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Westview's Yovan yearns for state title first, personal glory second

Photo Credit: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Westview pitcher Kenyon Yovan was the Metro Pitcher of the Year this season as a sophomore, beating out the likes of Jesuits Christian Martinek for the award.

As easy as Kenyon Yovan makes it look, baseball is a game of failure.

It’s a humbling sport that cuts down the topflight, the talented, the selected. Hitters who cobble together a hit every three at-bats are considered supreme. The most dominant pitchers, who hurl gas and fling mind-bending junk by hitters, tend to throw a stinker now and again. Just when a player thinks they have baseball down pat, the game flicks a proverbial curveball and brings that ballplayer back to earth.

This sentiment is something the hyper-competitive Yovan has wrestled with, and ultimately, came to grips with during the summer. Following a dominant sophomore season in which the right-hander committed to the University of Oregon,and garnered Metro Pitcher of the Year honors, Yovan teamed up with Portland Baseball Club and Evoshield Canes — two elite summer travel teams that compete nation-wide and face elite opposition.

The step up in competition brought mixed results. There were games where Yovan was untouchable, mixing his tool kit of electric fastball and prickling off-speed stuff to stifle hitters and get guys out. Yovan’s bat was just as dynamic, hitting off potential first round picks in the 2015 MLB draft.

On the other hand, periodically Yovan wouldn’t have his best stuff or his arm was tired or the opposing team simply had an out-of-this-world day at the dish.

Hits were collected. Rallies were mounted. Runs were scored. Those days were frustrating and foreign to Yovan, who threw his first career no-hitter against Thurston in the first round of the state playoffs this year and carried a tiny 0.89 earned run average this season.

Yet, those vexing games, even more so than the eye-catching triumphs, fortified Yovan’s mindset. A tenacious competitor who wears his emotions on his sleeve, Yovan realized not everything is going to go perfectly on the mound or the dish all the time.

It’s how you build on the mistakes and grow from them that determines who’s back the next day or the next outing, putting the past in the rearview mioore and progressing as a ballplayer. Yovan’s matured as a player, and for that the rising junior believes he’s much better off both now and in the long run.

“I’m going to be a lot more tough-minded next year,” said Yovan. “I’m not going to let anything get to me because I know things happen. In my mind, I’ve improved a lot.”

Since moving from Gladstone to Westview before his freshman year and being inserted into the Wildcat lineup, Yovan’s been widely known for his competitive fire that rages internally and surfaces on the field. That inherent, fervent drive to win at any cost comes out at seemingly the biggest moments, such as the Wildcats’ series opener against Sunset last year, when Yovan rallied the troops with an impassioned eighth inning speech that spurred a game-winning comeback or his hot-blooded display of vigor after sitting down the side in the first inning against Thurston.

When Westview’s in need of a kick-start, it looks to its emotional leader Yovan, who’s not shy when it comes to fanning the squad’s competitive flame. In a game that tends to be more buttoned-down and business-like, Yovan brings the energizing gusto, whether it’s roaring in the field or barking out on the bump.

“I take a lot of pride in that. I think that’s the way to success,” said Yovan. “I love being excited because I love baseball, and I want to play so bad. Being down and quiet, I think that’s lame. You never know when your last game is going to be. You have to go out there and play with all your heart. You have to show what you want, prove that you want to win and want it more than your opponent across from you.”

Yovan said he’s thinking more on the mound now, sorting through which pitches to throw in certain situations, recognizing swings and formulating schemes to dump hitters at the dish. Missing spots against choice hitters who could potentially play pro ball one day was impossible, so Yovan tried to make them break their posture and keep them off-balance with a mix of different offerings, not just pounding fastballs.

“I try to make them look silly,” said Yovan. “I try to outplay and outthink them on the mound. Throwing against big guys who are 6-foot-4, 225 pounds that turn on a ball around and pull it down the (third base line) at any second, I wasn’t really used to that. It made me get better and work harder right away.”

Photo Credit: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Westview junior right-hander Kenyon Yovan experienced a strong summer playing on the club circuit for Portland Baseball Club and the Evoshield Canes. Yovan was named to the Perfect Game Underclassmen All-American Game.

Prior to his first Tuesday start of the season against Jesuit and the much-ballyhooed Christian Martinek, Yovan verbally committed to George Horton and the Ducks three years before his 2016 graduation day. Signing on so early got the attention of many baseball observers around the state. However, Yovan said after weighing offers from Oregon State and the University of Washington, UO’s academics and the potential of the baseball program exceeded anything the two Pac-12 powers could provide.

OSU has enjoyed its time in the sun, Yovan said, winning consecutive National Championships in 2006 and 2007 and making the College World Series in succeeding years.

While the Beavers’ recent success was intriguing, Yovan stated UO’s lack of a national crown piqued his interest even more than playing with good friends, such as fellow Wildcat Parker Kelly and Tualatin High ace Jacob Bennett, or staying close to home.

“I want to be the first one to win a championship at that school,” said Yovan of UO. “I want to be a part of something special. Winning a championship is great, but being the first one that goes down in history at a big-time, D1 college is a big deal. That really got me.”

The 2016 MLB Draft is tantalizingly on the horizon for Yovan, who’s already hitting 90 miles an hour on the radar gun with his fastball and throwing at least three additional pitches that have “plus” projection at the next level.

With two years of high school ball left, Yovan’s barely scratched the surface of his individual potential . Duplicating former Wildcat great Carson Kelly’s rare back-to-back Oregon Gatorade Player of the Year awards as well as garnering all-Metro honors again.

However, with Westview being one of the frontrunners for a state title in ‘15, Yovan said the main focus is relishing his role as the Wildcats’ ace and taking the program all the way to Keizer Stadium — the site of the 6A state title game.

“This is the year for Westview baseball,” said Yovan. “Parker (Kelly) and I made a promise to each other that we won’t talk about the future. We have to focus on next year because it’s going to be big. We’re coming hard next year. If I’m an average baseball player and we’re winning, that’s fine with me, as long as we’re state champions.”



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