Pair of pitchers, corner infielder continue Pippins-UCLA relationship
YAKIMA, Wash. – After coaching a pair of incoming UCLA infielders last summer, Yakima Valley head coach Kyle Krustangel is excited to continue to build the relationship with UCLA head coach John Savage as the Pippins skipper welcomes two pitchers and an infielder to Yakima this summer.
“I’m super excited to bring in three UCLA guys and continue, not just the Pippins’, but my coaching staff’s relationship with coach John Savage,” Krustangel said. “He’s arguably one of the top three college baseball coaches in the country given his workload and resume.”
Left-handed pitcher Chris Grothues, right-handed pitcher Jack O’Connor and infielder Andrew Walters, all incoming freshmen from Southern California, will join the Pippins this summer after wrapping up their high school senior seasons.
Grothues has been a mainstay on powerhouse Servite High School’s pitching rotation since stepping on campus. The southpaw sports a fastball in the 80s that he complements with a late-breaking curveball.
O’Connor will head to Yakima after finishing up at Palos Verdes High School. He was named a Preseason Underclass All-American by Perfect Game and participated in Perfect Game’s 17U World Series last summer in Surprise, Arizona.
“I know (Savage) trusts our coaching staff and knows the great fans and environment up here in Yakima,” Krustangel added. “That’s definitely a reason why he would send not just one, but two pitchers.”
Walters, from Corona High School, also participated in the 17U World Series last summer as well as the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Florida, in October. He was also listed as the 9th-best class of 2022 recruit out of California by Prep Baseball Report.
“I’m super thrilled to bring in some of the top-tier talent in the country into Yakima from a pretty storied program that is known for more than just success — success on the field and in the classroom,” Krustangel said. “You know you’re getting three good characters and three projectable guys that expect to be draft guys after their tenure at UCLA.”
Pippins are scheduled to open their eighth WCL season at Yakima County Stadium on June 3 with a rematch of the 2021 West Coast League Championship Series against Corvallis.