By Steve Mims
Charlie Updegrave posted some eye-popping stats in a part-time role last spring as a freshman at Lewis-Clark State.
The 6-foot-2, 235-pound left-handed hitting first baseman started only four games for the Warriors as a veteran squad led the school to a runner-up finish at the NAIA national tournament. Updegrave appeared in 33 games, mostly as a pinch-hitter, as LC State went 58-7, including a 28-game winning streak.
Updegrave had only 40 at-bats, but hit .350 with six doubles, five home runs and 22 RBIs while scoring 20 runs. He slugged .875 with a 1.284 OPS for the powerhouse program in Lewiston, Idaho.
Do the math and Updegrave homered in one out of every eight at-bats and had an extra-base hit in 27.5 percent of his at-bats. He averaged an RBI more than half of the time he stepped to the plate.
“I didn’t play a whole lot because I was behind some guys who had been thee for two or three years,” said Updegrave, an Oakridge High graduate who will play for the Springfield Drifters this summer. “We had a senior-heavy team and it took me a while to get used to my role because I had not been in a position like that before, but this game throws you a lot of curveballs.”
Updegrave earned his first start of the season in the second game of a doubleheader against British Columbia on March 26. He went 5-for-5 with three home runs, five runs scored and a school-record 10 RBIs as he hit a grand slam, three-run homer, two-run homer, double and a single.
“I started the next day and then only started a couple more games all year,” Updegrave said. “I hit another grand slam in a pinch-hit role and then another two-run homer.”
The Warriors are ranked No. 2 in the preseason NAIA poll with Updegrave projected as the starting first baseman.
“I hope to get most of the playing time there this year and try to help my team win a national title,” Updegrave said. “It has been a while since I’ve played everyday, but I have adapted to where I am at. I can adapt to playing all the time as well, I have been waiting for that for a while.”
Updegrave split his time as a youth playing Kidsports in his Oakridge and Babe Ruth in Pleasant Hill. He spent the summer of 2018 playing for the Eugene Challengers in American Legion before moving onto Umpqua Community College.
Updegrave spent three seasons with the RiverHawks, but never used up a year of college eligibility beginning when he redshirted in 2019 as the program was reinstated after being dropped for a couple decades. The 2020 season was cut short by COVID as every player received an extra year of eligibility. The following spring, UCC played 35 games but was unable to travel out-of-state due to COVID restrictions so once again every player was allowed to retain a year of eligibility.
“When I came to LC State last year, I was a freshman in my fourth year of school,” joked Updegrave, who earned second-team, all-NWAC honors in his final season at UCC.
Laney and Butch Updegrave will be regulars at Hamlin Field this summer watching their son make his debut in the West Coast League. The Drifters open the season on June 2 against Port Angeles and season tickets are on sale now.
“It has been a while since I have actually been playing close to home,” Updegrave said. “It is going to be a nice experience to spend the summer near home while getting to play baseball. I have a lot of close friends who graduated with me that live in Springfield and Oakridge so a lot of them will be able to make the games.”