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Ducks announce first baseball class

EUGENE — The University of Oregon has its first baseball recruiting class in 27 years, head coach George Horton announced during the NCAA's early signing period.

The Ducks inked 17 players to national letters of intent for the 2008-09 academic year. Of the newcomers, nine are prep athletes from five states and eight are junior college players.

"Our goal coming in was to get 15 quality commitments, and we have exceeded that number," Horton said. "The quality of these recruits surpassed my highest expectations."

Oregon's hiring of Horton, who oversaw college baseball power Cal State Fullerton for 11 seasons and won the 2004 College World Series, was expected to put the Ducks on the fast track to becoming a competitive Division I program after nearly a three-decade hiatus. His first recruiting class leaves little doubt for achieving that goal.

"My assistant coaches did an absolutely great job," Horton said. "They traveled the country to show players everywhere what Oregon has to offer, and despite getting a late start and putting their lives on hold, found a class that gives us the foundation of a club that can be competitive in the Pac-10 and nationally right away."

The incoming class, which already includes two of the top five junior college pitchers in the nation, will be completed during the normal signing period in April.

"We think that these young men represent the top levels of any class in the league, among players who will actually go to college," Horton said. "Many great players who commit decide to play pro ball, but our hope is that most of our class will become Oregon Ducks."

It is not uncommon for a player to sign with a college and then be selected in the Major League Baseball amateur draft. However, if a recruit is drafted and chooses to play college ball, or goes undrafted and reports to campus, he can't be drafted again until after his third year of college.

"We feel great about the quality of player we were successful with," Horton said. "We have experience with eight junior college guys, and a foundation of young guys who will play a lot for the next three to four years.

"Their athleticism is phenomenal and the pitchers have been well coached and are ready for competition and capable of competing in the Pac-10 the moment they walk in the door."

Oregon is expected to add five to six additional recruits before the early signing period ends on Nov. 21.

Oregon Baseball Recruits

Nick Baligod, OF, L/R, 5-10, 180, Fairfield, Calif. (Sacramento City College/UC Irvine).

Scouting report: Potential middle-of-the-lineup hitter "¦ Has plus bat speed and gap power.

Kenny Bartz, OF, L/L, 6-1, 175, Bellevue, Wash. (Lassen College).

Scouting report: Lefty outfielder "¦ One of the better runners of the group "¦ A leadoff-type hitter, very good bat speed.

Ryan Fleckenstein, LHP, R/L, 6-0, 191, Stockton, Calif. (Chabot College).

Scouting report: Freshman All-American before going on a two-year mission "¦ Brings leadership, experience and maturity "¦ Commands the strike zone.

Chris Garrison, RHP, R/R, 6-4, 185, Rocklin, Calif. (Rocklin).

Scouting report: One of the best athletes in the class "¦ Three-sport star in high school (football, basketball, baseball) "¦ Under the radar due to injury last year. Has great fastball command and a solid curveball.

Dylan Gavin, IF, R/R, 6-2, 195, Santa Cruz, Calif. (Santa Cruz).

Scouting report: Can play every infield position "¦ An above average runner with potential to develop into a power threat.

Darrell Hunter, SS/RHP, R/R, 6-2, 170, Springfield, Ore. (Thurston).

Scouting report: Very athletic infielder, who can run "¦ A tools guy with a strong arm and athleticism "¦ Was the first recruit to commit to Oregon.

Alex Keudell, RHP, R/R, 6-3, 190, Beaverton, Ore. (Jesuit).

Scouting report: Has really progressed this fall, adding quality weight to improve his body control and velocity "¦ A very competitive player who throws strikes.

Justin LaTempa, RHP, R/R, 6-4, 200, Huntington Beach, Calif. (Golden West College/UC Irvine).

Scouting report: Physical pitcher who throws in the mid-90s "¦ Has a power arm and solid command of three pitches "¦ Will have one of the better arms in the Pac-10 if he makes it to campus.

Scott McGough, RHP/SS, Plum, Pa. (Plum).

Scouting report: Athletic right-hander who can touch 93 on the gun "¦ Has room to grow and the potential to close early on "¦ Played on the Yankees' area code team "¦ A super-competitive player.

Ty Morrison, OF, L/R, 6-2, 170, Mililani, Hawaii (Mililani).

Scouting report: A plus runner, who runs a sub 6.6 (60) "¦ Has plus arm strength "¦ Played first three years at Great Bridge HS in Chesapeake, Va.

Danny Pulfer, SS, R/R, 5-10, 170, Cypress, Calif. (Cypress).

Scouting report: One of the best middle infielders on the West Coast "¦ Played on the Angels' Elite Team.

Curtis Raulinaitis, UT, L/R, 5-11, 180, Sacramento, Calif. (Sacramento City College).

Scouting report: Left-handed hitter "¦ Has a very strong arm and can play anywhere on the field "¦ Very athletic and runs well "¦ Should hit at the top of the order.

Pete Ruiz, RHP, R/R, Rough and Ready, Calif. (Santa Barbara City College).

Scouting report: Fastball with late life complemented by a 12-6 curve "¦ Brings a lot of maturity and work ethic to the program.

Casey Serna, RHP/SS, R/R, 6-1, 185, Santa Barbara, Calif. (St. Bonaventure).

Scouting report: Multi-sport athlete in high school (played QB in football), who has been very successful on the baseball field "¦ Should play somewhere on the diamond.

Colby Sokol, OF, L/L, 6-2, 180, Puyallup, Wash. (Emerald Ridge).

Scouting report: Has power potential "¦ Very athletic, physical and aggressive player "¦ Injured last year "¦ Played well in the summer for the Washington Nationals' Area Code Team.

Zack Thornton, RHP, R/R, 6-4, 215, Oak Park, Calif. (Ventura College).

Scouting report: Throws a heavy sinker in the low- to mid-90s with a solid slider"¦ A late bloomer who has a power arm.

Ben Whitmore, LHP, L/L, 6-3, 220, Clovis, Calif. (Fresno City College).

Scouting report: Really good command of his fastball "¦ Throws quality off-speed pitches for strikes "¦ Very polished and highly sought after left-hander.