With the playing time up for grabs, Shaun Chase used a power surge to become Oregon’s No. 1 catcher down the stretch as the Ducks prepare for the postseason.
The Desert Vista graduate hit two more home runs in a game against Pacific last week to push his total to a Pac-12 leading 10.
It came two weeks after he was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week after a 7-for-11 streak.
“It’s a great honor,” Chase said. “I’ve worked hard for it and it’s boosted my confidence with other people knowing how hard I worked for it.”
Chase has been making a huge impact this season with the Ducks, batting .305 with 10 home runs and 26 RBIs through May 15. Two of his last three homers have been grand slams, one on Tuesday and the other on May 4.
“Chase is a guy who’s basically in scoring position every time he’s up,” teammate Mark Karaviotis told Oregonlive.com after a big weekend against Arizona.
But to get to this point has been a struggle for Chase after splitting time behind the plate with two other players.
He had a great start his freshman year at Oregon, but soon found himself struggling at the plate, a struggle that would continue through his sophomore season. In a total of 68 games, Chase only hit .194, striking out 70 times.
“I kept putting in extra time hitting and the coaches never gave up on me,” Chase said.
This season, in 43 games played, Chase has the third best batting average on the team at .305 and 18 of his 32 hits have gone for extra bases.
For Chase, baseball in Oregon is the same as it was playing for the Thunder, now that he’s found his rhythm. But it’s hardly the first time he’s been so crucial to his team.
In his senior season at Desert Vista, Chase hit for .427 with 26 RBIs with an on-base percentage of .557. He was also a member of the 2006 Ahwatukee Dawgs team that represented the West in the Little League World Series.
“That was fuel to the fire to keep playing,” Chase said. “We got to play in front of 15,000 people and on ESPN on a big stage.”
Chase was poised to go to a junior college prior to the start of his senior year of high school. Fate would have it another way as he left the Valley of the Sun for the Beaver State.
This season, he returned for a weekend series against Arizona State. It wasn’t a statistically impressive homecoming for Chase, who went 2 for 12 in the series. But it was one he found refreshing.
“I got to see a lot of friends going back to when I was 9, 10 years old,” Chase said. “We had a big barbecue in the backyard.”
The time he got to spend with his family was good, he said. Back in March, his father Russ suffered a heart attack that resulted in hospitalization. With his dad healthy now, the younger Chase said he’s much more at ease.
With only a handful of games left in the regular season, Chase is more determined than ever to keep producing for the Ducks, who were second in the Pac-12 standings as of March 15, and help them get to the College World Series in Nebraska this June.
As for aspirations to play in the majors, he says he wants to play anywhere.
“I always grew up a D-Backs fan, so it would be cool to play for them,” he said. “Honestly, I just hope to get drafted by any team.”
• Will Argeros is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is interning this semester for the AFN.