TACOMA, Washington – By returning all of its 2018 All-Northwest Conference honorees, including the West Region Rookie of the Year, the 2019 Puget Sound baseball team is poised to break through for a postseason run.
Sophomore infielder Kyle Strash had a remarkable rookie campaign. Last year he led the NWC in both batting average (.393) and on-base percentage (.524) on his way to earning NWC Freshman of the Year and an All-NWC First Team nod. Strash was also named the D3baseball.com West Region Rookie of the Year.
Senior pitcher Michael Warnick, senior outfielder Jack Gries, and junior utility player Hunter Riley also return for the Loggers after earning All-NWC honors in 2018. Two years ago, Warnick led the NWC in saves (seven), but he made an even larger impact in his transition to the weekend rotation in 2018. His 3.81 ERA and 7.44 K/9 IP led all Loggers with at least 10 IP.
Gries hit atop the lineup for most of the 2018 season, and he led the Loggers in runs scored with 29. Gries finished the season with a .348 batting average and a team-high 12 doubles.
Riley split time between second and third base last season, and he finished the year hitting .313. He had six multi-hit games to his credit. Through the final month of the 2018 season, Riley scored 11 runs in his last 13 games.
Junior southpaw Joe Brennan returns to the hill after leading the Loggers in innings pitched (64.0) as a sophomore. The key to his 2019 campaign is maintaining his strength through the latter half of the season. Brennan was solid through his first six starts in 2018, posting a 3.55 ERA during that stretch. However, he finished the season with a 4.64 ERA through 11 starts (13 appearances).
Junior Matthew Hicks is another lefty Puget Sound will rely on heavily in 2019, and senior righty Dakota is positioned to close out Logger victories.
Junior first baseman Mason Quinlan was having a monster sophomore season until an injury cut his year short. Quinlan had eight multi-hit games through his first 13 contests in 2018. Four of those eight games included three or more hits. This season he aims to return to form in the heart of the Puget Sound lineup.
Senior designated hitter Nick Ultsch will also provide thunder in the middle of the Logger lineup. Last year he led Puget Sound in home runs (four), RBI (32), and slugging percentage (.534). Heralded for his defense, junior backstop Ricardo Barraza returns behind the plate for Puget Sound. He quietly pieced together a solid offensive season in 2018 by hitting .293 with a .449 on-base percentage.
The 2019 season begins with four games this weekend in southern California, Feb. 8-10. The Loggers play at Pomona-Pitzer Friday, followed by a doubleheader at Occidental Saturday. Th trip concludes with a single game at Claremont-M-S Sunday.
The first NWC series of the season is at home against Willamette, Feb. 23-24.
Puget Sound will play host to the team from Parkland at Cheney Stadium (home of the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers), when Pacific Lutheran visits Tacoma for a non-conference game, May 1.