Mutz, Camacho, Wilkerson and Speer set to lead Walla Walla
Walla Walla, Wash. – Walla Walla Sweets manager Frank Mutz has announced the coaching staff for the upcoming 2018 season. Mutz, Raul Camacho and Kyle Wilkerson will be back with the team again this season and Justin Speer will join the staff again after previously coaching with the Sweets in 2015.
“I’ve appreciated working with Frank, Kyle and Raul last season, and look forward to welcoming Justin back into the dugout,” said Sweets team president Zachary Fraser. “These are men that care about our community and about winning the right way.”
A native of San Fernando Valley, California, Mutz is currently the head coach at Chaminade College Preparatory High School in West Hills, California, one of the nation’s best programs at producing high school baseball talent. He is back for his fourth year with Walla Walla and said he has thoroughly enjoyed his time with the Sweets.
“I’m grateful to be back in Walla Walla for my fourth season,” Mutz said. “The Sweets have treated me and my family so well that we feel like a part of the community. There is so much to appreciate about Walla Walla, especially the way the fans have supported our ball club since 2010.”
With the coaching staff now assembled, Mutz said this group of men love the game of baseball but most importantly they are all of high character. He also said that he is looking forward to getting back at it with the Sweets this summer with a very talented roster.
“I can’t wait to get the club together in June,” Mutz said. “The entire staff including the front office has done an amazing job putting this 2018 ball club together. With key returners like Nick Nyquist, Danny Sinatro, Jake Suddleson, Ryan Johnston, Dylan Riddle, and Darius Vines, we have a strong nucleus of very good players. If the Sweets can throw strikes, play solid defense, I am convinced we will be in a position to make a strong playoff bid and run this summer.”
Camacho is from Oxnard, California and is back for his second year with Walla Walla where he will serve as the team’s pitching coach. He said that from top to bottom, the Sweets are the best run organization that he’s ever been associated with and that the fan support has been incredible.
“From the front office to the fans, it is top notch,” Camacho said of the Sweets organization. “I loved the hospitality of the people of Walla Walla and really look forward to coming back to that this summer to differentiate from the pace of SoCal.”
Camacho is currently the assistant athletic director at St. Bonaventure High School and had a storied career as the school’s head baseball coach before retiring from the position in 2012. He believes the Walla Walla community deserves a winner and that the staff and the players will work hard to bring it to #SweetsCountry this season.
“I am looking forward to finishing what we started last year,” Camacho said. “I feel the front office has put the pieces in place for this team to be really successful this season. I’m also looking forward to continuing the friendships I have made within the organization and the community of Walla Walla, as well as my daily walks downtown and getting to know the locals.”
Speer is a native of Gresham, Oregon and is currently the head coach of the softball team at Walla Walla Community College. He took over the program in 2015, and over his first three seasons there he has compiled an impressive 84–43 record.
“Walla Walla Community College has been a phenomenal school to work for and I have been blessed with the opportunity to coach there,” Speer said. “The Walla Walla community has been exactly what me and my wife were wanting when we moved here. It has been a wonderful place to work, live and raise my family.”
This will not be Speer’s first tenure with the Sweets, as he spent time as an assistant with the team during the 2015 season. He said it was an exceptional experience his first time around and that he’s thrilled to be back coaching with Walla Walla.
“I’m very thankful for the opportunity to be back coaching with the Sweets,” Speer said. “It means a great deal to be a part of such a professionally run organization like the Sweets that values their coaches, players and employees.”
Wilkerson is from Northridge, California and is back for his third year with the Sweets where he continues to serve as the team’s hitting coach. He said the experience with Walla Walla has been incredible, and that the best part is the small-town atmosphere because the community is so involved and supportive and it makes the drive to win that much more important.
Wilkerson said he is motivated by making his family proud, and that helps him to strive to always improve and get better. He is looking forward to getting to know the new players with the Sweets this summer and of course, a lot of winning.Read Less
Trojan pair will provide additional power and speed to the 2018 Walla Walla roster
Walla Walla, Wash. – The Sweets bring the glitz, glamour and sunshine from Los Angeles to the team this summer with the signing of a pair from the University of Southern California. Tyler Pritchard (IF) and Trevor Halsema (OF) will take to Borleske Stadium for Walla Walla in the 2018 season.
“USC is among the most prestigious baseball programs in the country,” said Sweets team president Zachary Fraser. “To be able to extend our strong relationship by adding players that Coach Hubbs trusts for future contributions is our honor. We expect these Trojans to deliver and look forward to both Tyler and Trevor being a big part of our season in Walla Walla.”
Pritchard is a native of Lake Elsinore, California and went to Temescal Canyon High School where he was a standout athlete. He played with the varsity baseball team for three full seasons and was named to the All-Sunbelt League team all three years. Over his varsity career at Temescal Canyon, Pritchard compiled a .347 batting average with 23 doubles, 41 RBI and 64 runs scored.
Now a sophomore with USC, Pritchard has appeared in 31 games over his Trojan career. He is studying business administration and plans to start his own business after the conclusion of his baseball career.
Halsema grew up in San Diego, California and went to Madison High School where he played four seasons with the varsity baseball team. Over those four years, he racked up a .334 batting average with 22 doubles, 54 RBI and 68 runs scored. He was named to the All-League team his freshman, sophomore and senior seasons and in 2017 was named to the Rawlings Perfect Game honorable mention team.
Currently a true freshman for the Trojans, Halsema is working to find his role with the club and anticipates that a summer in the WCL will help him develop that role. He has yet to declare a major but said that his ultimate goal is to become an FBI agent.
Sweets head coach Frank Mutz feels that both players from USC will be significant additions to an increasingly talented roster for the upcoming 2018 season.
“I’m looking forward to having a couple of Trojans with us this summer and am very familiar with Pritchard and Halsema, both having played their high school careers in Southern California,” Mutz said. “Tyler is a solid defender capable of playing multiple infield positions who will bring another left-handed bat and speed to our lineup. Trevor was considered one of the top high school prospects in Southern California coming out of school and will bring some additional power to an already explosive middle of the lineup.”
Dartmouth infielder and Santa Clara catcher make up newest additions
Walla Walla, Wash. – From California to New Hampshire, the Sweets have added another pair of talented players to their roster. Nate Ostmo (IF/Dartmouth College) and Jake MacNichols (C/Santa Clara University) will take to the field for Walla Walla in 2018.
“I had a great experience last year in Ohio playing in the Great Lakes League,” Ostmo said. “One of the things that I wanted to do was to take my experience from last year in a good league and raise the bar, go to a more competitive league and play in a place that’s closer to home where I can be close to family. Playing in Walla Walla in the West Coast League satisfies all of those things.”
“I was talking to one of my coaches and we decided that the WCL was a great league for me to go to,” MacNichols said. “One of my old high school buddies played for the Bellingham Bells and he said it was a great experience and that I should try to play in the WCL.”
Ostmo is from Portland, Oregon and attended Lincoln High School where he was a star-studded athlete. A four-year letter winner in baseball, he served as team captain his final two seasons. His junior year he was named Portland 6A Player of the Year and his senior year he helped lead his team to the Portland Interscholastic League Championship.
“I had a great experience at Lincoln High School,” Ostmo said. “I was under Coach Rob Herder for three years before he left and then I was lucky enough to have some really good young coaches, CJ Watson and Michael Blake, come in and take over the program and they’ve done a great job ever since.”
Ostmo is now a junior at Dartmouth College and said he was drawn to the school because of the excellent academics and how much he loved the campus during his recruiting visit. In his first two seasons playing for the Big Green, Ostmo batted .260 with one homerun, four triples, and 23 RBI. Playing primarily at shortstop, he has 130 assists, 65 putouts, and an .899 fielding percentage.
While the team has struggled at times to string together winning seasons, Ostmo said his experience has been about so much more than that. He feels the relationships that he has built and the people with which he has surrounded himself with will go much farther than the wins and losses of his college baseball career.
“When I think about the baseball program here as a whole, [I think about] the high character and caliber of people that they bring in,” Ostmo said. “When you talk about baseball, you can get lost in wins and losses, but at the end of the day I’m glad to be here because my teammates here are going to be my friends for life. My experience has been defined by my teammates and the individuals that create the program, not so much the winning and losing.”
MacNichols is a native of Napa, California and attended Vintage High School where he was a highly touted prospect. He was invited to participate in the Area Code Games for the Oakland Athletics in the summer of 2015 and was tabbed by NorCalPreps.com as No. 31 in its Scouting Report’s Baseball Top 50 in 2016. Over his final two seasons with Vintage, MacNichols compiled a .348 batting average with 36 RBI, 16 doubles and four homeruns.
