On Campus ArchiveJoe DiPietro and Dan Wentzell
Former Knight Joe DiPietro and Ex-Elk Dan Wentzell named Northwest Conference Pitcher and Player of the Year
The DIII Northwest Conference Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year both competed in the WCCBL last summer. Seniors Dan Wentzell of George Fox University and Joe DiPietro of Pacific Lutheran University were honored last week as the conference's Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively. Wentzell (pictured), a sweet swinging left-handed hitter, played outfield and first base for the Bend Elks the last three summers and DiPietro pitched for the Aloha Knights last summer.
Wentzell hit .285 with 11 doubles and 24 RBI for the Elks last season. His hitting prowess earned him WCCBL DeMarini All-Performance honors for having the highest batting average for first basemen in the league. DiPietro made 7 league appearances for the Knights and was 1-1 with a 2.54 ERA and 1 save.
Wentzell led the Bruins vaunted offense as the senior from Tualatin, Oregon hit .388 with a team leading 8 HR and league leading 55 RBI. DiPietro earned back-to-back NWC Pitcher of the Year honors by posting the league's lowest ERA at 1.99 and earning the league's most wins with 10. The senior from Yakima, Washington went 10-2 and struck out 67 over 95 innings and 12 starts.
Both George Fox (30-9) and PLU (32-7) earned bids to the NCAA DIII regional in Orange, California. PLU, the NWC champion, earned a #2 seed and opens this Wednesday vs. #7 seed Austin while #5 seeded Fox opens tournament play vs. #4 seed Texas-Dallas. PLU swept Fox during the regular season and won the NWC with a 21-3 record. Fox finished 19-5 in conference.
We caught up with both DiPietro and Wentzell before they headed south for the NCAA DIII West Regional. Both are engaging and intelligent young men. We wish them the best down at Chapman and in the upcoming June MLB draft. We hope you enjoy our wccbl.com feature. First, we start with Dan and close the interview with the right-hander, Joey D.
wccbl.com: How does being named Northwest Conference Player of the Year compare with winning a National Championship in 2004?
Dan: Before the season begins, both our team and individuals on our team set goals for themselves in order to achieve at the highest level. Winning a national championship is always our ultimate goal from both an individual and team perspective, everything else is a by-product. However, being awarded Northwest Conference Player of the Year is a great accomplishment and I consider it a very prestigious award. These two accomplishments go hand in hand in that I consider them two team awards. Having great teammates is a reward in itself. I am so thankful for the experiences that our coaches and my teammates have let me be apart of.
wccbl.com: You played three summers for the Bend Elks, how did playing for the Elks impact your development as a player?
Dan: The biggest part of my development as a baseball player while playing in the WCCBL was 1) playing with a wood bat and 2) facing better overall pitching. Summer baseball at that level is a grind and tests you both mentally and physically. Another important aspect of the league is sharing new baseball ideas and learning from others each and everyday. Being surrounded by other top athletes is a bonus and gives other players the chance to learn new approaches, ideas, and fundamentals of the game.
wccbl.com: Over your career, who was the toughest pitcher you faced in the WCCBL and in the NWC?
Dan: The toughest pitcher that I can remember while playing in WCCBL is Marc Rzepczynski with the Aloha Knights. He had an explosive fastball with a sharp slider. The toughest pitcher that I have faced since I have been playing at George Fox University would be Joe DiPietro. Joe mixes pitches very well and he is very good competitor in high pressure situations.
wccbl.com: What was your most memorable moment playing with the Elks and favorite road trip?
Dan: I cannot remember an exact moment that fits as most memorable, but what I can say is that I remember all the guys I played with and the long road trips we endured. I learned so much each summer from some very unique individuals. My experience with the Elks and living in the great City of Bend helped me grow as a person and as a baseball player. My favorite road trip had to be either the Humboldt Crabs or traveling to Wenatchee each year. I consider Bend the top spot to play because of the atmosphere and fan base, but these other two places were quite unique and different. Playing in uncomfortable environments is good for both you as a player and as a person.
wccbl.com: How has Coach Pat Bailey at George Fox impacted your growth as a player and person?
