Titans matriculate to top schools

07/02/2016 11:12

By Ron Richmond | The Register-Guard

Last year, Lane baseball coach Josh Blunt enjoyed a banner “reverse” recruiting season when seven of his players moved on to four-year colleges.

This season’s been even better, with as many as eight Titans on the move, including three who have signed letters of intent with NCAA Division I programs.

The latest is outfielder David Bellamy, a Sheldon High product who signed Wednesday to play at New Mexico State.

Lane’s other big-school recruits are pitchers Brad O’Connor, a 6-foot-5 right-hander out of Springfield High who signed with Marshall, and Kyle Keith, another righty from Casper, Wyo., who signed with Northern Colorado but is expected to return to Lane after a medical redshirt year.

“One of our two primary responsibilities is to get young men to the next level and find the appropriate schools,” said Blunt, who had two local pitchers, Shane Quarterley of Springfield and Jackson Bertsch of Pleasant Hill, sign last spring with Division I Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

“We’ve been pretty good at doing that.”

O’Connor pitched the past two seasons for the Titans and chose to sign with the Thundering Herd in early May.

Bellamy, meanwhile, opted for a more risk-reward approach. He transferred last summer after his freshman year at Division II Saint Martin’s in Lacey, Wash., for one season at Lane in hopes of playing his way into a Division I offer.

Then he made the gamble pay off. After batting .399 for the Titans, third best in the Northwest Athletic Conference, and tying for the team lead with 27 RBIs, Bellamy heard the Aggies come calling with a late pitch for a left-handed-hitting outfielder with a good glove and speed, a knack for getting on base and room to grow into his 6-1 frame.

“It’s a good fit for him,” Blunt said. “He’ll get the right amount of opportunities to contribute and the right amount of challenges.”

Two more Titans, infielders Bruin Campbell of Tigard and Bryce Tilton of Sandy, are staying in-state to play for Division II Concordia and Western Oregon, respectively.

“Those are two really good fits,” Blunt said.

Three others are headed to Kentucky to play at NAIA schools. Pitchers Logan Roberts, from Lake Forest, Calif., and DJ Wilson, from Bend, have signed with Campbellsville University.

Roberts, who Blunt said drew strong interest from scouts for the New York Yankees and San Diego Padres for his power arm and potent bat (.357, six HRs, 27 RBIs), went undrafted but still could sign a free-agent deal this summer.

Also, Ben Giland, a South Eugene graduate who batted .324 splitting time with Bellamy in center field and at catcher this season, is headed for Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Ky. The Blue Raiders shared the Mid-South Conference title with Campbellsville this spring.

As for Blunt’s own needs for next season, the Titans appear to be well-stocked, especially on the mound. Lane pitchers who accounted for about 320 of this year’s 360 innings are expected back, led by 6-5 left-hander Austin Crowson of Monroe, who was 4-1 with a 2.81 ERA as a freshman, and 6-4 righty reliever Drew Smermes out of Churchill.

Starting shortstop Cam Russ (.265, 27 RBIs) also is expected back to anchor the infield. He’s playing with Crowson, Bellamy and Wilson for the Medford Rogues in the wood-bat Great West League.

Blunt also sees Kellen Strahm, a former Oregon walk-on and Sheldon star who’s rebounding from ACL surgery after being injured in an all-star football game last summer, filling one outfield spot and batting fourth or fifth next spring.

Colton Sakamoto, a lefty bat who signed with Oregon and was drafted in the 37th round by Seattle in 2015 out of Westview High, pencils into another outfield spot. Trevor Casanova, who hit .277 with a team-leading 33 RBIs as a Titan freshman before taking last year off from school, should team with Russ on the left side at third.

“We expect to compete for a championship and try to put ourselves in a position to play on the final day of the year,” said Blunt, whose 2016 Titans finished 29-14 and made the NWAC playoffs. “The pieces are there to compete at a very high level, but we now have to learn to prepare together and pull the rope in the same direction.”