“We had a great group of guys there, a really tight group,” MacNichols said. “At one point during my junior year we had eight guys committed to play D1 baseball in our lineup, so that was pretty cool.”
Now a sophomore with Santa Clara University, MacNichols posted six homeruns and eight RBI in his first year with the Broncos. Behind the plate, he recorded 229 putouts with a fielding percentage of .974 and threw out 13 baserunners attempting to steal.
The team struggled mightily last year, finishing the season with a record of 13-40. Then Rusty Filter came in and took over as head coach of the program, brought a new coaching staff along with him, and MacNichols said that has completely changed the direction of the team.
“The culture we have now within the baseball team is unreal,” MacNichols said. “It’s always been strong but now that we’re winning with each other – it’s unreal – and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. It’s basically the same group of guys making an impact this year as last year, which shows you what a new coaching staff can do. They haven’t changed anything mechanical, it’s all on the mental side of the game. We have the talent and ability to do it, so it’s just the mental part that they’re helping us out with.”
Both players expressed their excitement in getting out to Walla Walla, meeting the talented group of players the Sweets have put together, and having fun while competing for a WCL championship.
“Each summer team has a fun identity,” Ostmo said. “We’re all there to get better and develop, but I’m looking forward to having a good time with the guys while playing baseball at the same time.”
“Getting to know a whole new group of guys with everyone being from different sides of the country, I think that’s the best time,” MacNichols said. “When it turns into the dog days of summer and it starts getting tough, when you start winning that makes it even more fun.”
Walla Walla adds another lefty to their pitching staff
Walla Walla, Wash. – The Sweets have dipped back into the talented pitching staff at Yavapai College with their latest signing. Walla Walla has added Tommy Costello (LHP) to their roster for the 2018 season.
“I can’t wait to play ball in some good weather in front of some crowds,” Costello said. “I heard the Sweets sell out quite a bit, so I’m really excited for that.”
Costello grew up in Simi Valley, California and played for Sweets’ head coach Frank Mutz at Chaminade College Prep High School. Over his final two years there, he compiled a 3-2 record with a 2.20 ERA and 63 strikeouts over 82 innings pitched.
“Chaminade was really the greatest time of my life,” Costello said. “Coach Mutz and I really bonded well together. It was a great experience playing for him, and I’m excited to get back with him this summer.”
Costello played his first collegiate season with the University of Washington before transferring last summer. He saw limited action with the Huskies but still had very high praise for the program.
“I traveled every weekend and had a good relationship with the coaching staff; nothing was really wrong, I just wanted a different opportunity for my baseball career,” Costello said of his time with Washington. “I was very grateful for all the opportunities that they gave me, but I just wanted something different.”
That something different came in the form of one of the best JUCO programs in the country, Yavapai College, where Costello transferred and is now playing. Part of what he has enjoyed so much about baseball at the junior college level in Arizona is the lack of NCAA restrictions on the amount of games a team can play. Yavapai schedules more than 60 games over a three-month season.
“It’s a ton of baseball, and I love it,” Costello said. “Yavapai has been great. The guys are a little different at the junior college level, more of a focus on baseball than anything else, which is what I like.”
After transferring to Yavapai, Costello once again garnered a great deal of interest from a multitude of Division I programs. He ultimately chose to continue his collegiate career at University of the Pacific and will transfer there in the fall. He said he was drawn to the program because of head coach Ryan Garko and his vision for the future.
“I just really loved what they were trying to build up there and I wanted to be a part of it, so I jumped on board with them,” Costello said. “I really want to play in the big leagues one day and Coach Garko… he did it… he played in the big leagues. He knows what it takes, and he’s developed a lot of great prospects along the way.”
The lefty hurler is joining an increasingly talented crop of pitchers for the 2018 Sweets. He said he joined the team to reunite with his former coach and because he heard so many great things about the program from his college teammates.
“Coach Mutz reached out to me and I wanted to play for him again,” Costello said. “I have had a lot of buddies play for the Sweets, and they said their time there was great, very enjoyable. So I just got really attracted to wanting to get up there, play some ball and have fun with some people I’ve spent a lot of time with and getting to reconnect with them.”
Sweets head coach Frank Mutz echoed that same sentiment and is looking forward to the opportunity to coach Costello again. He also said because of his familiarity with Costello that he knows how talented the sophomore pitcher can be and that he will be a key component of the Sweets’ pitching staff.
“I’m excited to be reunited with Tommy this summer,” Mutz said. “He was a three-year starter for me at Chaminade and during his senior season he was a tremendous leader and threw in several big games for us. I see Tommy as one of our six starters, but because of his versatility, I can see him throwing in any role. Our fans will love him; he’s a tenacious competitor and a great guy whose character and work ethic is off the charts.”
Teams will compete to raise money for WWVYBS, raised nearly $5k last year
Walla Walla, Wash. – The most talented players in the Walla Walla Valley who have excelled in their high school career will once again have the chance to showcase their talent against the current stars of college baseball getting prepared for their West Coast League season. Walla Walla Valley Youth Baseball & Softball (WWVYBS) and the Walla Walla Sweets have come together again to produce the second annual showcase event for talented Valley-wide high school baseball players for the 2018 season. This event will be hosted at Borleske Stadium on Wednesday, May 30, 2018 with the event starting at 6:35 PM.
The collection of top high school performers will play against the Sweets in a modified showcase-style event. The game will accomplish three goals:
1. Raise funds for youth baseball and softball in the Walla Walla Valley – net proceeds (game revenues less operating expenses) will go to the WWVYBS non-profit organization. These funds are used by area youth teams and programs to fund operations, travel expenses, and other developmental needs associated with providing youth of all backgrounds a chance to play baseball and softball – last year we raised nearly $5,000.
2. Prepare the Sweets for the upcoming WCL season – following the example of Major League Baseball teams that play pre-season exhibitions against area college programs, this game will allow the Sweets coaching staff to evaluate players on the roster in the context of Borleske Stadium – the first time that the baseball operations staff will have a chance to see the team together before the WCL season starts
3. Prepare the Stadium staff for the upcoming season – each year, the Sweets hire more than 75 people for food and beverage and stadium jobs – and for many, it is there first job. With Opening Day 2018 on pace to draw 2,200 people, there isn’t an event in town that can prepare the staff for crowds that size. This event will allow stadium operations managers and their staffs to be prepared for 45,000+ fans during the season in a real-time environment.
“After the tremendous success of this event last year, we are thrilled to once again partner with the Sweets in bringing this opportunity for local high school athletes to showcase their baseball skills while also raising funds to support American Legion Baseball, Babe Ruth Baseball, Blue Mountain Girls Softball and travel teams,” said Rick Eskil, president of Walla Walla Valley Youth Baseball & Softball. “The Sweets do a great deal for our community and its youth programs and this is yet another example of that.”
The roster for the showcase team will be selected by area high school coaches and will feature 15 players on the roster. Each player will wear customized hats and uniforms and will be given a personalized wood bat for the event. The game structure will be slightly different than a traditional baseball game, as showcase games include controlled pitch counts and other features that protect the health and welfare of players on both sides.
The showcase team will once again be managed by Sweets partner Jeff Cirillo. Jeff played 14 years in Major League Baseball, was a 2-time All-Star and played collegiate baseball at USC. He continues to coach amateur baseball in the Seattle area and is also a scout for the Los Angeles Angels.
“We are thrilled to be hosting this game again,” said Sweets general manager Dan Ferguson. “It is a fun and unique platform to help develop and raise money for youth baseball talent in the Valley, and the ability to have a former MLB All-Star be able to work with the kids in our community is just a fantastic opportunity overall. We are looking forward to another memorable event and the chance to raise even more money this year for the youth programs affiliated.”
How to get tickets for the public: Ticket commitments are available from teams associated with WWVYBS starting April 3rd. They will be selling the tickets to friends and family in the community. For information on how to acquire tickets from these teams, please contact WWYVSB Board member Mike Lemma (firstname.lastname@example.org). Tickets will be available at the Borleske Stadium Box Office on the day of the game, with the Box Office opening at 4:30 PM, and prior to the event online starting April 30th.
About Walla Walla Valley Youth Baseball & Softball:
Walla Walla Valley Youth Baseball & Softball was founded 34 years ago to raise funds for Babe Ruth Baseball and American Legion Baseball. Over the years, it expanded to provide funds for softball programs. In addition, WWVYB&S sponsors the Batter Up Program, which provides gloves and other equipment for baseball and softball players who cannot otherwise afford the necessary gear.
Sweets bolster outfield and pitching staff with a duo of Yellowjackets
Walla Walla, Wash. – The Sweets added a couple of stingers to their roster by signing a pair of Montana State University Billings Yellowjackets. Jalen Garcia (OF/Junior) and Carson Woolery (RHP/Junior) have joined #SweetsCountry and will take the field at Borleske Stadium for Walla Walla this summer.
