Two weeks ago, Sacred Heart Cathedral right-hander Owen Stevenson visited the University of San Francisco campus not knowing where he was going to play college baseball.
He had some interest from junior colleges and smaller programs further afield in Northern California, but no offers. Then, after meeting with the Dons’ academic advisors, players and the coaching staff, he got his first. It was the only one he needed. He’s staying home.
Over the past five days, the University of San Francisco has added three commits, including two pitchers, headlined by Stevenson, who committed on Tuesday afternoon. With a pitching staff that will lose up to four big pieces after next season, new pitching coach Matt Keplinger is moving quickly to re-load.
“He’s got a really good resume and he seems like he really knows what he’s doing,” Stevenson said of Keplinger. “It was what I saw in him, and what he can do for me for the next couple of years, and talking to coach G (Nino Giarratano) about what the program means … It’s special. It’s awesome … It’s somewhere where a lot of guys want to be.”
Before Stevenson pulled the trigger, the Dons got a big-hitting infielder for their 2021 class on Monday with Patrick Kieghran, a Serra junior ranked by Prep Baseball Report as the No. 2 third baseman in the state. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound right-handed hitter played on the same California Club Baseball team as Stevenson this fall, hitting a pair of doubles off Delta College freshmen during an exhibition game.
Up next was right-hander Aidan Lee, a 2020 grad out of Watsonville (Calif.) Monte Vista Christian. He and Stevenson watched the Dons scrimmage last weekend. With a projectable frame at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Lee has touched 90 with his fastball this summer. According to MaxPreps, he went 3-2 last season with a 3.77 ERA in eight appearances, walking 13 and striking out 26 in 26 innings.
Stevenson was the last of the three to commit, joining with Lee and Elijah Tolsma — who committed back in May — for a stellar three-man 2020 pitching class.
The 6-foot-3, 170-pound Stevenson has an 86-88 mph fastball with angle to the glove side, a 71-72 mph curve, a sweeping 74-75 mph slider and a 77-78 mph changeup with arm-side run. He has an easy arm action and a rangy frame with a lot of room to project, physically. Stevenson, Lee and Tolsma will have to pitch early.
After next season, the Dons will lose ace Riley Ornido, righty Grant Nechak and fifth-year senior Landen Bourassa, with Alex Pham possibly being a mid-round draft pick as a junior. Ornido led the staff with 80 2/3 innings last season, and Pham was right behind him with 71. While Bourassa and Nechak were limited to a combined 12 2/3 innings by injury in 2019, they were both expected to be major parts of the staff, and the same will be true in 2020.
“They want me to pitch as a freshman, to compete against the guys who are already there,” Stevenson said. “That’s one of the factors that made me want to go there. I want to go somewhere where I can make a difference immediately.”
Stevenson filled a variety of pitching roles for the Irish this season, throwing 43 innings (second on the staff) in 15 appearances, including seven starts. He went 6-3 with a 2.60 ERA, striking out 40, walking 26 and serving as arguably Sacred Heart Cathedral’s most valuable arm in the playoffs. He finished off an extra-inning game against Aragon after it was suspended due to weather, then continued two days later and 12 miles southwest in Half Moon Bay. Then, he saved a 2-1 nailbiter against Willow Glen at USF’s Benedetti Diamond and pitched a complete-game shutout to send the Irish to the Central Coast Section Division II final.
City College Football: The Rams football team heads to Laney College — the subject of this season’s Last Chance U television show — this Friday to open conference play. City College finished non-conference play with a 35-24 win over Butte and then a 73-7 dismantling of Siskiyous. Laney won the 2018 CCCAA title, but is just 2-3 on the season, with losses to Modesto (33-20), American River (15-10) and Butte (24-7). The game in Oakland is slated for 7 p.m.
San Francisco State Women’s Volleyball: The Gators bounced back from back-to-back 3-1 losses to Chico State and Stanislaus State by beating Humboldt State and Cal State East Bay in back-to-back 3-1 matches. With three straight home dates ahead of it, San Francisco State can continue arguably their best season since 2012. Currently 12-5 with a 5-3 record in the CCAA, the Gators are third in the North Division, and fifth overall in the conference. They next play on Saturday in their Dig Pink game at 7 p.m. against Cal State Monterey Bay in the Swamp at Don Nasser Family Plaza.