One year ago, Mark Karaviotis was a brand-new graduate of Maui High School.
In early March, Oregon baseball coach George Horton said his talented freshman shortstop had a very big upside.
In late April, Karaviotis was named as one of 35 candidates for the Brooks Wallace Award, given to the nation’s best college shortstop.
Today, Karaviotis will make his 49th start for the Ducks (42-18) as they begin play as the No. 2 seed in the Nashville, Tenn., Regional of the NCAA tournament against third-seeded Clemson.
“It’s been unreal,” the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Karaviotis said Tuesday. “When I first got here obviously the caliber of baseball was a little more quality than what I’m used to playing in the (Maui Interscholastic League) and it was an adjustment.
“The game was extremely fast for me when I first got up here just because everybody’s legit and it took me a while to adjust to the tempo of the game.”
Karaviotis is hitting .255 with three doubles, two triples, 26 runs and 22 RBIs – with a team-best 14 sacrifice bunts – out of the No. 9 spot in the batting lineup. His fielding percentage is .966 (seven errors in 204 chances) and his .371 on-base percentage is third-best on the team.
“Working on the little details is what has really stood out for me,” Karaviotis said. “Making good first steps and putting myself in position to make plays that maybe I wouldn’t have been able to last year.”
Karaviotis has also adjusted after batting clean-up for the Sabers.
“In high school I was more of a one-dimensional hitter, always trying to hit for power,” he said. “Here I have been able to see more pitches and hit balls into gaps and hit the ball the other way, develop into more of an all-around hitter.”
Karaviotis earned the starting shortstop role by beating out senior Kevin Minjares, who was poised to take over for three-year starter J.J. Altobelli.
“I don’t think I have surprised myself, but it definitely was a great opportunity and I didn’t really expect it,” Karaviotis said. “You definitely come in here to win the job and help the team win and get to Omaha. I have been playing this game for the last 15 years, so it is nothing really new.”
Karaviotis has learned from senior second baseman Aaron Payne, who has a .992 fielding percentage.
“That guy’s unbelievable,” Karaviotis said. “Two errors in 60 games is unheard of. His work ethic, his leadership out on the field has definitely transformed me to be light years above what I was six months ago, just playing side by side. His leadership has helped me definitely become a better infielder and just guy, in general.”
Playing 60 games in a season has been an adjustment.
“At Maui High we played 12 (MIL) games and then the tournament and states, so 18-20 games,” he said. “If I’m not feeling 100 percent, maybe you’re 70 percent, I’ve learned to go out there and
give 100 percent on that 70 percent. It’s a long season.”
Other freshmen on the roster include outfielder Austin Grebeck, son of former major leaguer Craig Grebeck, starting first baseman A.J. Balta and pitcher Matt Krook, who underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery last month – he was leading the Pac-12 in strikeouts at the time.
“The guy is one of the filthiest pitchers I have ever faced,” Karaviotis said of Krook. “That loss was unfortunate for us, but other guys like Austin, our center fielder who has speed like the wind, and A.J. has been our first baseman pretty much all year – he has been able to develop into a hell of a defender.”
The winner of Oregon’s regional will face Indiana, Stanford, Youngstown State or Indiana State in a Super Regional. The College World Series begins June 14.
“From the start, (the College World Series) is the goal,” Karaviotis said. “You’ll see in all our tweets or whatever the hashtag ‘EugToOmaha.’ “
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org