“My coach was trying to get me into different areas around the country, but then he said, ‘The Sweets are here for you, [you’ve] got a spot,’ so I said, ‘Sign me up!’” Garcia said. “I’m ready to play ball in the WCL and get going.”
“Ever since my freshman year when we went to the Sweets’ games, I was always telling my buddies that I wanted to play for this summer team eventually,” Woolery said. “It’s always been a team I wanted to play for, so I’m really excited to have the opportunity.”
Garcia is a native of Billings, Montana where he attended Billings Christian High School. Montana does not have state-wide high school baseball, so he played American Legion with the Billings Scarlets and had an outstanding career with them.
He was a three-time All-State selection and his senior year in 2015 was named Montana Baseball MVP and won the Montana state batting title. That same year, Garcia helped lead the Scarlets to a AA Montana baseball state championship and took home tournament MVP after going 13 for 22 with 11 RBIs in the team’s five games.
“I loved it; we had a great program and the coach was awesome,” Garcia said of his time with the Scarlets. “It was definitely different being the only guy from my high school [to play there]. I didn’t really know any of the guys, having not grown up or played ball with them, but it was a great experience. We were super good and winning state was awesome, too.”
Garcia spent his first year playing collegiately with Corban University and put up some excellent numbers. He started 30 games and finished the season with a .294 batting average, four doubles, a homerun and 11 RBI.
“It was definitely a learning experience,” Garcia said. “Getting to the college scene and getting comfortable was really good [for me].”
The talented outfielder then transferred to Montana State University Billings and had a terrific sophomore year with the Yellowjackets. He compiled a .327 batting average, 11 doubles, five homeruns, 38 RBI, and was tabbed second-team All-GNAC. He was recently named to the 2018 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association preseason second-team All-West Region.
“Loved it,” Garcia said of the MSUB baseball program. “The coaches keep us working hard and run a really professional organization. They keep us on our toes, keep us on our grades, just keep us in line really well, and we’ve been having some success here.”
Garcia is now settled into playing at a four-year university but didn’t have that opportunity when he was coming out of high school. He was lightly recruited and garnered little interest from four-year programs, but not letting it discourage him, he has used it as a chip on his shoulder to continually motivate himself.
“When you’re coming out of high school, not having any D1 offers, not really having a whole lot of offers [in general] and being the Montana MVP and winning the batting title, you expect some [offers or interest],” Garcia said. “But it’s tough getting recruited out of Montana, especially when you only have Legion ball. So, it’s been a motivation for me my whole life, and I let it fuel me, but I don’t let it get to me.”
The Billings native had the chance to play in the West Coast League this past summer with the Wenatchee AppleSox, but despite putting up some solid numbers offensively, Garcia felt he could have had a stronger performance. He finished the season with a .276 batting average, 14 doubles, two homeruns, and 21 RBI.
“It was a good time, a great experience,” Garcia said of playing for the AppleSox. “I definitely wish I could’ve played a little better, which is definitely going to motivate me this year. But it’s nice to have a little experience under my belt and know what to expect, what the fields are like and the whole system.”
With the AppleSox Garcia had the chance to play at Borleske Stadium against the Sweets in the opening series of the season and was impressed with the support from the team’s fan base. He also said that Woolery has filled him in on what else he can expect to experience playing for the Sweets.
“Carson tells me about how crazy the fan base is there, how loyal they are, and how the players are like superstars around the community,” Garcia said. “When I was playing there in the outfield, it was definitely an experience opening there with so many people, it was awesome.”
A native of Caldwell, Idaho, Woolery went to Caldwell High School where he was a three-year varsity letterman in baseball. He said there were some ups and downs throughout his tenure there but that the team bonded over the adversity and that ultimately he feels the experience benefitted him in the long run.
“I feel like that really helped me grow as a player and as a leader overall because we had to take initiative at a young age because we didn’t have much handed to us throughout our high school career,” Woolery said. “So, overall it was a really good experience for me and my junior and senior years we had two really good seasons.”
Woolery played his first two college seasons for Walla Walla Community College and excelled on the mound for the Warriors. As a sophomore, he posted a 5-2 record with a 2.70 ERA over 53.1 innings. He was initially recruited as an infielder, but after a lackluster freshman season, he made the tough decision to convert to a full-time pitcher.
“Toward the end of my freshman year, my pitching coach, J.C. Biagi, pulled me aside and really sat me down and talked to me about if I wanted to come back the following year as a pitcher,” Woolery said. “He saw potential in me being on the mound, more so than being an infielder. Coming back to Walla Walla my sophomore year, I then made the choice that I wanted to do what I can to keep playing baseball, so I made the jump and became a pitcher. I tried to work really hard at it and pick Biagi’s mind because he’s a very smart man and made me the pitcher that I am today.”
The hard throwing right hander also spoke highly of Walla Walla Community College head coach Dave Meliah and the tremendous program that he runs.
“The two years I had at Walla Walla were so far the best two years of college that I’ve had,” Woolery said. “The city of Walla Walla, the school, and the baseball program were great experiences all around. It was a big family atmosphere that we had, so it was just a really great day-to-day grind.”
Woolery began to garner a lot of interest from four-year universities after his time with WWCC, but he ultimately chose to play for Montana State University Billings. He said he was drawn to the program because of head coach Aaron Sutton and his reputation for having an exceptional approach to the game.
“A big dream of mine during high school was to play for him because I heard so many great things about him,” Woolery said. “Just the way he ran programs, I was really interested in the opportunity to play under him.”
Though it’s still early on in his tenure with the Yellowjackets, Woolery said he has enjoyed his time so far in Billings and that it was a significant change of scenery but a smooth transition overall.
“It’s been really great, but it was a big change coming over,” Woolery said. “I really enjoyed eastern Washington, and I had never been to this part of Montana. But it’s a great team that I didn’t have trouble getting involved with or making friends with, so right away I felt like one of the guys.”
Having spent two years in Walla Walla, Woolery became familiar with the Sweets program and attended several games while there. He said he was extremely impressed with Borleske Stadium and the energy the fans bring, and after experiencing that, he knew it was something of which he wanted to be a part.
“It’s a great atmosphere, the fans are amazing, and it’s just really cool to see the whole town of Walla Walla come around one specific thing,” Woolery said. “Especially with a team like the Sweets that’s very family and fan oriented, it’s a really cool thing. Playing in [that environment] with the huge grandstand we have and everything, it’s going to be a really fun time.”
Sweets head coach Frank Mutz said he is excited with the prospect of adding yet another pair of talented players, this time from Montana State University Billings. He believes both players will play key roles in the Sweets’ success this season.
“Woolery has a big arm and will fit into one of the starting roles or could be a closer,” Mutz said. “With his success in the NWAC and his season at Montana State, he will add stability and experience to our staff. And I’ve been watching Garcia’s start to his 2018 season at Montana State. His numbers are unreal, and my hope is that he can put those kinds of stats up this summer in Walla Walla. I believe he should fit right into the top of our line up.”
Borleske Stadium to Host the Two Storied Programs on 7/16/2018
There were Two.
Walla Walla, Wash. – In the long and decorated history of high school baseball in Walla Walla “two” is the number of programs that existed in the community for as long as most can remember. Long before College Place and Walla Walla Valley Academy donned their respective uniforms there were two options in town for aspiring young ball players – Walla Walla High School or DeSales Catholic High School. One was the “Big 9” 4A juggernaut, boasting names like Jared Jones, Eric O’Flaherty and Jason Grove; the other was perhaps one of the most decorated small schools in the nation led by names like Joe Levens, Dave Meliah and Pat Graham.
“Two” also represents the total number of times that the programs faced off in some hundred years of combined existence. The reasons were varied – size discrepancy/classification, public vs. private, scheduling conflicts; some in the community felt that one school had everything to gain and nothing to lose, while the other had nothing to gain and everything to lose. While players from both programs knew each other well, thanks to little league and summer programs played together in the Walla Walla Valley, it was a once-in-a-generation experience to play each other in a high school game that meant something. Loyal local baseball fans would remember those two beautiful sunny days in the late 90’s.
One remnant of that history is the venerable ballpark that has evolved so much since the teams last faced off there in the Spring of 1998. Wa-Hi once called Borleske ‘home’ before the construction of Murr Field. While the Irish of DeSales played home games across the ivy-laden fence to the east at Ray Lane, they were no stranger to Borleske, having competed in numerous district and regional tournaments en route to their many state championship appearances.
As luck would have it after those two games at Borleske Stadium in the Spring of ’97 and Spring of ‘98, the teams find themselves in the awkward baseball position of having one win apiece – an unsettled series tie.
