Kenyon Yovan spent the summer traveling up and down the East Coast playing baseball before taking a trip to Cuba.
The Oregon junior pitcher went to the Cape Cod League before getting a call to join the Collegiate National Team for its three-week schedule. After playing teams from China and Japan in North Carolina and Georgia, Team USA played four games against Cuba in Havana.
“That was an unbelievable experience, especially in Cuba, seeing the things they don’t have and that we take for granted every day,” Yovan said. “I was able to play against the top players from different countries and meet some of the guys we will play against this year.”
Yovan allowed five hits and one earned run in 8 1/3 innings while striking out seven during five relief appearances as Team USA went 12-3, including three wins in four games in Cuba. LSU coach Paul Mainieri managed the national team while Virginia coach Brian O’Connor was the pitching coach.
“The coaches let you go out and play, but they had little things maybe you would push aside from someone who is talking to you all the time,” Yovan said. “Hearing it from a different voice was nice.”
Yovan went 1-3 with a 6.45 ERA in four appearances, including three starts, with Orleans in the Cape Cod League, considered the top summer league for college prospects.
“He continued his excellence with Team USA and invested a lot of time going back and forth,” UO coach George Horton noted. “It kind of affected his Cape performance.”
Yovan will return for his junior season as the likely Friday night starter for the Ducks after earning all-Pac-12 honors in each of his first two seasons.
“My job is to go out and try to get seven-plus innings every time,” Yovan said. “Go out and set the tone for the weekend. Get momentum on our favor and let the rest of the weekend roll through.”
Yovan was a freshman all-American as Oregon’s closer in 2017 when he went 1-1 with a 1.97 ERA and 15 saves. He had five saves in 11 relief appearances last season before being moved to the starting rotation where he finished 6-4 with a 2.98 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 84 2/3 innings.
“Kenyon is the perfect guy to be a Friday night starter, not only ability-wise but emotionally,” Horton said. “He loves the ball in the biggest situations and is a good leader for the pitching staff. I think in the best years I’ve had, pitching is consistent and it comes from a guy like Tyler Anderson or David Peterson filling up that Friday start in a big way. Hopefully Kenyon can do that and everything else feeds off it.”
Anderson and Peterson were Horton’s two first-round picks at Oregon, and Yovan is being listed among the top pitching prospects in next year’s draft.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound right-hander took about five weeks off from throwing near the end of the summer before returning to Oregon for fall practices that wrap up this week.
“I am trying to get in the best shape I can for this year,” he said. “Help my team in every possible way.”
Yovan will likely be in Oregon’s batting lineup as the designated hitter for some games he does not start on the mound. He batted .233 with three homers last season and had two homers in 26 at-bats in the Cape Cod League.
“I am trying to get my swing to where I want it to be,” he said. “At the end of last year, I got into a groove. I’ve got a lot of confidence in the box and I am hoping to carry it through this year.”