Dan: Coach Bailey is a tough minded individual who gets the best out of his players. Each and every year he finds ways to maximize his players’ and teams’ potential. In order for a Coach to maximize his team’s potential, he has to understand each player in depth starting with their personality. Coach Bailey constantly goes out of his way for his players and strives to understand them on a personal level. In addition, coach is a student of the game and is constantly pursuing new research and ideas in order to help his players. Coach Bailey has challenged me in every aspect including mentally, physically, and spiritually. Coach Bailey holds his players accountable and stresses the idea of the team becoming a family. The most important part Coach Bailey’s program here at George Fox University is that he is developing men and presenting real life situations that his players will face later in life. I am so thankful that he and all my other teammates were put into my life while attending George Fox University.
wccbl.com: You hit well with wood, how would you compare hitting with wood vs. aluminum?
Dan: After spending a summer in the WCCBL and hitting with a wood bat, I finally understood what “squaring balls up,” “staying on pitches,” and “finding the sweet spot of the bat” truly meant. When hitting with an aluminum bat, baseball players can get away with long swings and circling around pitches. However when transitioning to wood, hitters struggle until they finally get inside baseballs and use the whole field to hit with. If hitters square balls up, they will be rewarded. If they use the same long swing, they will be out $35-$70 with a broken bat.
wccbl.com: How did summer ball prepare you for your senior season?
Joe: I think playing summer ball for the Knights in the WCCBL greatly helped my growth as a pitcher. Facing that kind of competition and having success for the most part gave me a ton more confidence in myself. I also learned a lot last summer working with Coach Stebbins. I incorporated much of the stretching and work out routines he had us do into my own routine this season. I am also forever grateful to him for the changeup he taught me. It has become a big time pitch for me, and I really think having that pitch this spring has been the difference maker between this season and my junior season.
wccbl.com: PLU made history this spring by winning its first conference title in 50 years. Your club dogpiled. How sweet was that and where were you in the pile?
wccbl.com: It was so sweet. One of the parents put together a highlight DVD for us and I just keep watching that part over and over. The magnitude of winning the conference championship, since it hadn’t been done by PLU in 50 years, made it all the more sweeter. It was a big deal for our school. People actually recognize us now. I’m happy to say I was on the bottom of that dogpile with just my head sticking out. I really didn’t know what to do at first. I kind of just stood there with 34 guys running at me. I got speared by my shortstop and then I tried to tackle everyone at once.
wccbl.com: How did Coach Loomis impact your growth as a player and a person?
Joe: I have the highest respect and admiration for Coach Loomis. He’s just an all-around stud and I can honestly say that I try to emulate him. The passion he has for the game rubs off on everyone around him. He has helped me become a better and tougher player, and his drive for success has had a huge impact on me both on and off the field.
wccbl.com: What was your most memorable moment last summer playing for the Knights?
Joe: It’s kind of hard to pinpoint one. I guess the series against Humboldt stands out for me. I had never played in an environment like that before. They had a ton of fans and they were all just drunk and rowdy. I had to sit up in the stands for one of the games to chart the pitchers and some of the things I heard coming out of the mouths of 10-year-olds was unbelievable. It was an awesome experience. And it was even better to take 3 of 4 from them.
wccbl.com: Who was the toughest hitter you faced in the Northwest Conference this season?
Joe: I’d have to say Dan Wentzell. I’ve pitched against Wentz for four years now and he played for Bend last summer and he’s always been a tough out. He’s a smart hitter and he can think along with the pitcher. When I pitched against him this season there was a couple times where I would shake off some signs and he would step out, and I could see him trying to figure out what I was thinking. I fooled him a couple times but one time he knew exactly what was coming and he hit that ball a long way.
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