One of the top junior college baseball programs in the northwest will once again supply players to the AppleSox in 2011. A trio of right handed pitchers from Lower Columbia College, Jeff Ames, Ben Ruff, and Garrett Tygerson, are set to play in Wenatchee.
The Red Devils are the defending Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) Champions, capturing their league high 10th title in 2010. The connection between the AppleSox and the school is easy to find. Each summer several of the top Red Devils follow LCC and AppleSox pitching coach Rob Hippi from Longview to Wenatchee.
“Certainly we have our relationship with Coach Hippi, but they are probably the most successful and established junior college baseball program in the northwest over the last 30 years,” said AppleSox head coach Ed Knaggs. “We don’t have a lot of junior college players on our team, but I think the ones we do have come in with a chip on their shoulder. They are surrounded by Division I players in our league and are eager to prove they belong.”
Ames is set to pick up where he left off last season for the AppleSox. The flamethrower flourished when he converted to the closer role in early July. After making the move to the bullpen, he did not allow a run in league play throughout July and August. He was the only relief pitcher selected to the 2010 All-WCL First Team, finishing the season with nine saves, including three in the playoffs.
He was named as a junior college Preseason All-American and the #12 junior college prospect in the country by Baseball America. Pro scouts have been keeping a close eye on the draft eligible sophomore from Vancouver, who is 2-0 with a 2.73 ERA this spring.
“He hit 100 mph on the radar gun the other day,” said AppleSox and LCC pitching coach Hippi. “There are consistently around 30 scouts behind home plate every time he pitches. It’s the most attention I’ve seen a player receive in all my years at LCC.”
Ruff is in his first year at LCC after spending his freshman season at University of Portland. No stranger to the West Coast League, he spent last summer as a member of the Bellingham Bells. The Fife native was a two-way player for the Bells, serving as the team’s closer and also playing third base. He earned All-WCL honorable mention for his accomplishments on the mound, going 2-2 with a 1.77 ERA and earning nine saves.
“He is currently out with a broken hand but he should be ready for the summer,” said Hippi. “The plan is to just have him pitch with the AppleSox and not play in the field. He’s got some juice on the mound.”
Tygerson, a sophomore from Ashland, OR, has made eight appearances on the mound for the Red Devils, going 2-0 with a 3.07 ERA.
“He will probably be coming out of the bullpen,” said Hippi. “He is an athlete. He can run like a deer and even had a scholarship offer to play basketball from Humboldt State University out of high school.”
The AppleSox open the 2011 season June 3rd with a three-game home series against the Kitsap BlueJackets. Tickets are available now at www.applesox.com or by calling (509) 665-6900.
Attached photographs of Jeff Ames, Garrett Tygerson, and Ben Ruff are courtesy of the LCC Athletic Department.