The Oregon All-Star Series, which pits the state's best high school baseball players against one another over two games, was played June 18-19 at Goss Stadium on the campus of Oregon State University in Corvallis.
Forest Grove's Kaden Clute was chosen to be part of the series and said that the game, along with the overall experience more than lived up to the hype.
"It was awesome," Clute said. "It was everything I thought it would be and more."
Clute saw action in both games. He played second base and pitched for the South team in Game 1 on Saturday and spent the entirety of his Sunday playing second base in Game 2.
The Vikings senior went a combined 0-for-4 at the plate over the series' two games, while allowing one earned run on two hits in an inning of work closing out the South's 8-3 win Saturday evening on the mound. He said he felt "OK" about his performance but added that it was the overall experience that he'll remember looking back.
"I played a lot more than I thought I was going to, so that was nice," Clute said. "But we got a lot of swag, the warmups were pretty cool, and getting to walk onto the field at Goss both days and just taking it in was crazy."
Clute's South team won the series opener thanks in part to Corvallis' Garrett Holpuch, who tossed three scoreless innings of relief to earn the win, in addition to Sheldon's Taylor Langworthy, who went 2-for-2 with two RBIs.
The North team evened the score the following day with a 10-2 win, led by Cleveland's Alex Nisbet, who finished 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs.
Jesuit's Nelson Keljo — who threw three scoreless innings while striking out eight in Game 1 — collected two hits and scored twice, and Lake Oswego's Blaise Heher went 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs.
North reliever Gus Rogers tossed two scoreless innings to earn the win.
Clute, who will be attending and playing baseball for Umpqua Community College in the fall, said it was a lot of fun and valuable experience rubbing shoulders with some of the state's elite competition on the diamond, including with future RiverHawks teammates Brody Spurlock from Sheldon and Landen Parker from Crescent Valley.
"That was really cool to get to know them a little," Clute said. "We talked about our futures at college and everything we thought about the games going on."
Clute's Vikings finished the regular season with a disappointing 7-20 overall record, but the senior still said it was fun to get out there and compete. He cited COVID-19 complications as a reason for their lack of success, pointing to inexperience as a result of the lack of reps afforded the seniors from missing their sophomore year entirely and playing what was ultimately a shortened junior season.
"We really got set back as far as baseball IQ," he said. "So, we really struggled without those reps."
While Clute and much of the state's elite players and programs play club baseball throughout the summer, the Vikings standout said historically, Forest Grove's players do not, which is what he believes really puts the Vikes at a disadvantage both in league play and against much of the state competition.
"There are parents and others who will disagree with me, but personally, I feel like playing through it and having those experiences is what's gotten me where I am today," Clute said. "You have to put in that extra work. During club, I'm getting better taking those reps. All of these kids that aren't doing that are just getting further behind."
Clute said while all of his teammates at the All-Star Series play club, it's not just baseball where successful kids are going the extra mile, it's other sports as well.
In recent years, Forest Grove has been very successful on the soccer field, and Clute said it's no coincidence that those kids are practicing and competing beyond the high school season.
"Yes, we do have good soccer players and they do get fantastic coaching," he said, "but we also have guys that are playing and practicing year around. That needs to be the mentality for all sports."
With his high school years now in the rearview mirror, Clute is focused on his future at Umpqua, where he plans to learn welding. From there, he'd like to go to a four-year school and get a degree in engineering, but also play baseball.
He understands that won't be easy, but he's not afraid to do what he needs to in order to make it happen.
"Whatever you put in, is what you're going to get out of it," Clute said. "If I don't put in the work, I'm not going to get anywhere."
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