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Maurer winds up baseball career

As North Medford High was wrapping up its second state championship last Saturday, a key cog to its first title run under head coach Brett Wolfe was in the midst of wrapping up his baseball career halfway across the United States.

In a way, the symmetry of that moment seemed kind of right for Matt Maurer.

"It was pretty special to hear that they were winning the state championship as I came in for the Super Regionals to pitch," said Maurer, a senior pitcher for Pepperdine University. "It was kind of funny when you think about it."

Few players carried with them as much fanfare during their time with the Black Tornado than Maurer, who got the start and was the winning pitcher as a freshman in 2007 when North Medford edged Westview for the Class 6A crown. Previous titles won by the Black Tornado were gained under the Medford High umbrella, making it the first for North Medford.

The left-hander went on to finish his run with almost all of the pitching records at North Medford under his belt, along with routine showings on the all-state list and as Oregon's Gatorade player of the year. He holds the school's career records for wins (34), strikeouts (377), innings pitched (260) and ERA (1.05).

Injuries, however, turned a promising and potential professional career into Maurer's relatively quiet goodbye this past Monday as a Pepperdine lost to Texas Christian with a College World Series berth on the line.

"For me, I'm done," Maurer said Thursday while winding his way back home from Malibu, California. "I'm going to move on to the next stage of my life and kind of see where that takes me."

All of this with very few regrets for the 22-year-old Medford native.

"Definitely there's always that what-if factor, but I don't know if that's really anything you can look back on and think too much about," he said. "It is what it is and I had my chance. Everything happens for a reason and you just have to go with the flow and know it's all for the best."

If it had to come to an end, Maurer certainly was able to go out in fine fashion. He made two appearances and pitched three scoreless innings during the Super Regionals at TCU, which was the first-ever showing by the Waves since that round was instituted in 1999.

"It was really important (to finish on a positive note)," said Maurer. "It's that last memory of really playing the game at a high level and going out on top almost. It didn't feel good losing and watching the other team dogpile in my last game, but personally ending up on a high note was pretty cool."

After battling myriad injuries over the past few years, Maurer said he actually finally felt healthy toward the end of his senior season and the results supported that theory.

Last Saturday, he pitched scoreless seventh and eighth innings to give Pepperdine a chance in a 3-2 loss to TCU. He struck out one, walked one and allowed one hit in the outing.

On Monday, he came in and got the Waves out of a two-on, two-out jam in the seventh inning and quickly got two outs in the eighth before giving way to another reliever. His exit came with the game tied at 4, and Pepperdine scored in the eighth before allowing TCU to rally for a 6-5 win with a pair of runs in the ninth inning that sent the Horned Frogs to the CWS.

"I would have to say that was the best team I played on at Pepperdine," said Maurer. "It was an extremely close-knit group and that's all you could ever really ask for. We had a lot of talent and that talent meshed, which is rare. We had fun and I think that's about all I could ever ask for as far as it being my last year playing baseball, having a team that cared for each other and wanted to go out each day and play for each other."

Maurer wrapped up his senior campaign with a 4-3 record and 3.04 ERA, making 12 starts in 19 appearances. In his 71 innings, he struck out 44 and walked 40, figures related more to a torn lower abdominal muscle and pulled hamstring than any lingering shoulder issues.

"I started out really well and then I got hurt twice and just kind of pitched through the injuries, which definitely affected my pitching," said Maurer. "I had good command and was throwing the best I had in college when I got hurt and the walk bug hit me and I started walking the country."

Even when he got into the jams, however, Maurer was able to find a way to minimize the damage and escape — something that has long been a strength of his.

The fact that he was even able to compete this past season for Pepperdine was a testament to Maurer's toughness. An MRI at the end of his junior season showed a torn rotator cuff, biceps tendon and labrum that doctors believed actually happened at the end of his freshman campaign.

"The thing was I never really had a whole lot of pain in my shoulder," said Maurer, "it was more like my shoulder felt loose. I could tell something was off but there was no real pain so I just kind of let it go and kept playing and fighting through it until I finally had to beg at the end of my junior year to get an MRI."

Maurer opted against shoulder surgery, instead choosing to go through rehabilitation treatments last summer. He had seen his velocity dip to around 82 miles per hour by the end of his junior year but was able to return to 88-90 mph after physical therapy and a cautious turn through fall baseball.

As much as anything, though, Maurer said it was his former high school coach who may have made the most difference in him feeling on top of his game as a senior.

"I really felt good because I spent a lot of time with coach Wolfe over Christmas break," he said. "Every day for about three weeks we were working on my mechanics and getting things strengthened the right way. He actually played a huge part in my season."

In fact, Maurer said a big thank you has to go out to Wolfe, ex-Tornado pitching coach Paul White, his parents Gary and Stephanie and sister Alyssa for keeping his spirits up with their support over the years.

"So many people have really helped me throughout high school and college and even when I was younger and I can't thank them enough," he said.

Next up for Maurer is a summer internship in the finance department at TC Chevy in Ashland with his mom, and a return trip to Pepperdine to complete his master's degree. His hope is to move into investment banking or becoming a financial advisor for professional athletes.

"I definitely want to stay involved with baseball as far as teaching kids about baseball," said Maurer, "but I've got business I want to focus on in the short term. It will definitely be weird this summer not getting ready for another baseball season, but it will also be kind of nice to focus on my body and get it healthy and do things I want to do and not be concerned with rehab or getting my shoulder right."

Even though he's entering a new ballgame, Maurer still carries that same optimistic approach he did while toiling for the Tornado.

"This is so cliché to say but I really think baseball mimics life," said Maurer. "There's so much failure in baseball and how you choose to handle that and choose to come back from failure shows what kind of person you're going to be going through the struggles of life. Baseball's shown me that you've got to just keep moving."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Matt Maurer wrapped up his senior season at Pepperdine with a 4-3 record and 3.04 ERA. - Photo courtesy of Stephen Wandzura