That will change, starting July 16, 2018 at Borleske Stadium. Kind of.
The Walla Walla Sweets, members of the West Coast League and a community leader in using baseball and Borleske Stadium as a fundraising platform for community improvement, have partnered with Wonderboy Creative, a local marketing, web and design firm with roots in Sweets baseball and the Walla Walla Valley, to launch the Inaugural Alumni Classic. The event will pit alumni from the Walla Walla High School Blue Devils baseball program against alumni from the DeSales Catholic High School Fighting Irish baseball program in a 7-inning, wood-bat baseball game – with umpires and all. The game will be played at Borleske Stadium on Monday, July 16, 2018. While the competition on the field will be fierce, both alumni programs are coming together with the Sweets and Wonderboy to raise money for the respective school programs, with a portion of NET proceeds of the game being donated to the schools.
The school that sells the most tickets will be the home team, and there is skin in the game for the result of the game on the field: the winning school will take home 55% of the NET proceeds, with the losers taking home 45%.
“The goal is to help both sides find a fun, unique way to raise needed dollars to help improve the student experience,” said Sweets president Zachary Fraser. “Maybe the need is in the athletic department, maybe the need is new trombones for the music department. We don’t really have a specific fundraising goal other than to make it a large donation and to have fun with our community while doing it.”
The idea was hatched in the late nights of the early years of building the Sweets, when Wonderboy founder J.C. Biagi was an integral part of Fraser’s team in the Sweets front office. The two would float fun ideas to host events at the stadium while building desks, clubhouse lockers, guest services booths and other necessary projects for a start-up baseball team. With the Sweets now firmly rooted as a Walla Walla community staple, and Wonderboy starting to lead the way in creating remarkable customer brand experiences, the timing was right to pitch this event to the respective school communities.
“I think I speak for many when I say we’re grateful to our schools for the opportunities that we were provided in our youth,” said Biagi ‘00 – who coincidentally played baseball for Hall of Fame coach Kim Cox at DeSales. “As former players, we get to spend time with old friends and teammates while reliving some great memories at a beautifully renovated Borleske. Being able to do so while raising money for current students in our community is an incredible opportunity.”
Wa-Hi graduate and former baseball player Jason Magnaghi ‘96, now vineyard manager for Figgins Family Wine Estate, has been tabbed the team coordinator for Wa-Hi, while Biagi is taking the lead for DeSales. Rosters will consist of 21 players, 30 years old and over for each side. It will, no doubt, be difficult to whittle down from the many, many great players to have played for both programs. That is why the planning for the 2018 event is being done in such a way that this event develops into an annual summer tradition, creating opportunity to involve more alumni in the future.
“We hope that not only will it energize and unite the schools in a common community goal, but that it will also serve as a catalyst in the future to give people who grew up in the Valley and live away from here now another reason to come back and visit,” said Fraser.
Sweets season ticket members will have the opportunity to purchase seats for the event early, with game tickets open to the public May 1. Individual students will have a chance to participate in a ticket sales contest, with a $1000 scholarship on the line for the top seller among the two student bodies, a $500 scholarship contribution for the 2nd highest seller, and a $250 scholarship contribution to the 3rd place seller.
Ticket prices will be as follows:
Premium Seating (behind home plate, field boxes, and beer garden tables): $18
Premium Seating (behind home plate, field boxes, and beer garden tables) w/commemorative t-shirt in school colors: $28
General Admission Seating (1st base, 3rd base, outfield grandstands): $14
General Admission Seating (1st base, 3rd base, outfield grandstands) w/commemorative t-shirt in school colors: $24
Additional details will follow shortly, including links for purchasing tickets and promotional opportunities.
Zachary Fraser, Walla Walla Walla Sweets
J.C. Biagi, Wonderboy Creative
歡迎來到 Walla Walla
Walla Walla, Wash. – The Sweets have gone international with their latest signing, adding talented Taiwanese catcher Wei-Chieh (Willy) Chang from Kainan University. He is set to join the growing talented Walla Walla roster for the upcoming 2018 season.
Sweets team president and owner Zachary Fraser expressed his excitement for having Chang as a member of the team this upcoming season and looks forward to incorporating him into the Walla Walla community.
“We can’t wait to introduce Willy to the Walla Walla Valley and vice versa,” Fraser said. “His talent will play well in the league and it will provide a great cultural opportunity for our staff, players and fans. #SweetsCountry has shown remarkable love towards every player to ever wear the Sweets jersey and I know that Willy will have a similar reception.”
A native of Taipei City, the capital of Taiwan located at the northern part of the island, Chang went to Ku-Pao Home Economics and Commercial High School where he honed his skills on the baseball diamond.
“It was very competitive,” Chang said of his time at Ku-Pao. “Everyone got along with each other very well.”
Chang first visited the United States as a young athlete playing baseball for the Taiwan National Team in the 2011 PONY League Baseball World Series hosted in Washington, Pennsylvania. His team came up just short, losing in the championship game, but Chang said he thoroughly enjoyed the experience and going to the American shopping malls and outlets.
Two-time WCL All-Star Nick Nyquist becomes the latest 3-year Sweet
Walla Walla, Wash. – A familiar face will be back on the diamond this summer with the Sweets’ most recent signing. Nick Nyquist (IF/Gonzaga University) is set to rejoin Walla Walla for the upcoming 2018 season.
Nyquist grew up in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and went to Coeur d’Alene High School where he had an exceptional baseball career. He finished his senior year in 2014 with a .506 batting average, six homeruns, and 34 RBI and was named Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year, Idaho Hall of Fame Baseball Player of the Year, and Inland Empire League MVP. From his sophomore year through his senior year, Nyquist was also named first team All-State and first team All-League.
“It was really great,” Nyquist said of his time at Coeur d’Alene. “We made a good run there and ended up winning the district title five years in a row, all four that I was there. We were really good and just had a good group of guys and a fun atmosphere.”
Nyquist is a redshirt junior at Gonzaga, having utilized his redshirt designation prior to the 2016 season. In the two seasons that he has played with the Bulldogs, Nyquist has appeared in 42 games and has a .238 batting average and a .347 on base percentage.
“I’ve loved every second of [playing at Gonzaga],” Nyquist said. “We have a really good group of guys; it’s a really tight knit group. There’s just a team-first type of atmosphere, and there’s really nothing better than that. It’s just a bunch of selfless guys and we all go out there and do our thing.”
He is the son of Lisa and Mike Nyquist. His father, Mike, played baseball collegiately at Whitworth University and Washington University, then briefly played professionally in the minor leagues. Nick has a brother, Chad, who played college baseball at Spokane Falls Community College.
Exciting new features now accessible as Sweets unveil new website
Walla Walla, Wash. – The Walla Walla Sweets announced Monday the launch of a newly redesigned, fully optimized website, wallawallasweets.com. As the team enters their 9th season of play in the West Coast League, team leadership determined it was time for a facelift.
“When we first launched our website nine years ago, many of the features were on the cutting edge of technology,” said Sweets president Zachary Fraser. “Technology has grown by leaps and bounds since then and we felt it was an appropriate time to upgrade.”
The new website features upgrades to many of the things fans have come to love, including an automated Sweets video feed, team news, and upcoming game and ticket information accessible throughout the site. In addition to the staples, the new site will feature up to date league stats during the season, a sleek and modern Game Center showcasing details for each game (starting pitcher, team records and statistics, and promotions), social buttons to make sharing information with family and friends easier, plus more.
“In redesigning this site we put a lot of focus on our fans,” added Fraser. “In addition to a seamless and user-friendly interface, it was important that we work toward creating more in-depth content areas where fans can interact and get to know our organization more closely.”
The Sweets have partnered with local marketing and design agency Wonderboy Creative on the project. While there are many design and development agencies out there, it was Wonderboy’s ability to customize the website around baseball’s nuances that made them the clear choice.
“We love challenges like this and we are thrilled to work with Zachary and his team to develop an improved solution,” said Wonderboy partner Katie Biagi. “We have an intimate and unique connection to the Sweets and baseball in general that allowed us to approach this differently than most projects.”
While fans will enjoy the front-end of the site, it’s the fully customized content management areas on the backend that bring the site up to date. A challenge with a lot of websites, and a challenge with the Sweets previous site, is the need to input the same material more than once in order to ensure it displays in various locations on the website. One of the top priorities for both the Sweets and Wonderboy was to create an easier to use backend for front office staff and eliminate the need for duplicate input.
“We, like Zachary and the Sweets, dream big then figure out a way to make things happen,” continued Biagi. “We were all able to put our heads together and build a site that hopefully brings fans closer to the game, while saving the Sweets staff time to focus on getting ready for the season.”
