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Petersen packs bags for islands

Hawaii-Hilo baseball attracts Crater grad

CENTRAL POINT -- Former Crater High and Medford Mustangs baseball player Ryan Petersen was a terror on the basepaths for Western Oregon University's Wolves during the 1999 season.

Petersen, 19, used his speed to score 59 runs and steal 28 bases for the Wolves. He led the team in both departments as a starting sophomore center fielder.

Because of his offensive success and his desire to play major-college baseball in the sunshine, Petersen -- who led Western Oregon in runs scored, stolen bases, doubles, and ranked second in runs driven in -- has taken advantage of an opportunity to play at

the NCAA Division I level in the Western Athletic Conference.

He has decided to transfer to the University of Hawaii-Hilo and play baseball for the Vulcans, who recently became a member of the WAC.

The Hawaii-Hilo coach (Joey Estrella) encouraged me to come, but I had to make contact with them first, says Petersen. They just went to Division I. They weren't allowed to recruit me unless I showed interest first.

He said they have quite a bit of scholarship money available, because some of their players are leaving, but he said I'll have to make the team to get a scholarship.

I don't think that's going to be a problem, says Petersen. I have a friend from high school on the team (Ian Robbins), and he encouraged me to come. He says I can play at that level

I feel that based on the success I had at Western Oregon, I can play at the next level, says Petersen. We played some Division I teams, and some of the best NAIA teams, and I felt the pitching was similar to what we faced at the NAIA level.

Petersen led Western Oregon in doubles (15) and ranked second on the team in runs batted in (41) as the Wolves' leadoff hitter.

I feel good about the year I had, says Petersen. I did that for a team that concentrated mostly on pitching and defense.

I was talking to one of my teammates about it one day on a road trip, and he said, `why don't you go somewhere else where they will use you right.' After thinking about it for a while, I decided he was right.

Estrella says Petersen will enter the Hawaii-Hilo program as a walk-on player.

We have money and several new kids coming in, says Estrella. Ryan will have to make the team and make a good contribution to get scholarship money.

But in talking to the Western Oregon coach (Terry Baumgartner), he assured me Ryan is a good person, a good player and a good student. He has speed and he can hit.

He (Baumgartner) said he can also cover a lot of ground in the outfield, says Estrella. I haven't seen him, but I like what I'm hearing about him.

We have a need for outfielders, says Estrella. He has a good opportunity to make our team.

Hawaii-Hilo had a 9-36 record during the 1999 season. We played a lot of Division I schools, and we took some lumps, says Estrella. But we've had a good recruiting year since we moved to the Division I level and joined the WAC. That should help our recruiting

a lot in the future.

Hopefully, Ryan will be one of the kids who can come in and help us right away, says Estrella.

Says Petersen: I can't wait to get over there I've never been to Hawaii. I'm going there for a change of pace and to get out of the rain.

It's a great opportunity to get my school paid for and to live in Hawaii.. I want to learn how to surf while I'm over there, too, if I can. I don't know how to surf at all, but it'll be a good chance to try it. Everybody does it over there.

Baumgartner says he hopes Petersen plays well for Hawaii-Hilo.

I wish him the best, and I hope it goes well for him, says Baumgartner. If not, he would be welcome to come back here.

I felt he had two good years coming up for us that he would probably get him drafted after he was done, says Baumgartner. Now, I don't know what will happen.

It might be tougher over there to establish himself. They were down last year, and they're bringing in a lot of new players.

He's not getting out of the rain at Hilo, says Baumgartner. They get more rain than we do in Monmouth on that side of the island. I don't know if he knows that.

Petersen led the Medford Mustangs American Legion baseball team in stolen bases last summer with 45. He led the team in batting with a .420 average.

Petersen had 11 doubles, 11 triples and 11 home runs.

I've never had anybody reach double-figures in all three categories, says Medford Mustangs General Manager Don Schneider. That's an amazing feat, really.

Petersen is the all-time Mustangs' leader in assists by an outfielder, according to Schneider.

He's a great kid and outstanding competitor, says Schneider He hates to lose. When he loses, he takes it personally. He's just a fierce competitor, and one of the best kids we've had.

Crater High graduate Ryan Petersen led Western Oregon in runs scored, stolen bases and doubles this spring. - Photo by Ray Pettengell