Sometimes, a chance is all it takes.
A chance is exactly what sophomore Jared Priestly is hoping to get after announcing his decision to transfer to Lane to play baseball for the Titans.
Priestly, a right-handed pitcher, appeared in seven games while playing for the University of Oregon during the 2013 season. He finished the year with a 4.15 earned run average and six strikeouts in 8.2 innings of work.
The Ducks are sixth in the 2014 NCAA preseason rankings. This season, they will welcome the nation’s ninth-best recruiting class, according to the publication Baseball America, and are loaded with pitching talent.
UO finished 15th in the 2013 NCAA rankings and boasted a pitching staff that featured two Major League Baseball draft picks in Cole Wiper and Jimmy Sherfey, as well as 2014 preseason All-Americans Cole Irvin and Garret Cleavinger.
Tommy Thorpe, who earned 2013 Pac-12 first team honors, is also returning for the Ducks.
With so much pitching talent featured on the UO roster, it became apparent that Priestly would not be guaranteed much playing time this spring. The UO coaching staff started looking for other options that would allow him the opportunity for more innings.
“Oregon’s depth chart and their list is so strong that if you don’t succeed immediately, you’re not going to get another chance,” head baseball coach Josh Blunt said. “Coming here, he knows that even when he struggles he’s still going to get out there and throw.”
Although he took an official visit to Chico (Calif.) State University and received offers from several other schools, Priestly said Lane was an easy choice.
“Lane was just a good fit because it’s close to home, and the programs are really similar. I know a lot of the coaches here,” Priestly said.
The idea of playing baseball at the Division 1 level while remaining close to home was what attracted Priestly to the UO initially.
“Really, just with the proximity to my hometown, playing in my own backyard was a really big factor in my decision,” Priestly said. “Being that close to home and then with what they had to offer facility-wise, equipment-wise, I was really enticed with what their program does.”
After a standout senior season at Roseburg High School, Priestly was named Southern Oregon Hybrid Conference Pitcher of the Year and was an Oregon School Activities Association 6A first-team all-state selection.
He was ranked the number three player in Oregon by Baseball Northwest, a magazine that annually ranks the top players in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, after finishing the 2012 season with an 11-1 record, 57 strikeouts and a 0.25 earned run average in 57 innings of work.
“When we brought him in, we expected him to make contributions, and he did,” UO pitching coach Dean Stiles said. “Certainly in the time that he was here, what he did for us was very admirable.”
Stiles, who spent the 2011 season as the head coach at Lane, said that he and Titans pitching coach Jeff Lyle have very similar pitching programs, which should help make Priestley’s transition a smooth one.
Blunt believes that if Priestly had come straight to Lane after high school, he would have been one of their two best pitchers.
“The last time I saw him throw was in high school. He was throwing 85 to 87 miles per hour, he had a really good changeup, a solid slider. He was a strike thrower,” Blunt said. “He’s super, super-competitive, and he’s super-athletic.”
In Priestly, the Titans are getting a player that will not only help them on the field, but according to both Blunt and Stiles, a leader who also excels in the classroom.
“His intangibles and his baseball knowledge are just remarkable,” Stiles said. “He’s one of those players that the rest of the guys always looked up to in terms of leadership. He’s just a team guy first, always looking to try to help somebody else out.”
Although he is leaving behind one of the elite baseball programs in the nation, Priestly does not see his move to Lane as a step backwards.
He is embracing the opportunity to finally show what he can do on the pitching mound on a consistent basis.
“Personally, I just want to get a lot of experience, and just get some confidence at the college level under my belt and just improve my mentality and mental toughness,” Priestly said.