Some cool features to explore include the roster, complete with more in-depth information, including social follow options to keep up with your favorite Sweets players, and a unique mobile roster view. Both the listed and calendar view schedule feature the above mentioned game center. Additionally, each WCL team has its own page, allowing fans to learn more about Sweets opponents as well as find out when the team will face off against them during the season.
“We are very proud of our new website,” added Fraser. “It represents an investment in our fans and team that we hope everyone will enjoy exploring as much as we do.”
Sweets add talented, experienced players from Creighton University
Walla Walla, Wash. – From the home of the College World Series to Borleske Stadium, the Sweets’ newest signings represent the first Creighton players in Walla Walla team history. Junior Jordan Hovey (IF) and junior Elijah Hill (RHP) will suit up and be on the diamond for the Sweets this summer.
“I’ve heard a lot about the Sweets from Elijah,” Hovey said. “He told me it’s a great league and a great organization. I played in the Northwoods League the past two years and I wanted to get to a different part of the country and play in a competitive league. So, I thought it would be a great fit, and I’m lucky to have the opportunity.”
“I always wanted to play in the West Coast League and I hear the Sweets have a great baseball atmosphere at their games,” Hill said. “I really wanted to play at the highest level of summer ball possible, while being at home, so I felt Walla Walla was a great fit for me.”
Hovey is a native of Edwardsville, Illinois where he went to Edwardsville High School and had a great baseball career. His senior year in 2015, he finished the season with a .382 batting average, 32 RBI, 25 extra base hits, was named an All-American, and played in the Illinois All-Star Game.
“I went through some ups and downs in my time at Edwardsville, hitting around .200 my sophomore and junior seasons,” Hovey said. “Then my senior year, I was finally able to put it all together and break through. That year, we finished 32-2 and were one of the highest ranked teams in the nation. So I take a lot of pride in having gone to school there and it really helped to prepare me for college baseball.”
He played his first year of collegiate baseball with Missouri State but saw limited action, primarily as a pinch hitter. Hovey then transferred to Jefferson College and put up some gaudy numbers for the Vikings. He finished the season with a .335 batting average, 13 doubles, three triples, nine homeruns, 55 RBI, and a 1.066 OPS.
“I really enjoyed Missouri State, but I didn’t play to the best of my abilities while there and felt like I needed to go somewhere else to get more playing time and just to play to get better,” Hovey said. “So, it worked out in a way where I got to go to Jeff-Co and play for Coach Evers, which was awesome. It was just a really great experience for me [at Jefferson].”
Now attending Creighton University, Hovey said he chose to play there because of the tremendous opportunities he has both athletically and academically with the Bluejays.
“I went to Creighton because I felt like it would put me in a great position to develop, to become the best player I can be, and give me the chance to compete in an NCAA Regional,” Hovey said. “Also, the education here is top of the line, so that was another factor. But yeah, the guys are all great, the coaches are awesome, so we’re just trying to get better everyday and continue to become more disciplined and organized as a team.”
Jordan Hovey (IF)
Elijah Hill (RHP)
His senior year for baseball in 2013, Hill racked up a 6-2 record with a 1.17 ERA and was named All-State, All-Area, and League MVP. He was also named to the All-Conference team twice.
Coming out of high school, Hill was initially set to play both baseball and football for the Air Force Academy. However, at the last minute the football coach decided that Hill would not be able to play both sports until his sophomore year because they wanted him to get used to life at the academy and not to get overworked early on.
“Thinking back on it, baseball was my main passion, so I couldn’t give it up, especially for one year as a pitcher,” Hill said. “I don’t think I would have been nearly as good after taking a year off, so I decided to go to Bellevue instead.”
He played his first two seasons collegiately with Bellevue College and put up some outstanding numbers while there. He finished his sophomore campaign with an 8-3 record, a 3.20 ERA, and 70 strikeouts over 67.1 innings pitched.
“It was great, I really enjoyed it,” Hill said of his time with Bellevue. “I decided to go there because I knew Coach specialized in working with pitchers and that he had a lot of connections with getting guys to the next level. I decided to play there for two years and he got me to Creighton.”
Getting the opportunity to play at Creighton and the Division I level was always a goal for Hill and now he’s getting the chance to fulfill it. “It’s everything I’ve always dreamed about – playing Division I baseball,” Hill said. “I’m busy all the time with baseball and I love it. Sometimes it’s a grind, but at the end of the day, it’s really worth it in my opinion.”
Sweets owner and team president, Zachary Fraser, is ready to have Bluejays in a Sweets uniform and said he hopes to continue to develop a relationship with the Creighton baseball program and Coach Servais.
“We’re excited about starting a relationship with Creighton,” Fraser said. “Our success with Midwest programs gives us confidence that Bluejay players will be no different. With Hill and Hovey, we are getting mature, developed players and we will count on their experience over the course of a challenging WCL schedule.”Read Less
Young trio will play key role for the Sweets this summer
Walla Walla, Wash. – Three graduating high school seniors who are committed to play at the Division I level will join the Sweets for the 2018 season. Jack Filby (MIF, C/ UCLA), Sean Sullivan (RHP/University of California, Berkeley), and Patrick Collins (RHP/University of San Francisco) will suit up for Walla Walla this summer.
“I knew [the Sweets] were in a very competitive league where there are a lot of D1 guys who want to play the game at the next level,” Filby said. “I knew it was the right destination for me.”
“I just think it’s an experience every college player should have, playing for a collegiate team over the summer and playing with a bunch of different guys going to different schools,” Sullivan said. “I know some guys on the team too, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
“It all started with Coach Mutz inviting me,” Collins said. “Then I really looked into it, and I saw it was a great chance for me to see college hitters before I actually went to college and that really intrigued me.”
Filby is a native of Sacramento California where he currently attends C.K. McClatchy High School and has already racked up a laundry list of accolades. In 2016, he was named to the Top Prospect Team at the Perfect Game Underclass All-American Games and played for the Oakland Athletics at the Underclass Area Code Games. In 2017, he was named to the MaxPreps Medium Schools All-State first team, All-Sacramento Bee first team, Rawlings Top Prospect Team at the Perfect Game National Showcase, and played a second time with the Athletics at the Area Code Games.
“I’ve had the privilege to play varsity since I was a freshman, so I’ve been entrenched in varsity baseball with a lot of high-level play and older guys which has allowed me to mature and grow as a player on and off the field,” Filby said. “It’s brought a lot of fun to my life allowing me to play the game that I love, which is baseball.”
During his 2016 and 2017 high school seasons, Filby batted .374 with 23 RBI, eight doubles, 56 walks, and a 1.142 OPS. He committed to UCLA following his freshman year back in 2015 and will now finally get the chance to don the Bruins’ blue and gold.
“I committed there because it was my dream school,” Filby said. “I enjoy Westwood and So-Cal, so that really appealed to me. They produce a lot of great players, and I’m hoping to be one of them.”
Sean Sullivan (RHP)
Patrick Collins (RHP)
Sullivan grew up in Woodland Hills, California and is currently attending Chaminade College Prep High School. He missed all last season due to a back injury but has been named to the Under Armour Preseason All-American team back-to-back years and was also high honorable mention on the Perfect Game Preseason All-American team in 2017.
“The baseball team is pretty much my home here,” Sullivan said. “It’s definitely a home away from home. I look forward to coming out here every single day and playing with my brothers. It’s a lot of fun and we get after it out here.”
Sullivan is committed to play for the University of California, Berkeley next year and said the chance to play in a beautiful area and in a high-caliber conference was an opportunity he could not pass up.
“I’m really fascinated with the Bay area,” Sullivan said. “I love the overcast weather and the coaches [at Cal] are amazing. Each and every one of them are really kind, really great guys. Their program is outstanding, Pac-12 baseball, that’s a given. I’m really fortunate that I got the opportunity to play there.”
Collins is a native of Calabasas, California and is currently attending Chaminade College Prep High School. He finished last season with a 4-0 record, a 1.15 ERA, 50 strikeouts in 61 innings pitched, and was named Mission League Pitcher of the Year.
“It’s been nice because it’s more of a laid-back atmosphere,” Collins said of the Chaminade baseball program. “We all love playing baseball and working hard when we have to, but we have a good time doing it.”
Collins is committed to play at the University of San Francisco next year and said after spending a lot of time in the city over the years that he always knew it was somewhere he wanted to be.
“I’ve always loved San Francisco because my dad is from there, and I still go up there all the time,” Collins said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to play Division I baseball so when I got the chance to play [at USF] I felt like it was a perfect match for me.”
Sweets head coach Frank Mutz has had the opportunity to coach both Sullivan and Collins over the last four years, as Mutz is also the head coach of Chaminade College Prep High School. He said that both players will play a vital role for the team this summer as members of the Sweets’ pitching staff.
