The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Meet the 2024 baseball team – position players

Cougs to rely on transfers, new faces
Kyle+Russell+fields+and+throws+the+fall+toward+Sam+Brown+at+first%2C+May+20%2C+in+Pullman%2C+Wash.
BRANDON WILLMAN
Kyle Russell fields and throws the fall toward Sam Brown at first, May 20, in Pullman, Wash.

It’s just a few days until the start of the 2024 WSU baseball season. To get prepped and ready for the season, let’s get to know some of the players to look out for. 

“Everyone has improved. Everyone improves every day with the new coaching staff as we work the little things,” senior shortstop Kyle Russell said. “It’d be hard to say that one specific person improved the most I’d say everyone has been improving day by day, which is great.” 

#1 Kyle Russell (Senior) – Infield 

Over the past three seasons, there has been a consistent presence at shortstop. Russell has played in 116 games, 114 of those being the starter at the premium infield position. A great defender, Russell had his best fielding percentage of .962% in 2023, but head coach Nathan Choate said he’s been looking even better this offseason. 

“He’s had a really good fall and winter. He’s playing elite-level defense right now,” Choate said. 

At the plate, Russell is a career .278 hitter with 26 career extra-base hits and 63 RBI. In the 2023 season, he had his highest on-base percentage at .371% but his slugging percentage of .358% over 162 at-bats. 

Over the offseason, he said he revamped his approach to one that he hopes will lead to more production and, in turn, more extra-base hits. 

#2 Ely Kennel (Sophomore) – Infield 

A native of Corvallis, Oregon, Kennel spent the 2023 season with the Oregon State baseball program before transferring to WSU. 

At Santiam Christain High School, he was named 3A State Player of the Year after hitting .478 with 10 extra-base hits in 15 games as a junior. As a senior, he got his second-straight 3A State Player of the Year honor, improving his numbers to .547 with 27 extra-base hits in 33 games. 

With high-end speed, Kennel is a threat on the bases and a power threat. Prior to his commitment to the Beavers, he earned a Perfect Game ranking of No. 1 in the state of Oregon and No. 181 nationally, according to Perfect Game.  

#4 Logan Johnstone (Redshirt Sophomore) – Outfield 

Another transfer, Johnstone spent the previous two seasons at Gonzaga but missed all but four games of the 2023 season with a shoulder injury. In 25 games in 2022, he hit .273 with one triple, drawing five walks to 15 strikeouts.

Originally from Los Gatos, California, he ranked as the No. 284 prospect in the 2021 class and No. 27 outfielder in California, according to Perfect Game

#5 Alan Shibley (Redshirt Junior) – Outfield 

Despite missing a majority of the 2023 season with a shoulder injury, Shibley appeared in nine games and started eight games. 

Prior to joining WSU, Shibley played two seasons at San Jacinto Junior College in Houston. He played in 107 games in those two seasons and led the team to the JUCO World Series in 2022. That season, he hit .358 with 32 extra-base hits and 20 stolen bases.  A strong bat, he also plays exceptionally well in the outfield. 

“He was hurt last year, but a really good defender in the outfield who’s been stepping up [this winter],” Choate said. 

#6 Joey Kramer (Redshirt Senior) – Infield 

Kramer has spent five seasons in the college baseball scene, three seasons at Santa Rosa College between 2019–21 and the last two seasons at California State, Northridge. 

In his first stop, he slashed .337/.418/.547 in the Pandemic-shortened 2020 season before continuing his hot bat with a slash line of 318/.427/.485 in 2021. Over the past two seasons at CSUN, Kramer slashed .255/.356/.469 with 34 extra-base hits over 92 games.

Packing a lot of power in his bat, Kramer improved his slugging percentage from .430% in 2022 to an impressive mark of .526% in 2023. Spending his last season of eligibility with the Cougs in 2024, he might possess the most power of any infielder on the team. 

#8 Crew Parke (Senior) – Infield 

Another two-stop transfer, Parke spent time at Chandler-Gilbert Community College and Abilene Christain. Receiving All-Region Second Team honors in both seasons at Chandler-Gilbert. In 2022 he played in 58 games while slashing .332/.417/.399 with 11 extra-base hits. 

Parlaying those two seasons, he continued his success at the plate in his lone season at Abilene Christain. A 51-game starter, he had 10 extra-base hits with nearly walking as much as he struck out, 22 to 24 times. 

