The next big hit in local baseball
Maybe you saw the likes of Dale Murphy and Danny Ainge and Harold Reynolds and Ben Petrick and Trevor Crowe and Jacoby Ellsbury and Darwin Barney come through Oregon’s high school ranks and have enjoyed watching them progress to the major leagues. Check out the scene Saturday at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer, site of the Class 6A championship game. Westview will be there, facing Central Catholic. So will Carson Kelly. It’s too early to say the Westview junior is destined for the bigs, but he wears the look of the next great one from our state. The 6-2, 185-pound Kelly has been the driving force behind the Wildcats’ march to their first state title game since 2007. The shortstop has pummeled opposing pitching for a .467 average with 11 doubles, 13 home runs and 49 RBIs in 30 games. He has struck out three times all season. As Westview’s No. 2 pitcher behind ace Sam Johnson, Kelly is 9-1 with a 1.64 ERA. In an early-season game against Lake Oswego, then ranked No. 1, he was one pitch from tossing a perfect game. In Tuesday’s 18-0 body slam of Metro League rival Jesuit in the semifinals, Kelly scored four runs and went 3 for 3 with a double, an intentional walk and a hit-by-pitch. He also hurled two innings of scoreless relief. Kelly was named Gatorade player of the year Wednesday. Baseball Northwest ranks him as the state’s top junior prospect. “He’s as good as I’ve ever seen in Oregon,” Jesuit coach Tim Massey says. “He has a great poise about him. The bigger the pressure situation, the better he does.” Kelly is one of those rare five-tool players who can run, throw, field, hit and hit with power. He blasted a pair of home runs, including a grand slam, in Westview’s playoff victory over Lakeridge. As a freshman, Kelly batted clean-up for Westview and was a first-team all-Metro infielder. As a sophomore, he was the league’s player of the year. “I’ve never seen a kid with his combination of skills,” says Westview coach Steve Antich, in his 19th season coaching in the state. “He’s a complete hitter who hits with discipline. He’s not trying to hit home runs, and he plays in a big park at home. He can use all fields and handle most off-speed pitches. He has good balance and a really live bat. We couldn’t ask for more.” Pacific University coach Greg Bradley — who has coached in the state for 25 years — scratches his head for an adequate comparison. “Carson might be the best hitter I’ve seen in terms of power and consistency,” says Bradley, whose son, Donnie, is second baseman and leadoff hitter for the Wildcats. “The kid has the size, the strength, the quick hands — all the attributes you look for. He works real hard, does a lot of extra stuff and has an ability level that can carry him a long way.” Last October, Kelly was a member of the USA Under-16 team that went 9-0 and won the gold medal at the Pan American Championships in Mexico. Kelly was the starting right fielder and the winning pitcher in a quarterfinal victory over Cuba. “It was amazing, an unbelievable experience,” Kelly says. “I’d love to do it again.” In June, Kelly will attend a USA under-18 team tryout camp in Cary, N.C. The team will participate in the Pan Am Championships at Colombia from Sept. 23 to Oct. 2. Kelly also has been selected to play in the Under Armour All-America game at Wrigley Field on Aug. 13. Kelly seems sure to go high in the 2012 major league draft, but it’s no cinch he’ll sign a pro contract. He is a 3.77 student who says he intends to apply for entrance to Stanford. “I’m going to sign (a letter-of-intent) to a college in November,” says Kelly, who has narrowed his list to Stanford, Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State and the University of Portland. “I’ll see what happens with the draft, but the first thing is to get to college and get that education. That’s really important to me.” “He’s going to be a high draft pick,” Massey says. “It will be up to him to decide whether or not the money is enough. I hope he winds up playing college ball. That’s a great experience.” “I talk to all our players’ teachers, and they love him,” Stanich says. “He’s a good student and an unbelievable kid.” Kelly also seems like just one of the guys. It was nice watching him celebrate with his teammates after Tuesday’s win. As good a player as he is, he’s no prima donna. “Everyone loves Carson,” teammate Paul Gorman says. “We’re all pulling for him. No way you couldn’t. He’s the most humble kid. He never brings up anything about being on USA Baseball or going to college camps. He’ll get mad at you if you compliment too much.” For now, Kelly has his sights set on helping Westview to its first state baseball crown. “That would top the year off,” he says. “It’s something we’ve been working all year for. It means a lot to us.” It means Kelly is much like the greats in the state before him. They were all team guys, too.