By Steve Mims
Ryan Cooney is spending his spring on a high school all-star team.
Jesuit, the top ranked team in the state, features 15 seniors and nearly half of them have committed to play in college including Cooney, an infielder who will join the Oregon Ducks in the fall. Noble Meyer, a projected first-round pick in the Major League Baseball draft, anchors the pitching staff while the left side of the infield features Cooney at shortstop and Oregon State commit Levi Jones at third base.
“We work together, that is why it is working out so well,” Cooney said. “We don’t have team captains, every senior is a leader and we all help the younger dudes play the game the right way. You have to play as a team, it is not a one-man sport, so we all fill in spots and take advice the right way. I am learning as well.”
Jesuit is 11-3, including a 7-0 mark in the Metro League, with its only losses coming at the USA Baseball National High School Invitational in North Carolina. The Crusaders have outscored opponents 97-18 in their victories.
“The trip to North Carolina was really good, one of the best experiences I’ve had in baseball,” Cooney said. “It helps me knowing that I can play with those guys. No matter where they are from, I’m up there too.”
Cooney will prepare to join the Ducks by spending his summer playing for the Springfield Drifters in the West Coast League, a college wood-bat league featuring some of the top players in the country. Cooney had an opportunity to play in exhibition games against WCL teams in past summers.
“That was a lot of fun and a great stepping stone in my career,” Cooney said. “There are guys from all over the place, not only Division I guys, so I will need to elevate my game. I think it is going to be great. I love the Drifters and I am excited to be part of it.”
Springfield opens its second season at Hamlin Field on June 2 against Port Angeles. The Drifters will play 57 games in 65 days during the summer.
“That will be a good opportunity for me,” Cooney said. “In high school, you play a good amount of games but not like that and in college you play a lot of games in a short amount of time, so I have to get used to that.”
The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder played soccer and baseball during his first two years at Jesuit before deciding to focus on the diamond. He committed to Oregon during the fall of his sophomore season after coach Mark Wasikowski and assistant Jack Marder saw him play despite the limitations provided by COVID.
“Waz and Marder always kept in great contact and were excited to have me there,” Cooney said. “I stuck with them and I am proud of that.”
Cooney’s parents, Steve and Renee, both attended the U of O along with his brother, Ian. His family will make plenty of trips to Hamlin Field and also catch his games closer to home when the Drifters visit the Portland Pickles.
“I always wanted to play college baseball and my parents went to UO, so I loved the Ducks,” Cooney said.
Cooney was named Metro League player of the year and earned all-state honors as a junior when he batted .455 with seven home runs, 30 RBIs, 16 stolen bases and 40 runs scored.
“He’s one of the most athletic kids on the field, no matter the field,” Jesuit coach Colin Griffin told ScoreBookLive.com. “He can hit for power, battle with two strikes, and has a mixture of power, speed and a knowledge of the game.”