By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

McNary senior Josiah Gilbert has wanted to play college baseball for as long as he can remember.

But when making the decision to go to the next level, Gilbert looked beyond the sport.

“Baseball is a dream and you have to realize that sometimes the odds aren’t really in your favor,” Gilbert said of playing after college.

“I knew that and that’s why I picked a school that was academically exactly what I wanted.”

Gilbert signed with Pacific University on Thursday, May 4 in the McNary library.

“Pacific held my attention the whole time,” Gilbert said. “It was my No. 1 from the get go. They are one of the top physical therapy schools in the nation, which is what I want to do. It was pretty much a no brainer for me. I’ve played there before in a tournament. It’s a gorgeous facility, a gorgeous field and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”

Pacific is a Division-III program located in Forest Grove, less than 50 miles from McNary.

“It’s close to home and my family,” Gilbert said. “It’s exactly what I wanted.”

Gilbert, a First Team all-league pitcher last season, will also have the opportunity to play right away.

“If I put in the work and I do what they think I can do, I have the opportunity to be an impact freshman, which is big,” Gilbert said. “That doesn’t really happen very often. It felt pretty good to have somebody think that highly of me.”

At the signing, McNary head coach Larry Keeker told a story from one of his first encounters with Gilbert as a freshman.

“We held pitcher and catcher workouts at 5:45 in the morning and for freshmen that’s sometimes a shocker but Josiah would show up with a big smile on his face and he was ready to go,” Keeker said.

Gilbert also didn’t know the level of his talent, asking Keeker at the end of the two weeks of workouts if he’d made the team, even though Gilbert was the best pitcher in the class.

“What struck me at the end of the process is Josiah in his innocent way didn’t even realize how good he was,” Keeker said. “It was just that humble innocence that got my attention about him as a ninth grader that I remember.”

By his sophomore year, Gilbert was pitching on the varsity team.

“I remember going out to state my sophomore year,” Gilbert said. “I was the third starter and we played against Sheldon and I got the opportunity to go pitch against the team that ended up winning state and I gave up two earned runs, two unearned runs in four innings of work. It was a great experience for me and something I definitely needed. It was just exceptional.”

Gilbert was voted a team captain before the 2017 season.

“Josiah has earned every bit of this in terms of his future to play baseball at Pacific University,” Keeker said.