Wildcats practiced twice a week while players spent the summer with NW Futures and NW Star Academy

PMG PHOTO: DEREK WILEY - Wilsonville junior Shane Tacla, playing for NW Star Academy this summer, slides head first to avoid the tag at third base.

While the Oregon Independent Baseball Association held its end of the season playoffs at the end of July, Wilsonville High School was hosting its own tournament – the CCC Classic.

The Wildcats began to move away from the OIBA last summer, and then decided to completely leave this year.

"I started pushing my older group to go play in the clubs just because they weren't going to get better seeing that (OIBA) pitching," Wilsonville coach Bryn Card said. "It's really hard to keep them around when they're showing up to face 64 or 65 miles per hour, which is like JV pitching, and we're supposed to be getting them prepped to play college baseball."

Wilsonville had three 2019 seniors sign to play college baseball – Trevor Antonson at Division I Seattle University, Nolan Thebiay at Division II Montana State and Cade Edmondson at Division II Concordia University.

The OIBA, which this summer had 30 Portland area teams split across two divisions, National and American, started in 2008.

The Wildcats joined the OIBA in 2014. Back then, Card said prospects like Adley Rutschman, the future Oregon State catcher and No. 1 overall pick in the MLB draft, were playing in the league.

"There were some bigger name kids and some of the better talent was showing up for at least the tournament at the end of the year and some of the OIBA games during the week, so you would run into some good kids and some good teams," Card said. "The last two years, they started heading towards clubs and you didn't see them come around very often."

Two years ago, Wilsonville combined with Canby and Sherwood to field an American Legion team for its returning varsity players, while its JV kids played in the OIBA.

"That was great but we didn't see the shift to that by many other teams yet," Card said. "I think we were ahead of it."

Last summer, the Wildcats played in the OIBA with a team of mostly sophomores. Card said there might have been three varsity players on his roster.

"You didn't see many of the varsity kids sticking around at other places, which also impacts your kids," Card said. "A varsity kid doesn't want to play against a freshman or a sophomore that's not up to his level."

This summer, Card pushed all of his players to join clubs while also holding Wilsonville team practices twice a week.

Some Wildcats played on higher level club teams while others were on more developmental squads.

"We're able to direct each kid to what's going to help them the most," Card said. "Not always does one size fit all."

Cole Hubka, a rising sophomore at Wilsonville, played for NW Futures 2022 Select, a club out of Vancouver, Washington that is Perfect Game's No. 8 ranked 16U team in the nation and No. 1 in the northwest.

NW Futures has played games in Arizona and as far as Georgia.

"That's a whole lot better than what he (Hubka) can find playing around here hoping that you find a good baseball game," Card said.

Wilsonville senior Cole Kleckner as well as sophomores Max Bledy and Rockne Beecham also played for NW Futures teams this summer. Senior Jarrod Seibel and juniors Shane Tacla and Dalton Wright are with NW Star Academy.

While Card has not been their coach this summer, he has kept track of all of his players, especially working with the upperclassmen to get them in contact with college coaches.

"I'm still heavily involved, just not sitting in a dugout writing a lineup card," he said.

While playing baseball for a club does have an added cost compared to OIBA, Card said the expense has not kept any of his players from joining a team.

"I really didn't have anybody that wasn't able to afford playing where they wanted to play," he said. "Yes for some there is that need for OIBA because of the costs but it would take some tweaking for it to be at that same level.

"It (OIBA) really was an excellent product. Tweaking it is something that will happen, I'm sure. It really is one of those things where one size isn't going to fit all so we're going to have to get creative if we want that to continue to survive."

Derek Wiley
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