George Horton (Photo by Eric Evans Photography)


Oregon, Oregon State Nab Midwest recruits

A fierce recruiting battleground has seen two marquee programs join the fray.

Over the last five years, programs such as Arizona State, Louisville, LSU and Vanderbilt have turned to the states of Illinois and Wisconsin with frequency for premier players. After South Holland, Ill. native Brett Lilek moved onto professional baseball after three seasons as a Sun Devil, Arizona State’s freshman class is headlined by Tracy Smith plucked towering righthanded pitchers Liam Jenkins and Fitz Stadler from Chicago suburbs.

In the footsteps of All-American older brother Nick, Louisville junior righthander Zack Burdi made his way to Dan McDonnell’s program by way of Downers Grove, Ill., and the Cardinals’ top MLB Draft prospects, Kyle Funkhouser and Corey Ray, both are from Illinois.

In addition to grabbing Jake Godfrey from New Lenox, Ill., LSU’s sophomore battery of Jake Latz and Mike Papierski are products of Lemont, Ill. Vanderbilt sophomore outfielder Jeren Kendall hails from Holmen, Wisc., while outfield peer Ro Coleman hails from Chicago. As the trend stands, more and more players from not far away from Lake Michigan’s shores continue to flock to major programs.

Now two Pacific Northwest programs are hoping for similar fortunes.

From St. Charles, Ill., Sam Faith, a junior shortstop at St. Charles North announced via Twitter he committed to George Horton and the Oregon Ducks on Sept. 20.

Ten days before his commitment to the Ducks, Faith, a switch-hitting middle infielder, was one of 12 members of USA Baseball’s 2015 16U National Team Identification Series selected for the 2016 17U National Team Development Program. A member of Illinois-based Longshots Baseball, Faith’s coach, Matt Rosenberg, provided this scouting report:

“Faith is a big, physical infielder at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds. He’s athletic for his size and will be able to stick in the middle of infield, but transition to a corner spot if needed, his arm plays anywhere on the field. He’s a legitimate switch-hitter at the next level. He’s just scratching the surface of his potential.”

The Ducks had less than a week to feel triumphant of their flag-planting in the Midwest before their Civil War rivals staked claim to the region, too.

They past Thursday, 2017 righthander Nathan Burns of West Bend, Wisc. announced on Twitter he issued a verbal commitment to Oregon State.

Burns is a 6-foot-2, 160-pound righty ranked as the third-best player in Wisconsin’s 2017 class by Prep Baseball Report. Participating in Prep Baseball Report’s Futures Games during the final week of July, the scouting service’s premier event for rising juniors, PBR noted Burns’ fastball worked 85-88, showing a low-to-mid-70s curveball and upper-70s changeup. PBR praised Burns pitchability, ability to repeat his delivery and command his pitches.

The furthest east a player on Oregon’s 2015 roster called home was Baldwin City, Kan., and that was Kansan and bulky lefthander Garrett Cleavinger. Oregon State had freshman outfielder Elliott Cary join the program by way of Niceville, Fla., but it, too, did not have a player whose home state in the Great Lakes region.

The recruiting battles in the Great Lakes region will only continue to intensify with the Big Ten’s programs steadily improving, and now power programs from the Pacific Northwest joining the fight.

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