by Steve Mims
Two of the Springfield Drifters will get a late start to the West Coast League season after their college teams were selected for the NCAA Championships.
Oregon is the No. 2 seed in the Nashville Regional after winning the Pac-12 Tournament. Outfielder Bryce Boettcher is batting .231 with two home runs, six RBIs and nine runs scored on the season.
Boettcher, a South Eugene graduate, will stay close to home this summer and play for the Drifters, who open their second season at Hamlin Field on Friday against Port Angeles. Boettcher hopes he won’t join the team until a long postseason run for the Ducks ends next month.
Oregon, which is 37-20 after going 4-0 to win the conference tournament, opens the regional against Xavier. Vanderbilt, the No. 6 overall seed, faces Eastern Illinois and the regional winner advances to the Super Regionals during the following weekend.
Boettcher is a two-sport star for the Ducks who also plays safety on the football team. Football will be his priority during the summer, but he will join the Drifters when his busy schedule allows it.
“Football will be my No. 1 priority in the summer because we are going into football season, but during afternoons and some weekends we have off, I will be able to play with the Drifters,” Boettcher said. “The idea was to get some at-bats going into my senior season in baseball to give me the best chance for success and see live pitching before fall baseball.
At first, I was thinking of just sticking with football in the summer, but since the Drifters are local and I will have some free time before fall camp, I like the idea of seeing live pitching instead of just hitting in the cages.”
Boettcher has six stolen bases and ranks among Oregon’s best defenders in the outfield.
“I am fired up to work with Bryce,” Springfield Drifters coach Tommy Richards said. “I have heard a lot of good things about him. He seems to be a guy who is a great role model and what he’d done playing two sports is impressive.”
Catcher Reed Kellum is surprisingly in the NCAA field with Tulane after the Green Wave won five games in six days to capture the AAC tournament title to earn an automatic bid despite a 19-40 record. Kellum has played in 12 games for Tulane, including one start, while batting .167 with two runs and two RBIs.
Kellum was recommended to the Drifters by Tulane coach Jay Uhlman, a former Oregon assistant. Kellum is a junior-college transfer who is behind a couple veterans on the depth chart, but he hopes a strong summer in Springfield will prepare him for a larger role with the Green Wave next year.
“I can’t wait, I’m really looking forward to it,” Kellum said. “We played a game at Washington this year, so I got to the Pacific Northwest but I’ve never been to Oregon. I have been to California a few times and really enjoy the West Coast.”
The Drifters also feature a handful of top recruits joining programs that reached the NCAA Tournament, including future Ducks like infielder Ryan Cooney of Jesuit High School, pitcher/first baseman Toby Twist of Bakersfield, Calif., and pitcher Cole Stokes of Redondo Beach, Calif.
Oregon State is the No. 2 seed in the Baton Rouge Regional hosted by LSU. Future Beavers on the Drifters roster include junior-college transfer pitcher Bridger Holmes of North Bend and Lakeridge shortstop Dawson Santana.
Outfielder Rex DeAngelis of North Marion High School will play for UC Santa Barbara, which also reached the postseason.
Three Drifters – first baseman Charlie Updegrave, pitcher Decker Stedman, and pitcher Zach Ediger – are currently competing in the NAIA World Series for Lewis-Clark State.