Ace won’t duck challenge

When his son, Tyler, set out for college, John Anderson gave him three goals.

He was to do well in school and graduate, win the job as the Friday starting pitcher and become a 10th-round draft choice or better.

Tyler Anderson, a Spring Valley High School graduate, didn’t wait long to reach one of the goals. He has become Oregon’s Friday starter — the college baseball equivalent of being the staff ace.

Anderson takes the mound at 2 p.m. today at Saint Mary’s in Moraga, Calif., an impressive enough accomplishment for any freshman. But he also will throw the first pitch for the Ducks in 28 years.

Oregon decided in July 2007 to reinstate baseball.

“I was very excited,” Anderson said of getting the nod. “My ultimate goal was to be the Friday night starter. That’s all I worked for. That was my mindset the entire fall and winter.”

Anderson, a 6-foot-3-inch, 195-pound left-hander, improved his fastball from 84 mph to the high 80s and uses a curveball and cutter.

“Anderson has knocked our socks off,” Oregon coach George Horton said. “He’s passed every test that we’ve thrown his way. He deserves to be the guy on Friday.”

Horton said he was particularly impressed with Anderson’s competitiveness, which is not news to the player’s dad.

“If I needed to win one game, I’d give him the ball,” said John Anderson, who coached his son in T-ball and Little League. “I’m not saying that because he’s my kid. If we lost a game, he wouldn’t talk to me for a day. He wouldn’t say one word.”

Anderson was 7 or 8 when John, a catcher at UNR in the late 1970s, began to notice Tyler was a little better than other players. That became evident at Spring Valley, too, when as a senior Anderson went 7-4 with a 2.96 ERA and 71 strikeouts. He was second-team all-state.

Anderson wanted to be drafted and was encouraged when a Chicago White Sox scout met with him for about three hours. But instead of going in the first 20 rounds as hoped, Anderson was picked in the 50th by the Minnesota Twins.

That made the decision to go to college easy. Though he signed with College of Southern Nevada, Anderson looked at four-year schools. UNLV, UNR, Hawaii and Cal State Northridge looked back, but Oregon sold him.

It was a Pacific-10 Conference school and a chance to experience life outside of Las Vegas, but the coaching staff made the difference.

Horton coached power Cal State Fullerton for 11 seasons, including the 2004 College World Series champion. Pitching coach Andrew Checketts, who had the same position at UC Riverside, has had 22 pitchers drafted or sign professional contracts.

Checketts was the one who informed Anderson he would be the opening-day starter.

Anderson is part of a recruiting class Collegiate Baseball named the nation’s second best. Not a bad start for a program after a nearly three-decade layoff.

A layoff that ends today.

“Everyone’s excited to go see how we do against an opponent in another uniform,” Anderson said.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914.

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