“Sullivan is a hard throwing RHP and an incredible athlete,” Mutz said. “He is a guy who performs better in the big situations, and I’m confident will be a great asset to our pitching staff. Collins is one of the most competitive pitchers I’ve ever had pitch for me. He will be used in several roles this summer and adds a dynamic repertoire of pitches most high school and college pitchers don’t have.”
Coach Mutz has not had the opportunity to coach Filby, but still said that if [Filby] is not the top high school bat in Northern California, he’s certainly on the short list.
“We have high expectations for Filby and plan to have him in the top of our lineup,” Mutz said. “He is a complete player, and the only concern I have is that we may lose him to the 2018 MLB Draft.”Read Less
Experience and versatility abundant with the Sweets newest signings
Walla Walla, Wash. – The Sweets have added three players who will help both in the field and on the mound. Sophomore Jeremy Polon (LHP/Moorpark College), junior Tyson Quolas (OF, LHP/Cal State Monterey Bay) and junior Zach Penrod (OF/Northwest Nazarene University) will be in action for the Walla Walla Sweets this summer.
“I’ve known coach Mutz since I was a freshman in high school,” Polon said. “His high school came to play at my junior college earlier this fall in a tournament that we host and I was talking to him and he asked if I wanted to play for the Sweets and my answer was, ‘Definitely!’”
“I wanted to join a really competitive league,” Quolas said. “The contract was there and everything else fell into place and now I’m really excited to be in Walla Walla.”
“Over the last couple years, I knew that the WCL was something that I wanted to be a part of,” Penrod said. “When my coach texted me and told me I got a spot with the Walla Walla Sweets, I was super excited. It was like a dream come true to play at this level.”
Polon grew up in West Hills, California and had a stellar career at El Camino Real Charter High School. He was a three-year letter winner for baseball and compiled a career record of 30-4 while striking out 224 batters in 210 innings.
He holds two of the five lowest season ERA’s in El Camino Real Charter baseball history and helped lead the school to back-to-back Los Angeles City Division I Championships. Polon was a three-time first team Los Angeles City Section Division I selection, the 2015 City Section Division I Co-Player of the Year, two-time West Valley League Pitcher of the Year, and three-time first team West Valley League selection.
Polon played his first year of college ball at San Jose State University, appeared in 13 games, and finished the season with 10 strikeouts in seven innings of work. Last summer he played in the WCL with the Gresham Greywolves and had a 1-2 record with 17 strikeouts over 18 1/3 innings pitched. Having had the chance to play in Borleske Stadium, Polon said he was blown away by the overall experience.
“We showed up there I believe for a Friday, Saturday, Sunday series and all those days it was packed,” he said. “The fans were awesome, the facility is beautiful, the playing surface is awesome, I was really impressed.”
Now attending Moorpark College, Polon said he is enjoying his time with the baseball program and having campus be so close to home. The school’s pitching coach, Tom Vessella, is a former professional baseball player who Polon said has a great approach to the game and has really helped him tremendously.
“Our pitching coach, he’s been awesome,” Polon said. “He has that pro-ball mentality to get in, get your work in, and then you go home. I like that feel to it; it doesn’t have such a robotic feel. This is only my first year [with Moorpark], so I’m still new to the whole system here, but so far it’s been a great time.”
Jeremy Polon (LHP)
Tyson Quolas (OF, LHP)
Quolas grew up in Oxnard, California and went to Oaks Christian High School where he had an exceptional baseball career. His senior year in 2014, he finished with a .407 batting average, 20 runs scored, 10 RBI and nine doubles. That year he was named to the MaxPreps All-State second team, All-Southern Section, first team All-Ventura County, first team All-CIF, and first team All-Tri Valley Conference.
Quolas played his first two years of college ball locally with Oxnard College and finished his stint there with a .257 batting average, 11 doubles and 31 RBI. On the mound for the Condors, he finished with a 1-1 record and a 2.81 ERA in 16 innings pitched. He was also honorable mention Western States North Conference in 2015 and second team in 2016.
“It was a big learning experience,” Quolas said of his time at Oxnard College. “Steve Hernandez was my pitching coach and he taught me my changeup and I use that pitch a lot now. I’m glad I went to Oxnard and learned that pitch because it’s good to rely on when your fastball is not doing too hot.”
Quolas transferred to Cal State Monterey Bay in the fall of 2016 and utilized his redshirt season this past year. He said he has enjoyed the change of scenery and that the overall approach to the game by the coaching staff has been great.
“When I came to Cal State Monterey I was expecting something like Oxnard, but Coach White, he coaches a little more freestyle,” said Quolas. “You have your own program and you stick to it and have to grind on your own. You go at your own pace, so if you’re not feeling great one day you can lighten up your load, but most of the time we like to go out and get after it together and all do different things.”
Penrod is a native of Nampa, Idaho, where he went to Columbia High School and was an outstanding athlete. He was a three-year varsity letter winner in baseball and was named as a first team All-Conference outfielder all three years.
Penrod spent his first two years playing collegiately for Corban University. He started 59 games and finished with a .273 batting average, 2 homeruns, 14 doubles, and 17 stolen bases. On the mound for Corban, he appeared in nine games and finished with a 2.03 ERA.
“When I went on my visit to Corban, I just really felt at home,” Penrod said. “I really enjoyed the Christian small school aspect. On the baseball side of things, I made a lot of really great relationships with the team. We really bonded my freshman year.”
Penrod transferred to Northwest Nazarene University this past fall, which is just a short drive from his hometown of Nampa. He said he was drawn to play for the Nighthawks because of head coach Rocke Musgraves’ approach to the game of baseball.
“I really enjoyed the outlook [Musgraves] has on the game,” Penrod said. “I felt like it was something I could really get involved in. I’m also looking forward to playing a little closer to home, so my family could come see me more often.”
All three talented upperclassmen made a note to mention their excitement to get the chance to play in front of the tremendous Sweets fan base at Borleske Stadium and that they look forward to winning a lot of games this summer.
“Playing there last year and seeing the whole atmosphere really turned me on to the team and how they went about things,” Polon said. “I saw how great the fans are, and it’s a very talented team, they always get a really good group of guys together every summer.”
“I’m looking forward to meeting great players from all across the country because you just don’t know who you’re going to meet and end up being really close friends with,” Quolas said.
“I’m excited to play in a place that I’ve never been before,” Penrod said. “I also understand there’s quite a big crowd turnout. I love to play in front of people, it’s just something I really enjoy doing so I’m excited for the chance to do it with the Sweets.”Read Less
Walla Walla, Wash. – With the 2018 season just a few short months away, the Sweets are once again searching for families interested in hosting players for the summer. Host families are one of the most significant pieces of community involvement with the Sweets, and the club wants your family to join the team.
“As we approach nine years of #SweetsCountry, I look back on the relationships built and maintained through our host family program – it is truly special and unique to the West Coast League in the caliber of the families and experiences players receive,” said team president Zachary Fraser. “I invite you and your family to become part of one of the best, most community-centered groups in the Walla Walla Valley and host a Sweets player this season.”
Rosanna Morgan has been a host for the Walla Walla Sweets since the team’s first season back in 2010. She decided to become a host because she wanted to “grow” her family and said that the experience has been far more rewarding than she could have ever expected.
“We really did grow our family, but so much more than we ever could have expected,” Morgan said. “Regardless of the years that pass, we keep in contact to share what’s going on in the family. We have seen the players move on and begin their careers, and one has even gotten married. Our family has truly grown all by simply hosting a Sweets player for the summer.”
In addition to being invited to a private host family and player barbeque at the end of the season, host families will also be recognized on-field for their contributions to the Sweets organization and their individual players. Each member of the host family household will receive a General Admission season ticket and 20% off all merchandise and apparel in the Sweets Shoppe throughout the 2018 season.
For more information, including learning what the host family expectations are and the additional benefits and commitments that come with being a host family, please visit the Host Family page on our website at https://wallawallasweets.com/host-families/?kmas=307.Read Less
Two University of Utah players set to join the Sweets this summer.
Walla Walla, Wash. – After a brief hiatus, there will once again be Utes donning Walla Walla uniforms in the 2018 season. The freshman pair of Justin Kelly (RHP) and Matt Richardson (SS) will be the first University of Utah players to join the Sweets since 2013, when future draft pick Bret Helton was an All-Star pitcher for the Sweets’ division-winning club.
“The way I looked at it was that Walla Walla looked like a great place,” Kelly said. “I’ve actually driven through the city a few times and it seemed like an awesome town.”
“I just feel it’s a great opportunity to continue to play over the summer, especially being able to compete with other talented players,” Richardson said. “And it’s a town I’ve never been to, so it’s just a great opportunity.”
