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As players continue to arrive, Portland's summer collegiate baseball team eyes pitching depth, defense for success.

COURTESY PHOTO: DAVID L. SHENSON PHOTOGRAPHY/PORTLAND PICKLES - Mark Magdaleno enters his seventh season with The Portland Pickles, and second as manager, optimistic about pitching depth and lineup versatility of his team.

The Portland Pickles expected to have about half of their roster together when the West Coast League season begins on May 31.

Such is the nature of a summer collegiate wood-bat baseball season. Players, after all, must first fulfill commitments on and off the field to their colleges.

So, trying to predict how a team might fare in the standings is foolish. Mark Magdaleno, who has been with the team as an assistant coach since its first season in 2016, took over as the Pickles' fourth manager early last season. He promises only that his team will compete and do its best to entertain.

"It's a pretty talented roster. It's put together in a way that we're hoping we're gonna be able to defend. And we're hoping that we are able to shorten games on the back end of our bullpen," Magdaleno said.

"One of the things that we're striving to do here is put together a roster that's gonna pitch and play defense, and we'll figure out how to score one more run than you do."

The Pickles play a couple of warmup games at Walker Stadium May 29 and May 30 before opening WCL play with a three-game home set against the expansion Nanaimo Night Owls.

The roster figures to evolve some through the summer, but Magdaleno points to pitching depth and batting-order flexibility as things he likes about this team.

"At any given time against a right-hander, I can have seven Division I baseball players that hit from the left side in the lineup," Magdaleno said.

In order to get pitchers who come to Portland innings without overworking them, the Pickles and pitching coach Brian Grant limit pitchers to four innings or 65 pitches per outing. They often use pitching tandems to work the first six innings, or more, on most nights.

For example, Matthew DeCrona (headed to Oklahoma after a freshman year at Long Beach State) and Ryan Faulks (who made five appearances as a freshman for San Diego State) could be one tandem.

Hawaii-bound Alex Giroux (a returning Pickle out of Lake Oswego High and Clark College) and Gary Gosjean (from San Francisco State) is another possible tandem.

Others in the mix to be part of a starting tandem: Brian McBroom (New Mexico sophomore), Tyler Dyball (Hawaii sophomore), Alfredo Mateo Rodriguez (Cal Poly freshman), Kolby Kmetko (Washington State sophomore), Michael Bennett (incoming freshman at UCLA) and Jason Doktorczyk (in transfer portal after playing at Sonoma State).

One lefty lining up to start is Oscar Lepe, a junior at the University of San Francisco.

Three other left-handed pitchers will have relief roles, including returnee Tommy Snyder, who went 6-2 with a 3.79 ERA at Pacific Lutheran this spring.

Frontrunners for closing duties include Luke Folsom, David Morgan, Kyle Hoskins and Noah Ferguson.

Folsom pitched 27 innings this spring at Colorado School of Mines, but was especially effective has a hitter (.414, 15 homers).

Ferguson is a Salem native who had 51 strikeouts in 34 innings this spring at PLU.

Morgan is a junior at Hope International. Submarine pitcher Hoskins made only five appearances this spring for Cal State Northridge.

As the 43-player roster stands, four of the 22 pitchers are left-handers.

"We want to shorten ballgames. We want to be in a position where our bullpen can finish the last three innings of every game that we're in," Magdaleno said.

University of San Francisco junior Michael Campagna is one of four catchers, a group that includes returning Pickles Evan Leibl (Santa Ana College) and Max Shor (Riverside City College) and San Diego State freshman Evan Sipe.

The infield includes the Fresno State middle-infield combination of shortstop Blake Wink and second baseman Payton Allen.

Corner infielder Jacob Jablonski returns to the Pickles after hitting .317 for Chico State this spring.

Another infielder of note is Yakima, Washington native Jackson VanDeBrake, who is committed to North Carolina after two seasons at Tacoma Community College.

Magdaleno likes his outfield options, including four left-handed hitters. LeTrey McCollum is a highly-touted prospect for UC Santa Barbara. Keith Jones II and Kyler Stancato are WSU Cougars who hit from the left side.

Another lefty hitter is Nick Upstill out of San Francisco State. Dalton Mashore started at Saint Mary's as a freshman this spring.

Magdaleno said he knows the Pickles are not considered the favorites in the South Division, where the Corvallis Knights have been the class of the West Coast League winning five consecutive championships. But he sounds confident that the Pickles emphasis on pitching and defense can have his team in the hunt for one of three playoff spots in the eight-team division.

Last summer, the Pickles finished 26-22. They were edged out of the playoffs by Ridgefield. Portland was without several key players, including top hitter Leo Mosby, down the stretch in 2021.

The 54-game schedule includes nine three-game West Coast League series at Walker Stadium. An additional nine home games are scheduled against local Wild Wild West League teams. The final home series is Aug. 5-7, with brief league playoffs to follow.

Those playoffs will feature four teams from each eight-team division, with each team guaranteed one home game.

The Pickles' home schedule is busy in June (11 games over 14 days starting June 10) and for the first 10 days of July.

As usual, baseball is the main attraction but not the only show when the Pickles are at home. There are promotions for each home game, including "Rockin' the Walk Concert Series" featuring local music each Friday. On June 10, Portugal. The Man is slated to perform.

Tickets and info: portlandpicklesbaseball.com.


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