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South's Thompson set to officially sign with Oregon

South Medford High senior Bennett Thompson will make his commitment to the University of Oregon’s baseball program official Wednesday on the first day of the NCAA Division I early signing period in a 5 p.m. ceremony at Harry & David Field.

Those on hand will be asked to wear masks and observe social distancing in the stands per state regulations while Thompson signs his letter-of-intent papers on the field surrounded by his family.

“I’m stoked about it and I’m hoping that the weather stays nice,” said Thompson. “The forecast is for sunny skies right now and I’m praying that it stays that way.”

“This is obviously the next step in the journey and I’m just going to try and soak it all in and just have fun with it and have fun with family, friends, teammates and everyone,” he added. “It’s kind of exciting because it’s the start of the next chapter. Obviously I have my senior year in front of me and I’m stoked to get out there with all my boys one last time, but at the same time it will be nice looking forward to the next coming years up in Eugene.”

Thompson, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound catcher, initially gave his verbal commitment to the Ducks this past June, securing a dream opportunity to play in the Pac-12 Conference.

“To sign with a Pac-12 school out of high school is definitely something special,” said South Medford baseball coach Josh Moody. “As a coach, you don’t have that caliber of players very often so I just feel very fortunate and blessed to be able to coach Bennett and kind of help him ease into the next part of his career. Obviously it’s a pretty big jump going from high school to the Pac-12 so I’m just thankful that I have the opportunity to coach him.”

In 2019, Thompson helped lead the Medford Mustangs to their sixth straight American Legion AAA state championship by batting .303 with 38 runs and 37 RBIs. In his second year behind the plate for Medford, he committed only one error in 167 total chances with 20 assists.

His spring season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that didn’t seem to slow the hard-working Thompson. When he finally got the opportunity to get back on the field in competition, he once again was a leader for the Mustangs and, on occasion, the collegiate wood-bat Medford Rogues franchise.

As a member of the Mustangs, Thompson posted a .438 batting average with 33 runs and 43 RBIs. He belted two home runs, four triples and 10 doubles, while also helping anchor the pitching rotation with a 5-2 record, one save and a 2.92 ERA. He didn’t commit an error at catcher and caught 12 of 28 potential base-stealers.

When Thompson had an opportunity to fill in with the Rogues, he hit .393 with six runs and eight RBIs in 10 games.

Almost all of Thompson’s production came after he had committed to Oregon as he continued to hone his craft at every opportunity.

“That was obviously really exciting for me and my family when I committed in June,” said Thompson, “but that was just the first step. After that there was still a lot of hard work that had to go in. Obviously every time I’m out on a baseball field I want to try and do the best I can and become a better player.”

“At the next level there’s going to have to be a lot more hard work because there’s going to be a lot of great players up there,” he added, “so I was able to use (committing to Oregon) as motivation and I still do. I think it’s a great opportunity to push myself and to keep getting better every single day.”

Those extra intangibles are what Moody said helps separate Thompson from the pack.

“He just has an overall love for the game,” said the coach. “He eats, sleeps and breathes baseball. I know you hear that from time to time but I’ve never been around somebody that cares more about the game of baseball from a historical standpoint, from a trivial standpoint, from how to play the game the right way to wins and losses.

“It seems like every decision he makes is regarding how that’s going to affect his overall baseball ability. I think if you do that enough day in and day out, obviously you get quite the advantage over your peers. Having 4.0 (grade-point average) definitely doesn’t hurt either.”

Thompson will join former South Medford teammate Jacob Melton, a current sophomore at Oregon State, in the Pac-12 in 2021.

Have a story idea? Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneMustangs Bennett Thompson gets a base hit during the 5th inning of the championship game.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Medford Mustangs catcher Bennett Thompson heads to the dugout during Game 1 Monday against Eugene.