Sophomore infielder Wyatt Young takes a swing during the 2019 season. Photos by Ricky Davis of Pepperdine Athletics
24–25. That was the underwhelming final record of Pepperdine Baseball last season, despite having four contributing seniors and five major league draft picks.
The Waves plan to right the ship to start the 2020 season. With the offseason coming to a close, some of Pepperdine’s biggest stars, like redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Wil Jensen, said they feel the team dynamic is noticeably better than a season ago.
“The chemistry and the culture could have been way better,” Jensen said. “There were some guys who just weren’t bought in, and that was clear from the start.”
Four players from last year’s team transferred after being taken off scholarship. Of the five players who were drafted last June, four of them are pursuing their professional careers.
Jensen, despite being a twenty-eighth-round pick to the Oakland Athletics, elected to play another season for the Waves to improve his stock for the 2020 draft.
“I’d say I’m about 95%,” Jensen said. “My velocity and everything was back in the fall. But the next step for me would be just to see if I can go extended innings. Ideally, getting out there for five full innings without pain would make me feel like I’m back to 100%.”
Even though he would rather be on the field, being in and out of rehab for nearly two years has done a lot for the strength of Jensen’s arm.
“Before my injury, I touched 93 [miles per hour],” Jensen said. “I actually hit 94 this fall, which was a bit of a surprise. But before, I could hit 90, 91 and even keep it up in the high 80s even for longer periods of time. I don’t know if I can do that right now, but I should be able to with time.”
Redshirt junior Easton Lucas led the team with 71 strikeouts last year. He was the Waves’ highest-drafted player last year, selected in the fourteenth round by the Miami Marlins and since traded to the Baltimore Orioles. Redshirt junior and right-handed pitcher Raul Salazar was one of the four players who left the team in the offseason.
For players with significant experience taking the Malibu mound, that leaves Jensen, junior Cooper Chandler, rising sophomore Trevor Kniskern and redshirt senior Michael Mahoney, who only pitched 15 innings last season while battling a hip injury.
“We have some powerful starters this year,” Jensen said. “But then on top of that, this is our first year where we have guys in the bullpen who throw in the low 90s. And that’s huge because, in the past, we’ve played teams like Stanford or UCLA when their guys are throwing 92 out of the bullpen while we have guys throwing 84. This year, we can seriously hang and have some depth.”
Another player looking to turn the team around this season is sophomore middle infielder Wyatt Young. In his first season as a Wave, he started every game at second base, made the West Coast Conference All-Freshman Team and led the team in hits with 67.
Young stayed busy over the summer, playing for the
Young said he was taken by surprise when he received the invite, and he defied expectations after arriving.
“I did not expect to play there,” Young said. “I was notified late that I was going there. But I showed up as a temporary player. I was only supposed to be there for 14 days or less. So a couple of the shortstops got injured, and then I got my shot to play at short. But I just played well, and then they wanted me to stay.”
In WCC play, the Waves went 13–13 and finished seventh out of 10 teams. The Waves have not won the conference tournament since 2014 and are projected to finish fifth this year.
Young said the team is ready for the challenge.
“Without a doubt, our goal is to get to Omaha,” Young said. “Before we do that, we have to win the conference. Then to get a spot in the Super Regional and go from there. Playing in June will be the biggest part for us.”
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