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Tualatin High School seniors make it official during a ceremony held at the school

DAN BROOD - Tualatin High School seniors Kaden Cook (left) and Ella Hillier signed the national letters of intent during a ceremony at the school.TUALATIN — Ella Hillier gets to keep playing softball.

Kaden Cook gets to keep playing baseball.

And they're both pretty excited about it — as are their friends, teammates and family.

Hillier and Cook, both Tualatin High School seniors, signed their collegiate national letters of intent on Nov. 15 in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd during a ceremony held at the school.

"This was pretty exciting," said Cook, who signed to play baseball for the Air Force Academy. "This means a lot to me. Wow, there were a lot of people here. I didn't expect that. This means a lot to me. It was really nice having all these people watching."

DAN BROOD - Tualatin senior Ella Hillier makes a catch in the outfield during the Wolves' state playoff semifinal game at North Medford last spring.Meanwhile, Hillier signed to play softball at Bentley University, located in Waltham, Mass.

"I'm really excited to get to play softball in college, along with getting a good education," Hillier said. "And, without softball, I wouldn't have known about Bentley. I'm really excited about it."

Softball has already been a big part of Hillier's life. In 2013, along with her younger sister, Elizabeth, Hillier played on the Tualatin City Little League team that reached the Little League Softball World Series.

Last year, as a junior, Hillier was a key player for the Tualatin High School softball team that won the Three Rivers League championship and advanced all the way to the semifinal round of the Class 6A state playoffs.

She came up big for the Timberwolves in the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs last year, going 2 for 3 at the plate, with a double and two RBIs in a 4-0 home win over Grants Pass. She then had a hit, and a run-saving diving catch in the outfield, in a 4-3 loss at North Medford in the semifinals.

Hillier, for the 2017 season, was a first-team All-Three Rivers League selection as an outfielder.

Hillier says that Bentley is looking for her to play at catcher, or at first base, at least during her freshman season at the school.

"I'm really excited for it," she said. "I loved it there. The coach (Terry Prouty) is like another mother. The mental aspect will be big. I'm going to need to stay sharp."

But, before moving on to college softball, Hillier is looking forward to her senior season at Tualatin, where the Wolves graduated just two seniors from last year's squad that went 24-4 on the season.

"I think the team will go far," Hillier said. "I just want to contribute as much as I can."

DAN BROOD - Tualatin senior Kaden Cook fires in a pitch during a game with West Linn last spring.Cook, like Hillier, is looking forward to playing at the next level.

"This is a big step for me," he said, adding that Air Force is looking for him to play at first base, or at third base. "I'm going to need to get bigger and stronger. And a lot of it will be mental. I know it's going to be a lot harder."

Cook wasn't totally sure that Air Force was the right place for him — at first.

"I was thinking about Oregon," he said. "But, when I went and visited the (Air Force) campus, it felt like home."

Cook will see a familiar face at Air Force, as his older brother, Karter Cook, a 2016 Tualatin graduate and former Timberwolf standout pitcher, plays baseball at the academy.

"Karter is there. That's the first thing," Kaden Cook said with a smile.

Kaden Cook, a pitcher and first baseman at Tualatin, was an honorable mention All-Three Rivers League pick last year as a junior, when he helped the Wolves to a 14-12 record and a berth in the Class 6A state playoffs.

Cook is now looking forward to his senior baseball season at Tualatin.

"I'm excited for it," he said. "We've got a lot of guys back, and a good new coach (Jacob Austin)."

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