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Catcher has lofty goal of earning playing time as a freshman for the University of Oregon Ducks

PHOTO COURTESY OF AMY DUKE - Crook County High School senior Heath Pickhardt has signed a letter of intent to play baseball at the University of Oregon. Pickhardt has played catcher each of the last three years for the Cowboys. When Heath Pickhardt signed his national letter of intent to play baseball at the University of Oregon early in November, it was the fulfillment of a lifetime dream.

"I'm super excited," the Crook County High School senior said. "It's been my dream since as long as I can remember. It's an opportunity that I have been working for for, years and it's a dream coming true."

Although he has played other sports, Pickhardt has put most of his energy into baseball and academics since reaching high school. Earning playing time on the CCHS varsity as a freshman, he also played extensively on traveling teams as he worked hard to refine his skills.

For the last two years, Pickhardt has played summer baseball with the Bend Bucks, and this year he opted to play in a fall baseball league instead of playing football.

The extra work has paid off in a big way. As a sophomore, Pickhardt struggled at the plate, finishing the season with a hitting average below .200. Last year, his hitting improved to a better than .500 average, as he led the Cowboys in batting average.

"I think it's just a mindset," he said. "Baseball is really a mental game, and hitting is all attitude. My junior year, I got more of a mindset that whoever's pitching, no matter who it is I am better than you and I'm going to get a hit. I didn't really change a lot with my swing. It's just being comfortable and more confident."

Although he knows that there is a lot of difference between the pitching at the Pac-12 level and what he has seen in high school, Pickhardt believes that he has done the work to be successful at the next level.

"I'm prepared as much as I can be, but at the same time, the Pac-12 is going to be a big jump, so I'll have to continue making adjustments and continue getting better once I get on campus," he LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Heath Pickhardt throws out a runner at second base during a game with the Bend Bucks last Summer.  Pickhardt recently signed a letter of intent to play baseball with the University of Oregon Ducks.said.

Pickhardt added that he is working hard to continue to improve as a player and is hoping to earn playing time as a freshman.

"It could be a redshirt deal," he said. "I won't know until I get there, but my goal is to get in the rotation and get some playing time my freshman year for sure."

Pickhardt expects to continue playing catcher at University of Oregon but is willing to play anywhere to get on the field.

An honor student in high school, Pickhardt is undecided what he will study in college, choosing between becoming a paramedic or a degree in business or communications.

Pickhardt added that he is still working hard to get better as a player.

"I've been working hard for this and it's a step in the right direction," he said. "I've got a long ways to go before I'll be satisfied, but this is something I've been waiting for for a long time, so I'm excited and I'm going to continue working as hard as I can. Hopefully I can succeed at the Pac-12 level and continue my baseball career."

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