The UP Pilots baseball team is slowly making strides this season despite only having a 3-10 record to show it after facing some of the best teams in the country with more to come.
The Pilots went 1-3 in their last series with No. 21 UC Irvine, with the one highlight being winning the first game of the series behind sophomore pitcher Travis Radke’s 11 strikeouts.
It won’t get any easier for the Pilots as they welcome in No. 5 Oregon State onto Joe Etzel Field on March 5 as they look to try to break a 14 game losing streak to the Beavers dating to 2006.
Nobody likes being a punching bag, even against a program that won back-to-back national championships not so long ago. It’s the same adversary in all those 14 losses that Head Coach Chris Sperry keeps running into, the extremely successful and fellow UP alum, OSU Head Coach Pat Casey.
Despite the very one-sided record between the two coaches, they are actually walking on the same path in terms of patiently grinding their way to sucess.
Casey, boasts over 600 total wins in his 18 years with the Beavers. Including his six years at George Fox, Casey has over 800 career victories. Sperry just reached his 300 career wins last season, coming just short of earning it against his old rival and friend when OSU beat UP for the 14th time leaving Sperry stranded at 299 for another week.
For Casey, a two-time national coach of the year and a living legend among the collegiate baseball community is highly regarded for a reason. Only five people can make that claim since 1923, when Ralph Coleman began a 35-year run that produced 561 wins. Casey’s predecessor, Jack Riley, won 613 games over his 22 years running a program.
Casey and Sperry go way back. Both are former Pilots – Casey a UP Hall-of-Famer who spent eight years in the minor leagues, Sperry played for the legend Joe Etzel himself and his predecessor as the Pilots’ head coach, Terry Pollreisz.
Sperry, 46, took over for Pollreisz in 1998, the year before Casey’s Beavers moved into the Pac-10 for conference play.
Sperry’s 15 seasons at Portland have been about survival. His career record has almost double the losses as wins and he went through 12 straight losing seasons before breaking through at 34-18 in 2010, finishing second in the West Coast Conference at 14-7. Last year was a step-back at 24-30, though UP was 11-10 and third place in the WCC. It’s a far cry from that first season under Sperry, when they were 10-39 and grossly underfunded.
When Sperry arrived in 1998, there was talk of construction of a new stadium. Now, finally, it appears it will happen. Three years ago, the university purchased the nearby Triangle Park property, with plans to build a new baseball facility there. Casey also knows the feeling of wanting a new stadium and having to fight for it early in his coaching career in order to get better recruits, only to be rewarded and paying it back with two national championships.
Maybe this is the same route that UP is taking with Sperry and it’s all starting to come together in the future.
See you at the ballpark at 2 p.m. on Tuesday to see two great coaches try to out-think each other and their teams decide who is king of Oregon and who is only up-and-coming.