Jordan Weseman makes solid case for spot in Oregon City rotation
Summertime is the time when most high school baseball teams take a serious look at some of the young talent they are expecting to help fill some of the holes left by their graduating seniors.
One of the questions for Oregon City has to do with Jordan Weseman and whether or not the junior right-hander is ready to step into a starting spot in the Pioneers' varsity rotation next spring.
Weseman looked up to the challenge Friday as he went the distance in a 7-2 Oregon Independent Baseball Association road win over Gladstone, scattering six hits with no walks and five strikeouts.
"Jordan is a competitor," J.J. Winkle said. "What I like is he gets the ball and he goes. He doesn't mess around much. He gets up there and he's around the plate.
"He threw two pitches for strikes well tonight, and I think once he develops a change-up, I think he's going to be tough. But he likes to play and he likes to compete and he's a baseball kid."
Weseman pitched for Oregon City's junior varsity team as a freshman, but when he earned a promotion to the varsity as a sophomore, all of his playing time came at the shortstop position -- nothing on the mound, not even a little mop-up duty.
"I came up with the varsity and Coach told me I wasn't going to pitch, that I was just going to play in the field and hit," Weseman said. "I was like, 'OK,' and I just went with it.
"I told him, 'I can pitch,' and he told me he didn't need me to, and I said, 'What you need.' Just go with the flow."
The Pioneers had three solid starters in Trey Curtiss, Christian Mansfield, and Alan Scott, while relievers Logan Hanson and Kyle Roley cleaned up whenever needed.
"We got a lot of innings out of our starters and it wasn't like we had to use two pitchers a game, so we didn't really have a need to use Jordan as a pitcher," Winkle said. "We brought him up and he got about 20 games at shortstop, so he has varsity experience. He just doesn't have varsity mound time."
Then Curtiss, Hanson, Roley, and Scott graduated, summer ball started, and the Pioneers -- or Black Sox, the nickname they use during the OIBA season -- launched open auditions for pitchers to join Mansfield in the starting rotation.
Weseman drew his first start at home against McMinnville and worked two innings, allowing two runs on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
"It was kind of rough, being my first time back on the mound in some time, but it felt good," he said. "It's going to take some time just getting my arm used to pitching again. It's just such a different motion. But it feels so good getting back on the mound, it really does.
"It means so much to me. I just love pitching and I love competing on the mound, making hitters pop up, getting them to strike out … it just feels so good."
Gladstone took a 1-0 lead in the third inning against Weseman when Austin Conner reached base on a fielder's choice, went to second on a wild pitch, and scored on Matthew Kuhn's two-out single to center.
In the fourth, Oregon City turned a pair of two-out walks and two Gladstone errors into a pair of runs. Weseman helped his own cause when he scorched a grounder to the left that was too hot for the Gladstone's third baseman handle cleanly and then got bobbled in the outfield, allowing Brandon Richardson and Michael Montoya to score and give the Black Sox a 2-1 lead.
Oregon City batted through the order in the sixth and tacked on four runs on three hits, including Manfield's two-out single that scored Hunter Davis and Lucas Hanson, pushing the Black Sox's lead to 6-1.
Gladstone scored once in the sixth with Kuhn led off with a single and Mateo Burgos followed with a double to the gap in left-center field. Jake Gehrke looped a single to left that put runners at the corners with one out, but Weseman worked out of the jam with a strikeout and fly out to center.
For the game, Weseman threw 93 pitches -- 67 for strikes -- and did a nice job of working ahead in the count, throwing first-pitch strikes to 22 of the 30 batters he faced. All five of his strikeouts were on called-third strikes on a night when he relied on his fastball mostly, with a few curveballs and sliders mixed in to keep Gladstone's batters off balance.
Kuhn went 3 for 4 hitting in the three spot for Gladstone, while the rest of the Gladiators' lineup went a combined 3 for 25.
If Weseman had it to do over again, would he have worked the batters any differently?
"No, not necessarily," he said. "I threw pretty well. I might have chance a couple pitches I left up or left in, but just a couple things here and there. Overall, I felt like I did pretty good. It was a good game. We got the 'W,' so we'll take it."
Ashton Stalheim, a junior-to-be who started behind the plate against Gladstone, also is expected to do some pitching this summer along with Zack Brummell, Dustin Fisher, and Brandon Richardson.
"I really don't know who our three guys are going to be," Winkle said. "I think we can count of Christian and Jordan, for sure, but after that … still unsure. Hopefully, by the end of summer, we'll have an idea."
That's what summer baseball is all about.