#10 Griffen Sotomayor (Sophomore) – Catcher 

After four years on the varsity baseball team in high school, Sotomayor spent his first season on the Palouse as a backup. Making four appearances, two as a starter, he has yet to get his first hit in college but got on base once by way of hit-by-pitch. 

#11 Trey Cruz (Junior) – Infield

Cruz spent two seasons at Hartford Community College before transferring to WSU for the 2024 season. In 92 starts of 96 games, he managed a line of .359/.467/.659 with 52 extra-base hits. 

In his first season in 2022, he slugged  .741% and showed he had incredible discipline at the plate. That discipline carried over to 2023, as he walked (36) more than he struck out (27). While he had struggled defensively, committing 26 fielding errors, his bat packs a massive punch and his eye enhances his impact at the plate. 

#12 Jacob Morrow (Senior) – Catcher 

Last season was Morrow’s first with the Cougs, appearing in 28 games behind the plate and hitting .259 with five extra-base hits. A consistent presence and someone who works well with the pitching staff, he earned Choate’s praise with his work in January. 

“Jacob is a catcher who has had a really good January and done a lot of good work with the pitchers,” Choate said. 

#15 Kooper Jones (Freshman) – Catcher 

The only true freshman on the roster for 2024, Jones is from Pasco, Washington, where he spent four seasons as a varsity baseball player for Richland High School. 

Jones spent time behind the dish as well as a second baseman in high school, with his defensive versatility providing more opportunities for him to get in the game this season. 

#19 Brandham Ponce (Senior) – Infield 

In his freshman 2020 season, Ponce played 20 games for Central Arizona Community College. Then, in 2021 and 2022, he spent his time playing for Big Bend Community College before finally making his way to WSU for the 2023 season. 

He appeared in 13 games for the team last season, hitting .222 with six total hits and driving in seven runs. 

#21 Caleb Gray (Sophomore) – First Base 

First base is a position that has a huge hole after the departure of 2023 standout Sam Brown. Gray spent 2023 at Yakima Valley Community College but transferred over to WSU for greater opportunities. 

At Yakima Valley, he appeared in 50 games and slashed .305/415/.458 with 19 extra-base hits and 47 RBI. Walking and striking out 30 times each, he has a consistent eye at the plate that allows him to wait for his pitch. 

Perfect Game ranked Gray as the No. 2 first baseman in the class of 2022, and he has the potential to be the breakout star of 2024.

#23 Max Hartman (Sophomore) – Outfield 

Hartman only made nine appearances in 2023 in his true freshman season but managed to hit a home run for one of his two hits on the season. Hailing from Canada, he earned the ranking of the No. 291 prospect in the class of 2022, according to Perfect Game

#24 Jack Weise (Junior) – Infield 

Spending the last two seasons at Sierra College, Wiese played in 89 games and slashed .327/.418/.423 over 333 total at-bats, improving on all three areas of the slash from 2022 to 2023.

While finishing both seasons with similar extra-base hits totals, he finished with 16 more RBI for the 2023 season. 

#25 Casen Taggart (Junior) – Outfield 

Adding to the list of transfers ready to make an impact, Taggart spent the last two seasons at Centralia College, hitting .279 in 48 games with the team in 2023.

#27 Griffin Myers (Redshirt Sophomore) – Catcher/First Base

Myers has been with the Cougs for two seasons, redshirting in 2022 before being activated in 2023 but only making four appearances. Perfect Games’ No. 34 catcher in California for the class of 2021,time will tell his impact for 2024.

#30 Will Cresswell (Junior) – Catcher 

Rounding out the catcher’s room, Cresswell has been the primary backstop for the Cougs for the better part of two seasons. He’s made 50 starts since the start of the 2022 season, rocking a fielding percentage of .990 and adding 27 hits on offense. 

#32 Cole Cramer (Junior) – Infield 

The last infielder on the roster, Cramer transferred over to WSU from Linn-Benton Community College in Oregon. In those two seasons at Linn-Benton, he had 15 extra-base hits while hitting .310 overall. 

#37 Nate Swarts (Senior) – Outfield 

Choate said that Swartz has proven to be a great defensive outfielder, which is part of why he has made 42 starts and 90 appearances over the past four seasons at WSU. 

Since his debut in 2020, he has 48 hits, 23 of which are extra-base hits. His biggest weakness has been his eye at the plate, where he has drawn just 10 walks in 181 at-bats while striking out 55 times. 

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About the Contributor
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2023 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.