PENDLETON — Pendleton senior Daniel Naughton has wanted to play Division I college baseball for as long as he can remember.
He took a huge step toward that goal during the summer, as he earned a scholarship offer from Gonzaga University and committed to the school in July. On Nov. 8, the Buckaroo pitcher and infielder made another big step when he officially signed his National Letter of Intent with Gonzaga during the NCAA’s early-signing period, which came with excitement and relief.
“It was exhilarating,” Naughton said on Tuesday during a signing party at Big John’s Pizza in Pendleton. “Now that I’m here, it’s a big step ahead. I can say I’m officially there and can start preparing myself and getting ready for college. It’s exciting.”
Naughton is one of eight prep players and two junior college transfers that make up Gonzaga’s 2018 recruiting class, and is one of five right-handed pitchers in the group as well as the only recruit from the state of Oregon. Alex O’Rourke was the last Buckaroo to sign with a Division I school when he signed with Oregon State in 2015.
“Daniel is one of the premier arms from the state of Oregon,” Gonzaga coach Machtolf said of Naughton on GoZags.com. “He is a very good athlete who we think will continue to get better over his four years at Gonzaga.”
He’ll make the trip up to Spokane this weekend for his official visit, where he will take in a Bulldogs basketball game, get a tour of all the school’s facilities, as well as get to meet with all nine of the other recruits. The group has started to get to know one another through a group Snapchat conversation, Naughton said, but he added that he is happy to meet all of his future teammates in person.
But after the visit is complete, it’s back to work for Naughton as he continues his preparations for his senior season, where he hopes to help Pendleton get back on top of the Columbia River Conference and into the playoffs. As a junior, Naughton tossed 33 innings with a 4.66 ERA with 43 strikeouts, but boasts a fastball that reaches 90 miles-per-hour and has worked hard at developing his secondary breaking pitches. And having his college plans already figured out will allow him to be focused solely on the Buckaroos, and having fun playing the game he loves.
“Exactly, I can focus on helping my team become better and keep getting better at baseball,” he said. “I’m excited.”
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