Kelly grew up in West Jordan, Utah and went to Copper Hills High School where he had an outstanding high school career being named All-Region three consecutive seasons. He finished his senior year with a 1.67 ERA and 42 strikeouts over 37 2/3 innings and was named to the Utah 5A All-Star Team, as well as honorable mention All-State.
Kelly was initially committed to play baseball at the junior college level before being recruited by and ultimately committing to the University of Utah. He grew up a fan of the Utes, but he also said he chose Utah because it offered him the opportunity to play at the Division I level.
“The goal, honestly, is to play at the highest level that you can,” Kelly said. “So the way I looked at it was why put off playing two years at a JUCO, when I could play at the highest level that I possibly can right away.”
While in high school, Kelly played shortstop along with pitching, but he was recruited to the Utes as a pitcher. He said that he’s already having a great time with the Utah’s baseball program and that he loves being able to branch out and meet as many new people as he can in Salt Lake City.
“It’s been awesome being able to go to that big of a school and making connections all over the place,” Kelly said. “The baseball has been great and I’m looking forward to the long season ahead because it’s going to be awesome.”
Justin Kelly (RHP)
Matt Richardson (SS)
Sweets add three members of the Wolf Pack for 2018.
Walla Walla, Wash. – There may be some howling at the moon on the diamond for the Sweets this season as the team has added three talented players from the University of Nevada, Reno Wolf Pack. Sophomore Ty Hueckman (RHP), freshman Josh Prizina (C, 1B, OF), and freshman Tanner Cunha (LHP) will suit up for Walla Walla this upcoming season.
“I’ve always known about the Sweets because they’re pretty close to home, so that was definitely a team that stuck out for me” Hueckman said. “There’s a bunch of Nevada players that have played [with the Sweets] that told me about it and it sounded like a ton of fun and they all loved it.”
“I decided to join the Sweets to have the collegiate competition over the summer,” Cunha said. “It will help get me prepared for UNR with Division I athletes and studs on the field at all times.”
A native of Burns, Oregon, Hueckman was a three-sport athlete at Burns High School playing baseball, basketball and football. He spent his first year of collegiate action playing for Treasure Valley Community College and had an impressive season. He finished with a record of 5-1 and a 2.42 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 67 innings pitched.
“It was awesome [playing for Treasure Valley], having grown up always watching the Chukars play,” Hueckman said. “It was a dream come true getting to put on a college uniform and throw.”
Hueckman transferred to the University of Nevada, Reno in the fall of 2017 and said it was a huge transition moving to a larger school but that he’s much more comfortable now. He loves the community of Reno and the baseball team. He said that being familiar with Walla Walla growing up, he’s excited for the opportunity to play for the Sweets this season.
“I love Walla Walla,” Hueckman said. “I go through there a ton and spent a lot of time there, so I feel like I can go in there and be comfortable and still be close enough to home to have friends and family come to games. So, it seemed like a good spot for me.”
Tanner Cunha (LHP)
Josh Prizina (C, 1B, OF)
Prizina followed in the footsteps of his mother, Chris, and his uncle, Jim Puzey, who both attended the University of Nevada, Reno and played softball and baseball respectively. He said getting the chance to play for the Wolf Pack was an opportunity he could not pass up.
“Growing up in the community, I knew the environment and I knew this was a town that couldn’t be beat,” Prizina said. “So to get a scholarship was a dream come true. I took it the second he offered, and it was just a dream come true.”
Prizina became familiar with the Sweets because his good friend from high school, Ryan Anderson, played for the team in the summer of 2016. It was because of Anderson’s high praise for the team that Prizina was persuaded to become a part of the Sweets.
“[Anderson] said it was the time of his life, and he said if there’s anywhere you can go, try to get to the Sweets because they’re a really good program, the community rocks, and he loved his host family as well,” Prizina said. “I thought that was something I could potentially see myself doing, so once my coach brought it up that I was going to Walla Walla, I was super excited.”
Cunha is a native of Sacramento, California and had an outstanding high school career at Christian Brothers High School. The left-handed hurler threw a 6-inning perfect game against a rival school his senior year and earned several accolades including 1st Team All-City, 1st Team All-NorCal, and Medium Schools 1st Team All-State. He also helped propel Christian Brothers to their first ever section title for baseball, throwing a complete game and striking out six in the championship.
Cunha is currently attending Sacramento City College, but will transfer to the University of Nevada, Reno in the fall. He said that junior college was always a possibility coming out of high school because he had been underestimated due to his small size on the mound and not having the velocity you might expect out of an ace. But Cunha’s ability to command the zone and throw strikes caught the eye of the Wolf Pack coaches late into the summer of 2017, and he will now can prove himself at the Division I level.
With his first collegiate season approaching, Cunha said he feels that his experience with Sacramento City will benefit him both mentally and physically because of how the baseball program works to develop its players.
“They help you to realize it’s more than a game of baseball,” Cunha said. “They help you with life and how to deal with the bad stuff that happens both on the mound and in life, so being here so far has shown me a lot about my character as a baseball player and my character off the field.”
Cunha will join a strong staff of pitchers for the Sweets in 2018 and he said he’s excited for the opportunity to meet and gel with his new teammates.
“I’m looking forward to developing the team camaraderie, going as far as we can in the playoffs and hopefully winning it all,” Cunha said.
Sweets management is anxious to continue to grow the relationship with the Wolf Pack.
“Coach (T.J.) Bruce and his staff at UNR continue to be a great partner in securing players that make a strong addition to our club,” said Sweets president Zachary Fraser. “We look forward to Ty, Josh and Tanner being key components of a run to a championship this season.”Read Less
Kutzke and Lesmeister set to don the Sweets uniform in 2018
Walla Walla, Wash. – From fans in the stands to playing on the field, two notable local athletes will be in action for the Sweets this coming season. Junior Josh Kutzke (IF/South Dakota State University) and freshman Mitchell (Mitch) Lesmeister (Util/Central Washington University) will be playing right in the backyard of their hometowns this summer for Walla Walla.
“Growing up going to their games and watching them play, I’ve always aspired to eventually play for the Sweets,” Lesmeister said. “I finally got the opportunity this summer, so of course I took it, and I’m super stoked about it.”
“I joined the team because I want to better myself as a player,” Kutzke said. “And the experience [of getting to play for Walla Walla], not many people get a chance to do something like this.”
Both players have been staples of the Walla Walla athletic community over the last several years.
A native of College Place, WA, Lesmeister played baseball, football, and basketball at Walla Walla High School. Fans of Blue Devil athletics have probably grown familiar with his name over the last few years. Lesmeister racked up a laundry list of accolades in all three sports.
In football, he was MCC All-Conference honorable mention back-to-back years (QB 2016, 2017). In basketball, he was MCC All-Conference honorable mention and Defensive Player of the Year (2016) and second team (2017). In baseball, he was MCC All-Conference first team consecutive seasons (2016, 2017) and the 2017 MCC Player of the Year. Perhaps his most notable athletic accomplishment is that he broke Drew Bledsoe’s career yardage record at Wa-Hi by nearly 1000 yards, finishing his career with 5,045 total yards. Lesmeister chose to pursue baseball because he felt it gave him the best chance at a long playing career.
Mitch Lesmeister (Utility)
Josh Kutzke (1B, 3B)
Kutzke, a Kennewick, WA native, played his first two seasons of collegiate baseball at Walla Walla Community College before transferring to South Dakota State University this past fall. He said the coaches at WWCC were outstanding and that he has fond memories of playing for the Warriors.
“I loved it there,” Kutzke said. “If CC was a four-year school, I would have stayed there, definitely. It’s a place I’ll never forget and will always be close to me.”
Kutzke posted some outstanding offensive numbers while playing for WWCC. He finished his two-year stint with a .279 batting average, six homeruns, 27 doubles, 60 walks, and 57 RBI. What really set him apart was his ability to get on base. He also led his team in nearly every offensive category his sophomore year in 2017.
With both players growing up in #SweetsCountry, they had the chance to go to several Sweets games since the team’s inception in 2010. Kutzke and Lesmeister said they are looking forward to playing in front of the great Walla Walla fans and having the opportunity to play in the historic Borleske Stadium.
“Borleske is a one-of-a-kind experience, and you’re not going to see another baseball stadium like it,” Lesmeister said. “Then of course there’s the Walla Walla fans. They love the Sweets, and I’m really excited to be a part of that atmosphere this summer.”
“To me, it’s how the fans support the team so well and show up to all the games,” Kutzke said when being asked what makes the atmosphere at Borleske so special. “All the people of Walla Walla show love to the team, and that’s what I like most, the support from the community.”Read Less
The Sweets have announced their new play-by-play broadcaster and media relations manager for the 2018 season.
