Connor Lambert, a former River Ridge High School baseball standout, is back in the Pacific Northwest. He arrived in Portland on Sunday for the next phase of his baseball career.
Following a stint as the University of Utah’s director of baseball operations that began in 2015, Lambert was named the next pitching coach at the University of Portland on Tuesday.
Lambert has coached for multiple organizations since his playing days at Washington State University, and said he realized coaching pitchers was an avenue he wanted to pursue after his collegiate career wrapped up in 2010.
“The opportunity to do what I set out to do for the last six years, finally getting the opportunity to do that, is extremely exciting,” Lambert said.
Portland coach Geoff Loomis, who previously coached at Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland, praised Lambert’s coaching style following his hire.
“Connor is a bright and energetic coach who has worked with some great coaches and pitching staffs at Utah and in Corvallis,” Loomis said in a release. “He’s a teacher first, which matches our style as a staff and makes him a great addition for our program.”
Lambert — a right-hander who went 11-3 during his career with WSU, primarily as a reliever and helped the Cougars to two NCAA tournament appearances in 2009 and 2010 — said he realized his junior year of college he wouldn’t be drafted.
“I had to start looking at what I really wanted to do,” he said. “At that point, I became a leader on my college team my junior and senior year.”
He said he found his love for the game again late in his college career, eventually spending a year with the Cougars as a graduate assistant in 2011 as an assistant pitching coach and bullpen coach.
Lambert also coached his first season with the Corvallis Knights collegiate summer baseball team in 2011. He has coached — both as a pitching coach and associate head coach — for that organization since, helping the Knights to three West Coast League championships. Corvallis also led its league in ERA for four seasons during his tenure.
Before heading to Utah, Lambert also spent two seasons as a pitching coach at Tacoma Community College, where he helped the Titans reach the highest national ranking in program history in 2014. TCC set a program record for wins that season with 39, which included a 27-game winning streak. At one point, the Titans tossed seven consecutive shutouts.
Lambert said spending the past few seasons on the sidelines in Utah — where the Utes won a Pac-12 championship in 2016 and advanced to the NCAA regionals — helped him prepare for his upcoming position with the Pilots.
“Being with the University of Utah the last three years has really helped me understand the dynamic of universities and the Division I level, and how that really works,” he said.
Portland finished 10-41-1 in 2017 with a team that consisted primarily of underclassmen. Lambert said his plans for the pitching staff aren’t “too fancy,” but one of his primary goals is to help pitchers develop fastball command during their years with the program.
“I like attacking hitters and keeping a positive leadership style with the pitching staff, and challenging (hitters) with our best stuff,” Lambert said.
He will likely have another local on his pitching staff next year in right-hander Christian Peters, who will be a sophomore. Peters, a former Centralia High School standout and Olympian All-Area selection, pitched 24 innings his freshman season.
At River Ridge, Lambert was named the Pacific 9 MVP his senior season in 2006, finishing with a 4-2 record and 2.57 ERA. He posted a .400 batting average and 19 RBIs, leading the Hawks to their first-ever state playoff appearance. He pitched the first no-hitter in River Ridge history in 2005.