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Knights Look to Contend in 2016.

May 23, 2016

Corvallis Roster Features Great Depth

Knights Look to Contend in 2016.

The brain trust of the Corvallis Knights is confident they have assembled all the necessary pieces of the puzzle for the Knights to celebrate their 10th season at Goss Stadium by competing for their fourth West Coast League championship.

"President Dan Segel has again worked tirelessly to help assemble an outstanding group for a run at a 2016 title," said Brooke Knight, who begins his ninth year at the helm as the WCL's winningest active coach. "He is exceptional and sets a standard for himself, and others, that is contagious throughout our organization."

Nine players from last year's roster return for the Knights, who took second in the WCL's South Division in 2015 with a 32-22 record. Corvallis advanced to the playoffs for a WCL-record ninth consecutive season, but was eliminated from title contention by eventual WCL champion Bend in the divisional round.

The Knights open the 2016 season on June 1 with their fifth annual PEAK Internet Science, Engineering and Arts Day nonleague exhibition with the Portland Sea Dogs at Goss Stadium. They begin WCL action at Bend on June 3; their WCL home opener is June 14 against Kelowna.

The WCL returns to a two-division format this summer (that features a new split season playoff format) and Knight believes Corvallis will be one of the teams to beat in the new-look South Division, which also includes Bend, Yakima Valley, Cowlitz, Kitsap and the new Gresham GreyWolves.

"We are really excited about our 2016 roster," he said. "We have a solid crop of returning guys who understand our culture, which is an important piece to getting off to a good start.

"I also really like our team speed again. We will continue to look for opportunities in the running game to take advantage of those little moments that change momentum and outcomes over the course of a season."

The Knights have bolstered their coaching staff by adding newcomers Kevin Gunderson and Max Gordon, who starred for College World Series/Pacific-12 Conference championship teams at Oregon State, as assistant coaches. Also, Connor Lambert, the second-year Director of Operations at Utah, returns for his sixth summer as the pitching coach and assumes a new role as associate head coach.

"Connor is the rock of our pitching staff and his return is real blessing for our organization," Knight said. "He's a big time guy, and is ready for a big time job. To have him back once again is a privilege.

"Kevin Gunderson and Max Gordon should bring some fresh energy and knowledge to the table, making us all a little bit better at what we do."

Knight and Segel envision the pitching staff to be among the WCL's finest. Potential starters are returnees Cameron Bishop (UC Irvine), Slater Lee (Cal Poly), Craig Colen (Cal Poly) and Kansas commit Chase Kaplan (pictured, Western Nevada), and newcomers Aaron Pope (Dixie State), Kyle Hatton (UC Santa Barbara), Trenton Dupree (Washington State), Ryley Widell (Washington State), Grant Goodman (San Francisco) and Jake Wong (Grand Canyon).

Bishop has been UC Irvine's Sunday starter (5-5, 70 K over 66.1 IP). In his last outing, he tossed 7 solid innings vs. UC Santa Barbara striking out 11 while walking none and allowing 3 runs in a no decision. Lee (2-1, 6.37, 29.2 IP), the team's ace last summer, began the 2016 spring as a weekend starter. Colen (2.73, 26.1 IP, 24 K, 6 BB) most recently got a start vs. UC Irvine where he went 5 innings and gave up only a run while striking out 5.

Kaplan went 8-1 over 75.1 innings pitched and 14 starts for Western Nevada. Pope went 3-2 with a 3.98 ERA over 8 starts as he missed most of March and the first part of April with a nagging injury. And Washington State southpaws Dupree and Widell each made three starts this spring for the Cougs.

Hatton made 5 mid-weeks starts for the Gauchos and logged 40 innings while posting a 3-1 mark, 4.05 ERA and striking out 29 and walking 7.

"We should be deeper on the mound this year," Segel said. "I imagine our rotation will feature a range of starters."

Cameron Richman (Portland) could be the closer, with returnee Branden Cutsforth (Treasure Valley) available to start or relieve.

"Richman has expressed great interest in a shot at closing," Segel said. "And we are counting on Branden to log quality innings, and be a team leader.

"Chris Burkholder (Dartmouth, 19 appearances, 2-1, 2.97) and Jacob Fricke (Western Oregon, 18 appearances, 3-3, 2.25) had outstanding springs and will provide solid options out of the bullpen.