The Sweets have announced their new play-by-play broadcaster and media relations manager for the 2018 season.
Brandon Pavlina will take the helm of both positions as he was introduced today via Facebook Live on the Sweets page at the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Indianapolis.
“This is an amazing opportunity, and I can’t wait to become a part of #SweetsCountry and the Walla Walla community,” Pavlina said. “I am really looking forward to engaging with the fan base leading up to the season and putting together the most fun and insightful broadcast the Sweets have ever had.”
The 24-year-old is from Dyer, Indiana, located in the Northwest tip of the state just 45 minutes from downtown Chicago. He graduated from Indiana University Bloomington in the spring of 2017 with a degree in sports communication and a minor in telecommunications.
“He comes from a strong program, and we look to add him to the list of broadcasters who have started their careers in the Borleske Stadium Press Box,” said Sweets president Zachary Fraser.
Pavlina has spent a great deal of his life involved with the game of baseball. He was a four-year letter winner in baseball while attending Andrean High School in Merrillville, Indiana and won two 3A state championships during his tenure.
After his playing career concluded, Pavlina knew he still wanted to be involved with the game he loved. He joined the Big Ten Student U program at Indiana University and had the opportunity to broadcast several different IU athletics and a great deal of baseball games.
Pavlina has also remained involved with the game but on the officiating side of the diamond. During the summers that he spent home in Northwest Indiana, he has umpired several hundred travel ball games at all ages, ranging from Little League all the way up through high school.
“Umpiring has offered me an incredibly unique perspective on the game that I honestly wish I had while I was still playing,” Pavlina said. “When you are a young and naïve ball player, you may argue and disagree with calls, but when the shoe is on the other foot and you are the one making the calls, you understand that the umpires are trying their very best and how difficult the job truly is.”
Pavlina spent the summer of 2016 interning with ESPN 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis. He worked alongside The Dan Dakich Show and The Ride with JMV assisting the producers with their daily functions.
He currently works for the Regional Radio Sports Network, based out of Mishawaka, Indiana, broadcasting high school and college athletics all across Indiana. To this point with RRSN he has called football, soccer, basketball and volleyball games with the expectation to add baseball and softball in the spring.
He will continue the long history of quality broadcasters to call games on the local ESPN affiliate, ESPN Walla Walla (1490 AM/99.7 FM), with the first broadcast of the season scheduled to originate on the road from Yakima County Stadium, as the Sweets open the 2018 season on the road vs. the Pippins.Read Less
Walla Walla, WA – A ray of sunshine and warmth as the cold and dreary winter weather settles in…that is what the release of the 2018 Walla Walla Sweets schedule represents. After another thrilling World Series, and the baseball world ready to work the off-season, the Sweets are excited to continue preparations for what will be the team’s ninth campaign at historic Borleske Stadium.
“After some record-breaking games in 2017, we are excited to welcome our fans and community to the stadium this coming season,” said Sweets general manager Dan Ferguson. “Is there a better place to spend a perfect Walla Walla summer night? We don’t think so.”
This season’s schedule has significant notes of importance:
The Sweets have moved from the WCL North division to the WCL South division, having flip-flopped with the Yakima Valley Pippins. The Sweets will now welcome Bend, Corvallis, Cowlitz and newly added Portland as division foes. The WCL will maintain a split-season format to determine who qualifies for the playoffs.
For the first time in club history, the team will open with a 6-game road trip – visiting Yakima Valley (also owned and operated by Pacific Baseball Ventures) and Bellingham before returning back to the Walla Walla Valley.
As previously announced, the Sweets will move regular start times for the 2018 season. The team will still have gates opening at 6 P.M., but first pitch will move to 6:35 PM, instead of the 7:05 P.M. that has been in place since the 2010 season. Sunday games will move to a 4:35 P.M. start instead of a 5:05 P.M. start. Special times for select games will be determined and publicized with the release of the promotional schedule.
The Sweets will play 32 regular-season games and 27 regular-season road games.
The WCL Opening Day will be Friday, June 1st. Opening Day at historic Borleske Stadium will fall on Friday, June 8th, as the Sweets will welcome the Corvallis Knights. The Sweets swept the Knights in their visit to Borleske in 2017, outscoring the eventual WCL champion 16-6. Other key notes on the schedule include:
Six weekend series – the entire Walla Walla community is planning to head to the ballpark on Friday after work, as the Sweets have six Friday-Saturday-Sunday match-ups.
The Relish Series – the Sweets will welcome the Pickles in what has to be the first-ever sports contest between onions and cucumbers.
Home for Fathers Day – an afternoon at the ballpark is on the docket for Fathers Day 2018 as the Sweets will host the Bend Elks
Ferguson and team president Zachary Fraser are busy with staff building and finalizing the details of the promotional schedule, with plans to release that after the New Year. From fireworks, to Bobbleheads, to an Alternative Facts Night, it will be another fun and family-friendly gathering over the course of the season.
Of course, the primary goal is a return to the playoffs and playing for a WCL Championship.
“Frank, Kyle and Raul have extended their efforts to see more of our incoming players in person this fall,” said Fraser. “We are also really excited about the returning players – all are significant contributors who are excited to come back to our community.
“This is a year where the playoffs are expected.”
Opening Day Tickets to go on sale Friday, December 1: Opening Day continues to be one of Walla Walla’s grandest celebrations. Last season, a record crowd saw the Sweets shut out the Wenatchee AppleSox. Tickets for the 2018 Opening Day will be on sale starting December 1, with a goal to get the building full before the calendar turns the page to January 2018.
“We’re about 35% of the way there,” said Ferguson, noting that the goal is to top the 2,196 that came through the gate in ’17. “I see no reason why #SweetsCountry can’t beat that number – even if it is by 1 additional person.”
Remaining single-game tickets will be on sale Monday, April 2, 2018. Season, mini-plan and group tickets are now on sale and moving swiftly.Read Less
Johnston becomes latest 3-Year Sweet, Riddle returns to the mound
Walla Walla, WA – A league leader in getting on base and one of the best two-way players in the West Coast League, along with a powerful left-handed pitcher with plenty to prove, will be returning to the home-side dugout for the 2018 season. OF/RHP Ryan Johnston, a redshirt sophomore for the UC-Irvine Anteaters, and LHP Dylan Riddle, another redshirt sophomore for the ‘Eaters, will both be returning to Walla Walla for the 2018 WCL campaign.
“RJ continues to be a quiet leader in the clubhouse, on the road, and in our community,” said Sweets president Zachary Fraser. “In addition to be a great baseball player, he provides a great example to our young fans.
“I’m excited that he is becoming one of the few players in Sweets history to be invited back for a third full season.”
In addition to the intangibles that he brings to the table, Johnston was one of the most effective two-way players on the circuit. He finished third in the league with a .467 on-base percentage, often in the leadoff spot for the Sweets. His ability to get on base, by hook or by crook, is something that Frank Mutz and his staff are looking forward to putting to good use once again. When he wasn’t patiently pacing the offense, he was a deceptively effective relief pitcher. In 17.1 innings pitched, primarily in short relief, he struck out 15 while walking only 2. His versatility and his experience have the Sweets anxious to have him back in the lineup.
“I am very excited to have another opportunity to be back in Walla Walla,” said Johnston. “I love the atmosphere Walla Walla brings and the amazing family I’ve created with my time (in the community).
“I look forward to getting out there with a new group of guys and hopefully bring the team a championship.”
This will be Riddle’s third season in the WCL, second in Walla Walla after spending the 2016 campaign with the Wenatchee AppleSox. He featured electric stuff last season despite results that were decidedly mixed. Early in the season, he was dominant, and was among the league leaders in key statistical categories. He faced a slump in the middle part of the year, as he was part of a pitching staff that battled a record number of injuries. Sweets coaches are confident in Riddle’s ability to both start and offer relief in the bullpen, given what pitching coach Raul Camacho saw over the course of the season.
“Just the competitiveness,” said Camacho when asked what stood out for him about Riddle over the course of the season. “He’s a student of the game and wants to do the work to get better. There wasn’t a time when he was ‘unavailable’ to pitch…
“He carried our staff early in the summer, even coming back from an injury. I think he just hit a wall as the innings built up, and with another year removed from the injury, I think we will see more of the Dylan we saw early – and that is pretty special.”
Camacho went on to note that the toughness of both players in indicative of the Anteater program, believing that both are important pieces in the singular effort to bring a WCL to Walla Walla. For his part, Riddle is looking forward to returning to a great community that embraced him and made him feel at home.
“It’s a blessing to be playing in such a great community with an amazing fan base,” said Riddle. “I look forward to getting back out at Borleske and helping bring Walla Walla a West Coast League title.”Read Less