Two of the top Division III baseball programs in the northwest are providing the AppleSox with a pair of players this summer. Left-handed pitcher Trevor Lubking and outfielder Taylor Wattenberg from Pacific Lutheran University, along with infielder Derek Blankenship and catcher Josh Rapacz from George Fox University will spend their summer in Wenatchee.
Both PLU and George Fox play in the Northwest Conference, which features nine schools located in Washington and Oregon. PLU won the Northwest Conference Championship in 2007 and 2009 and has provided the AppleSox with key contributors Josh Takayoshi and Brock Gates in recent years. George Fox has put together sixteen straight winning seasons and in 2004 captured the Division III National Championship.
“Each year both schools seem to battle at the top of the Northwest Conference,” said AppleSox head coach Ed Knaggs. “Both have great coaching staffs and provide players that are well prepared to play in the West Coast League.”
Lubking is in his freshman season at PLU after a successful prep career at White River High School in Buckley. He was named the 2A South Puget Sound League MVP an All-State honoree after his senior season.
“He is a young lefty that they think is going to see a lot of time on the mound at PLU this season,” said Knaggs.
Wattenberg played his first two years at Columbia Basin College before transferring to PLU. Last season at CBC the Des Moines native hit .250 with 16 RBIs.
“After high school his family moved to Chelan, so this summer will be like he is playing in his own backyard,” said Knaggs.
Blankenship spent last summer in the West Coast League. The sophomore from Baker City, Ore. played for the Bend Elks, appearing in 28 games and hitting .237. His connection with the AppleSox coaching staff goes back many years. Blankenship’s father played for AppleSox pitching coach Rob Hippi in high school.
“He is a really neat kid and comes from a great family,” said Knaggs. “He will be a utility guy who will mostly be in the middle infield but can also go out in the outfield.”
Rapacz, in his junior year at George Fox, also comes to the AppleSox with WCL experience. The Richland native was a member of the Moses Lake Pirates in 2010, where he played in 19 games after his freshman season and hit .220.
“He will be our most experienced catcher this season,” said Knaggs. “It is such a nice luxury to have someone who has not only spent a lot of time behind the plate, but has also played in our league.”
The AppleSox open the 2012 season on the road against the Bellingham Bells on June 1st. The team will return to Paul Thomas Sr. Field to start a six-game homestand beginning with the home opener on June 5th against the Bend Elks.
Attached photographs of Taylor Wattenberg and Trevor Lubking are courtesy of the Pacific Lutheran University Sports Information Department. Photographs of Derek Blankenship and Josh Rapacz are courtesy of the George Fox University Sports Information Department.