COLLEGE BASEBALL: Western Oregon tabs Kellen Walker as head coach

MONMOUTH -- Thirty-four wins, two Major League Baseball draft picks and the program's 12th-straight Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship later, and it's finally official.Kellen Walker has been named the head coach of the Western Oregon University baseball team.The 29-year-old and former WOU assistant took over the helm on an interim basis for the 2013 season after former coach Jeremiah Robbins left to coach at Lewis-Clark State in Idaho.Thursday, new WOU Athletic Director Barbara Dearing made it official with her first hire."I'm definitely very excited and very honored," Walker said by phone while on a recruiting trip Friday. "It's a great opportunity and I'm just excited to move forward."The hire seemed to be a no-brainer after Walker - the 2013 GNAC Coach of the Year - guided the Wolves to 34-20 record and a league title despite the loss of all four starting pitchers from 2012, including 10th-round MLB draft pick Grady Wood. Kellen Walker "There just weren't a lot of guys proven at this level," Walker said of his new crop of pitchers in 2013, which included standouts A.J. Burke (selected in the MLB Draft's 31st round by Oakland), Spenser Watkins and Zach Nuno, all whom earned all-GNAC honors."Some of them had been in the program, some hadn't, but they were able to come up huge for us. A lot of guys really stepped up and took advantage of the opportunity."Seizing an opportunity is what Walker did, too.The Roseburg native spent six years as an assistant under Robbins after playing two years of college baseball at Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) and two years at Lassen Community College (Calif.).When Robbins decided to leave his storied career at WOU -- which included a 252-109 overall record and seven league titles -- for the NAIA powerhouse Warriors -- Walker was chosen as the interim coach.Now, he's a head coach before the age of 30."I think when the turnover happened last year, I wasn't planning on (becoming a head coach) but I was prepared for it," Walker said. "Working with Jeremiah for six years, kind of like our pitchers this year, I was handed an opportunity and took advantage of it."We're excited to move forward."


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