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Tornado's Maurer signs with Pepperdine

While most in the Rogue Valley were sheltering themselves from the cold air and rainy conditions last weekend, Matt Maurer was soaking things up in sunny Malibu, Calif.

That perfect timing for those involved with the Pepperdine University baseball program turned into a perfect fit for all. The North Medford High standout officially signed his letter of intent Tuesday to play for the Waves beginning in 2011.

"That's just the icing and the cherries and the chocolate and every other sweet thing you can put on top of it," Maurer said Wednesday of being able to play in such a picturesque setting.

The 6-foot-2 left-handed pitcher sat out his senior football season so he could finalize his collegiate plans and take a much-needed break after being a three-sport standout since he stepped on campus.

"That extra time was very, very valuable," he said. "I needed time just to refocus my mind because it was so drained from playing sports 24-7. I think it was a good time for me to relax and really see what school was about at all of the places I was looking at."

Maurer is considered one of the top baseball prospects in the state, ranked No. 3 by Baseball Northwest, and chose Pepperdine despite considerable interest throughout the Pac-10 Conference.

"A lot of the schools were the same except for education," said Maurer, who carries a 3.98 grade-point average. "The schooling was a huge part of it. Pepperdine has a very good business program and small student numbers in each classroom. I think that would be a good environment to learn in, and business is what I'm really looking into."

Maurer sported an 8-2 record and 1.29 ERA last spring with 101 strikeouts in 70 innings, earning Oregon's Gatorade baseball player of the year award following a third straight all-state campaign.

He carried that momentum into the summer, where he was a key member of the Medford Mustangs' national runner-up team. As a designated hitter he batted .361 with 31 runs and 24 RBIs entering play at the American Legion World Series to go with a 5-2 record and 2.90 ERA. He was an all-tournament selection at the national tournament, along with fellow North Medford senior pitcher Bradey Shipley.

During his visit to Pepperdine, Maurer said he saw a lot of things that he already enjoys as a player in Brett Wolfe's system at North Medford.

"The coaches are real young and just good coaches who are very enthusiastic, a lot like the coaches here at North," said the 18-year-old. "They're very particular in what they like to do like coach Wolfe, which I love so much."

The Waves were College World Series champions in 1992 and boast 32 straight 30-win seasons to go with 17 West Coast Conference titles. Notable alumni include pitchers Dan Haren, Randy Wolf and Noah Lowry. Head coach Steve Rodriguez, another product of the school, has been with the Waves for six years.

"The coaches are really in tune with the players and I met almost every guy on the team while I was down there," said Maurer. "It just felt like the right place to be by how I jelled with the guys."

Pepperdine was 31-23 last year, finishing third in its conference, but posted a 5-1 record against Pac-10 teams.

"They're going to be losing probably their best pitchers after this year so it's going to be a place where I can hopefully step in and get a chance to pitch," added Maurer. "They said they aren't against freshmen playing at all, so I've just got to go in and show that I belong at that level as a freshman."

In the meantime, Maurer has hit the weights to bulk up to 225 pounds in preparation for the upcoming boys basketball and baseball seasons. He suffered a recent setback during basketball tryouts, tearing a tendon in his left ring finger after getting it caught on another player's jersey. Maurer had surgery Wednesday morning to fix what he deemed a "real minor issue," and expects to be back on the court in three to four weeks.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com