year hiatus and drew a game-record 2,517 fans and representatives from nearly 30 MLB teams. The East won 4-2 but first baseman Sean Myrom of the Knights won the Home Run Derby. The 2012 ASG is in Walla Walla on July 24.

* Five former Knights played in MLB in 2011: RHP Tommy Hanson (Atlanta); RHP Bud Norris (Houston); LHP Marc Rzepczynski (Toronto/St. Louis); C Chris Stewart (San Francisco) and third baseman Brent Morel (Chicago White Sox).

* Morel is the first former Corvallis Knight to make the majors; he played here in 2007. He also played for the Aloha Knights at Mt. Hood CC, as did the other four big-leaguers. Rzepczynski became the first ex-Knight to play in a World Series, as a member of the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals.

* Former Knights' infielder Bobby Scales played for the Nippon Ham Fighters in the Pacific League of Nippon Professional Baseball. He played for the Chicago Cubs in 2009 and 2010. He is currently playing for the Orix Buffaloes in NPB.

2012 Roster

COACHING STAFF: Head coach Brooke Knight, fourth year, 160-64 (.714) overall, 137-55 (.714) WCL; pitching coach Connor Lambert, second year; assistant coach Andy Jenkins, first year.

PITCHERS: LHP Dylan Stuart (UC Riverside); RHP Max Beatty (Pacific Lutheran); RHP Kyle Hart (Redlands); RHP Chris Johnson (Portland); RHP Chris Mendoza (Santa Clara); LHP Mark Trentacosta (UC Irvine); RHP Carson Kelly (Westview High School, Oregon signee); RHP Bryan Granger (Cal Poly); RHP A.J. Burke (Western Oregon); LHP Antonio Gonzales (UC Riverside); RHP Aaron Corwin (Texas Tech); LHP Carlos Rodriguez (Oregon State); RHP Trevor Tykel (Texas); RHP Blake Burrell (Riverside CC); RHP Jorge Perez (Grand Canyon); *RHP Rob Dittrick (Pacific, Ore.); *RHP Kendall Motes (Mt. Hood CC); *RHP Chris Bishop (Pacific Lutheran); *RHP Alex Keenan (George Fox); *LHP Devon Barker (Centralia College).

CATCHERS: Nate Esposito (Oregon State); Dane Lund (Mt. Hood CC); Austin Barr (Camas, Wash., High School, Stanford signee); *Beau Fraser, Portland.

INFIELDERS: Nate Roberts (Seattle); Chris Rabago (UC Irvine); Alex Foulon (Mt. Hood CC); Caleb Whalen (Portland); Greg Mahle (UC Santa Barbara); Zach Green (Jesuit High School, Sacramento, Oregon State signee); *Tyler Campbell, (Lake Oswego High School, Vanderbilt signee); *Marc Gallegos (Corban); *Austin Hamilton (Linn-Benton CC).

OUTFIELDERS: Nick Torres (Cal Poly); Nate Blackham (Washington State); Connor Hofmann (Oregon); Matt Nylen (Western Oregon); Alex Michaels (Cal Poly); Cade Gotta (Riverside CC); *Caylen Clardy (College of the Siskyous); *Tristan Metcalf (Mt. Hood CC).

NOTE: *10-day signee