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Photo Credit: COURTESY OF OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY - KJ Harrison, freshman first baseman/catcher, is off to a fast start with the Oregon State Beavers. Hes already earned Pac-12 player of the week and national hitter of the week honors.CORVALLIS — When Kainoa John “KJ” Harrison came to bat late in the finale of the three-game series with Grambling State on Saturday night at Goss Stadium, he had a chance to complete a rather remarkable day with the bat.

Oregon State’s sensational freshman catcher/first baseman was 11 for 11 in plate appearances before flying out to left field in his final at-bat to end his chance for perfection in the Beavers’ doubleheader sweep.

“I got a little out in front of a hanging changeup,” said Harrison, who finished the day 5 for 6 with four walks and two hit-by-pitches. “It happens. I wasn’t thinking about (reaching base all 12 times) at all. It was just another at-bat. But it was a lot of fun today, that’s for sure.”

Harrison says “that’s for sure,” a lot. The 6-foot, 200-pound Kailua, Hawaii, native also hits the ball where the opposing defense can’t get to it, a lot. In Oregon State’s first nine games, Harrison is batting a team-high .465 (20 for 43) with four home runs, 15 runs, 14 RBIs, nine walks and unreal percentages for on-base (.574) and slugging (.930).

Last week, after going 10 for 22 in five games in his second week as a collegian, Harrison was named Pac-12 player of the week and National College Baseball Writers Association national hitter of the week. He was the first Beaver freshman to win the former honor since Kavin Keyes

“It’s crazy,” Harrison said with a grin. “But I’m a real humble guy. I take it as it is. It’s real nice to have, but I just have to keep on working hard, keep on going at it, keep on moving on.”

When players profess to be “humble,” they often aren’t. But Harrison really is.

“KJ is one of the most humble guys I’ve ever coached,” OSU assistant coach Pat Bailey said.

“His greatest strength as a player is his self-confidence. He’s a real confident young man. But he’s not arrogant. You wouldn’t know he’s doing what he’s doing.”

“A fantastic kid,” head coach Pat Casey said. “It’s been great working with him. It’s everything you would dream about.”

Harrison feels the same way about Goss after his first series at Oregon State’s home park, which recently underwent a $1 million renovation that includes a new FieldTurf playing surface, clubhouse, coaches room and beer garden/viewing deck down the left-field line. Crowds both Friday and Saturday were lively, and Harrison — hitting in the three-hole — is already a fan favorite.

“The Beavers have a great fan base,” Harrison said. “Coming out and letting it all sink in — on the new field and locker room and everything that’s going on — it’s pretty amazing.”

K’s are wild in the Harrison family. Parents Kenny and Kaleka have five sons — Kainoa, Kaleo, Kalae, Kaikea and Kahaku. Kenny was a former All-American at Hawaii who went on to a professional

career as a utility player in the Minnesota and Pittsburgh organizations and in Japan. He taught KJ the game he loves.

“My dad has always been there for me,” Harrison said. “Even from a young age, going out in the backyard and hitting off a tee. ... he has always been my role model, a mentor, helping me out through struggles and also when things are going good. I give a lot of the credit to him.”

After a sensational prep career — he hit .534 as a senior — Harrison was drafted in the 25th round of the 2014 draft by Cleveland. By that time, he had decided he was going to become a Beaver.

Bailey first scouted Harrison with the summer-league Utah Bucks at the USA Baseball Tournament and the Gates World Series the summer after Harrison’s junior year.

“The thing that caught my eye, he had not only a good swing but great zone discipline at the plate,” Bailey said. “I knew he was going to hit for us. I didn’t know he’d hit with this much power.”

Harrison was a catcher in high school, and Oregon State has one of the nation’s premier defensive backstops in sophomore Logan Ice. So Casey has used Harrison at first base in most of the Beavers’ games thus far, and the youngster has committed only one error.

“Best defensive first baseman we have right now,” Casey said. “He’s a baseball guy.”

Harrison has caught twice this season, including Saturday’s nightcap.

“I’m still getting used to the system (as a catcher),” he said. “Sometimes the game speeds up on you. You just have to take a breath and relax. The first couple of innings (Saturday) were a little shaky, but once I settled in, I was fine. As the season goes, as I get more innings, I’ll get better.

“I’ll play anywhere, man. I caught in high school but I grew up as an infielder. I’m fine with catching or first base. It’s just enjoyable to be on the field.”

Harrison said he has learned much about hitting since arriving in Corvallis late last summer.

“When we take batting practice or work in the cage, Coach Casey’s emphasis is on zone discipline and being able to recognize balls and strikes,” he said.

Harrison — who won’t turn 19 until August — is a quick study, reminding everyone within the OSU program of two-time Pac-12 player of the year Michael Conforto.

“He doesn’t give away at-bats,” said former Beaver catcher Jake Rodriguez, now an undergrad assistant. “It’s rare that he swings at a pitch out of the zone, and when he gets a pitch he wants, he hammers it.

“It’s impressive to see from a guy at such a young age, and he’s been doing it since the fall. It carried into Arizona and this weekend, and I don’t see him stopping any time soon. It’s fun to see a guy step up the way Conforto did when he first came to the program.”

Casey, normally conservative with compliments for first-year players, can’t help but gush over Harrison.

“No question, he’s our best hitter right now,” Casey said. “He has power, plate coverage, plate discipline. He knows what he’s looking for. He has been able to hit all the pitches. He doesn’t have any fear.”

So how good can Harrison be?

“Don’t have any idea,” Casey said, reeling back just a tad. “Show it to me for awhile. But I think KJ is going to be a real good player. I said that before he took one swing. I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

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