The Alaska Goldpanners’ schedule on its website (goldpanners.com) shows the independent summer college baseball team opening its season this weekend against the Northwest Honkers in Washington state.
What the schedule doesn’t show is today’s game at 6 p.m. AKDT in Edmonds, Washington, and Saturday’s game at 1:30 p.m. AKDT in Bellevue, Washington comprise a get-acquainted weekend for second-year Goldpanners manager Miles Kizer.
Among the 19 players on the opening-weekend roster, only outfielder Blake Porter and right-handed pitcher Joseph Riley were part of Kizer’s Alaska debut last year.
“For us, these first two games are about getting to know our personnel,” Kizer said by phone Wednesday. “We have an idea of what type of team we’re going to be. We’re still missing quite a few guys who are going to meet us up in Fairbanks next week.”
Kizer, who recently completed his seventh season as an assistant coach at Western Oregon University, guided the Goldpanners to a 27-12-1 record in 2018.
This also is the Goldpanners’ 60th anniversary, and Kizer described this year’s version of the team as “a lot of fun to watch.”
“I think we’re going to be really good on the mound,” he said. “I think our starting pitching is going to be really good and I think the back end of our bullpen is going to be really good. And I think we have a chance to really hit.”
Kizer said a couple of Panners could hit from 10 to 15 home runs each this summer.
“We have a couple of slasher-type players who are going to be kind of hybrids, who can hit anywhere between five to 10 homers, and they can also hit around .400,” he said.
“I think we’re really going to pick it up and be athletic in the field. I think the roster’s really built for success, and I think we’re going to be able to win a lot of different ways and do a lot of different things to teams. From what I know of these players, I think we’re really going to be fundamental and not beat ourselves.”
Kizer knows Porter’s abilities.
The center fielder, who recently completed his junior season with the University of Portland’s (Oregon) NCAA Division I team, played in 23 games for the Panners in 2018. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound native of Las Vegas sustained a season-ending finger injury with about two weeks left in the season.
“He can play all three outfield spots. He’s an offensive left-handed hitter who can run. He’s toolsy, he’s got a really strong arm,” Kizer said. “He really got after it last summer. He pushed the team, he pushed himself.”
Toolsy refers to a player having the five tools of baseball — speed, power, hitting for average, fielding and arm strength.
Porter batted .303 (23 hits in 76 at-bats) for the Panners last year. He contributed 11 RBIs, four doubles, two home runs and 22 runs scored.
Riley spent only about two weeks with the Goldpanners last year before arm problems sidelined him. The native of Alameda, California, who recently completed his career with NAIA powerhouse Lewis-Clark State, of Idaho, is expected to start this season for Alaska as a relief pitcher.
“He’s a lot of fun to watch pitch. He throws a low 90s (mph) fastball with a good slider,” Kizer said. “He has a really great pace and he attacks on the mound.”
Christian Jones, a junior first baseman from the University of Washington, is among the players expected to have an impact in their first season with the Panners.
“He’s a big left-handed hitter and I think he has a chance to have a really cool summer for us and hit a lot of homers,” Kizer said of the 6-foot-2, 225-pound native of Federal Way, Washington.
Aaron Kim is coming off a 12 home run season as a redshirt sophomore catcher for the University of California San Diego.
“I think he’s going to be a double-digit home run guy (for the Panners),” Kizer said of Kim, who batted .241 with 40 RBIs in 49 games this year for UCSD.
Kizer said he expects Honolulu native Tanner Inouye to “have a really good summer” for the Panners.
The 6-foot-1, 160-pound righthander from Saint Martin’s University, in Lacey, Washington, was named this year to the All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference First Team and D2CCA (Division II Conference Commissioners Association) All-Region Second Team.
Inouye recorded a team-high 87 strikeouts while compiling a 4-6 record and 4.58 ERA in 13 games with Saint Martin’s, which is a conference rival of Western Oregon.
“He’ll be 88 to 92 (mph fastball) with a really good change-up and good breaking ball,” Kizer said of Inouye. “He’s a really good competitor on the mound.”
After this weekend in Washington state, the Goldpanners will be home at Growden Memorial Park for 12 games.
The homestand is highlighted by a matchup against the Seattle Studs in the annual Midnight Sun Game at 10 p.m. June 21. The summer-solstice tradition will be played entirely without artificial lights.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.