"Also, southpaw Hazahel Quijada ( UC Riverside) has nasty stuff. He's coming off an arm injury so his innings will be limited, but he'll be a key arm out of coach Knight's bullpen.

"We have an abundance of left-handers this year," Segel said, noting that Bishop, Kaplan, Pope, Widell, Dupree, Hatton, Fricke and Quijada are also southpaws. "I think that will be a significant strength."

The Knights have traditionally been strong up the middle and 2016 should be no exception.

Segel said Zak Taylor (Oregon State) and Nick Kahle (Washington in 2016-17) should split the catching duties, with Riley Helland (San Francisco) and 10-day signee Andrew Reichenbach of George Fox, a Northwest Conference all-star, also available to catch.

Roman Garcia (San Diego, .313, 3 HR) and Cooper Moore (Cal Poly) should form a nice first base/DH duo. Returnees Michael Farris (UC Riverside, .248, 22 RBI, .947 Fielding Pct.) and Cole Kreuter (UC Irvine, .297) are possible starters at third base and second base, with Andy Atwood (Oregon State) ready to step in at shortstop. Kreuter leads the Anteaters in at bats with 212 and doubles with 14.

The outfield could feature Kyle Nobach (Oregon State, .273, 2 HR, 24 RBI) in left, Steven Kwan (Oregon State) in center and Cody Hawken (Portland) in right. All three were full- or part-time starters this spring.

Returnees Emilio Alcantar (Lewis-Clark State) and Taylor Travess (Mt. Hood) are versatile options as well. Alcantar led the 2015 Knights in average (.326, 53-161) and RBIs (28), and stole 26 bases. Travess hit .294 (10-34) in nine games, with three doubles and three RBIs.

"Both are athletic, aggressive and confident players," Segel said. "They will scrap."

The team is also counting on Matt Kelly (Portland) and Greg Saenz (Grand Canyon) to play a variety of infield positions, and the aforementioned Helland can play outfield, second base or third base in addition to catcher.

Cal Poly signee Scott Ogrin is a prospect who Segel said "can play anywhere. If he makes it to Corvallis, he will add great depth to the team."

Knights at a glance

HEAD COACH: Brooke Knight (ninth year)


ASSISTANT COACHES: Kevin Gunderson (first year), Max Gordon (first year)

PITCHERS: RH Louis Crow (San Diego in 2016-17); RH Grant Goodman (San Francisco); RH Cameron Richman (Portland); RH Jacob Wong (Grand Canyon); RH Chris Burkholder (Dartmouth); LH Kyle Hatton (UC Santa Barbara); RH Cody Hoff (Linn-Benton); LH Aaron Pope (Dixie State); RH Craig Colen (Cal Poly); LH Cameron Bishop (UC Irvine); LH Hazahel Quijada (UC Riverside); RH Slater Lee (Cal Poly); RH Tanner Howell (Dixie State); LH Ryley Widell (Washington State); LH Chase Kaplan (Western Nevada); LH Trenton Dupree (Washington State); RH Branden Cutsforth (Treasure Valley); LH Jacob Fricke (Western Oregon).

CATCHERS: Zak Taylor (Oregon State); Nick Kahle (Washington in 2016-17).

CORNER INFIELDERS: Greg Saenz (Grand Canyon); Scott Ogrin (Cal Poly in 2016-17); Roman Garcia (San Diego); Michael Farris (UC Riverside); Cooper Moore (Cal Poly).

MIDDLE INFIELDERS: Cole Kreuter (UC Irvine); Andy Atwood (Oregon State); Matt Kelly (Portland).

OUTFIELDERS: Steve Kwan (Oregon State); Riley Helland (San Francisco); Kyle Nobach (Oregon State); Cody Hawken (Portland); Emilio Alcantar (Lewis-Clark State); Taylor Travess (Mt. Hood).

10-DAY SIGNEES: RH Ty Fox (Western Nevada); LH Thomas Lalli (Occidental); RH Chris Carns (Clark); C Andrew Reichenbach (George Fox); INF Adam Taylor (Concordia); OF Parker Woodley (Portland in 2016-17); OF Caleb Smith (Linn-Benton).