When thinking about where UP baseball has come in the last decade when the program struggled to recruit any Division-caliber talent other then with the guarantee of playing early to seeing top-flight recruits like senior Brian Frattali, junior Turner Gill, sophomore’s Travis Radke, Caleb Whalen and Cody Lenahan blossuming before our eyes, it’s amazing the change in recruiting that Head Coach Chris Sperry has brought to the team.
Now, fans have even more reason to be hopeful as Sperry has brought in a recruiting class high of nine new freshman to join the up-and-coming Pilots who are building off one of their best starts in program history last year and one of the best recruiting classes last year as well.
This class might just take the cake on the best recruiting class, not just in the numbers, but the talent that is among it.
One of these talented freshman is Ryan Barr, from one of the athletic powerhouse high school’s of the West coast, Mater Dei High School in Irvine, Calif. A supreme 6’2” athlete, Barr will surely find his way onto the field strictly for his defensive abilities. But, he is also a very good hitter for average, as he maintained a flaming .500 batting average for the second half of his senior season. Barr can have an instant impact, but his size will allow him to mature physically even more with his time on The Bluff to hopefully allow him some looks from MLB scouts.
Another big-time recruit that Sperry snagged hails from just south of The Bluff on I-5 in Lake Oswego, Grant Taylor. Taylor is an extremely talented athlete at 6’3” who not only has impressive accolades like being named a pre-season All-American, Oregon 6A All-State First Team in 2011 after garnering second team all-state honors as a sophomore, named the Three Rivers League Player of the Year following his junior year and he is a two-time selection to the all-league first team. He hit .443 overall as a sophomore, .385 as a junior and he had five home runs during his first two years on varsity. He also combined for nine triples during his sophomore and junior seasons, 12 doubles, 52 RBI’s and 53 runs scored and had 13 stolen bases.
With all those impressive stats, it might impress you even more that he was an all-league linebacker for Lake Oswego’s football team and helped them win the 6A State Championship in 2011. Because of talent on the grid iron, it actually scared away many programs from recruiting him, allowing UP to sneak in. Taylor and Barr will likely be competing with each other for playing time, but both will surely earn some innings based on their talent and athleticism alone and are key building blocks for the future.
Lucas Hunter is another stud hailing from Portland and attended Central Catholic High school. An infielder capable of playing both second and short-stop, Hunter has the MLB-petigree, talent and speed passed down from his father Brian, who played on several teams in the MLB from 1994-2003. Hunter also was drafted in the 2011 MLB draft, yet declined signing to join UP. Hunter helped lead the Rams to a second place finish in the state last year. As a junior, Hunter was voted the team’s player of the game in the state title game where he hit .419 at the plate. He also helped Central Catholic claim the Mt. Hood Conference championship.
With the Pilots aging pitching rotation, Sperry also added new depth to his bullpin as he also signed right-handers Jackson Lockwood, Billy Sahlinger, Zach Torson and left-handers Carl Snaring and Adam Wozniak. Rounding out the new freshman class are infielders Kevin Farley from California High School in San Ramon, Calf. and Oregon-native Clay Mott from Gresham High School.
While these freshman still carry the tag of potential for now with high standards to be met from last year’s freshman class, you can be sure that Sperry has upped his recruiting game to bringing in athletes and talent not only for the future, but filling needs now.