Pendleton v Hood River Valley Baseball

Pendleton’s Nic Sheley (13) delivers a pitch against Hood River Valley on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Sheley has signed to play for North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Rams are a NCAA Division III program that plays in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference.

PENDLETON — The Pendleton High School baseball team has been sending players to the college level for years.

This season, the Bucks are up to three.

Infielder/pitcher Nic Sheley has signed to play for North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Rams are a NCAA Division III program that plays in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference.

“We are excited to have him here,” Rams coach David Babcock said. “Seeing video of him, he looks like a Division II player, which would be able to help us right away.”

The Bucks also have had Kyle Field sign with Community Colleges of Spokane, and Tucker Zander with Eastern Oregon University.

“The goal of any coach is to get their players recognized at the next level,” Pendleton coach TJ Haguewood said. “When someone goes to the next level, it is the combination of summer ball, camps and high school programs. A lot goes into it. We can’t take all the credit.”

Sheley, who moved to Pendleton the summer between his sophomore and junior years of high school, played summer ball with most of his high school teammates, but the COVID-19 pandemic canceled his junior year of high school ball, making the recruiting process a little more difficult.

“With my dad being an Assembly of God pastor, I was reaching out to schools with a connection to the church,” he said. “I reached out to North Central and got a hit, which was nice.”

Babcock didn’t hesitate to take a good look at Sheley.

“In recruiting Nic, we had a connection through the Assembly of God church,” he said. “We thought he would be a good fit for us, as a person and a player.”

Sheley played his first two seasons of high school ball for South Albany before his family moved to Pendleton.

“The competition is different because of the area we are in,” Sheley said. “I think I was expecting a little more competition, but because of COVID, everyone’s programs are a little different right now.”

Being the new kid on the block, Sheley had to earn his roster spot, which was fine by him.

“It has been nice to have to push myself to earn a spot,” he said. “I play wherever coach needs me. I have great teammates, which has made the transition great.”

Haguewood said he got a call from South Albany coach Brad Kidd, who gave Sheley a glowing recommendation.

“He told me I had a good family coming in, and that he was a good kid,” Haguewood said. “This family has been a great addition to our baseball family and community. Nic is a good teammate and has been a benefit to us.”

Sheley has shown marked improvement since he first arrived in Pendleton, and Haguewood has taken notice.

“He has improved in the short time he has been here,” Haguewood said. “He’s gotten bigger and stronger, he’s very versatile, and he’s consistent on the hill. He has different types of pitches that have movement and it disrupts the hitter’s timing. In the field, he has soft hands and is working on getting his hands and feet faster. He’s a great kid who has a lot of potential in a lot of avenues of life.”

The Bucks are off to a 5-1 start heading into their Tuesday, April 27, game at The Dalles.

“We are off to a pretty good start,” Sheley said. “At South Albany, we were an underdog team. We’d pull off some wins no one thought we would.”

In the middle of the action

North Central University is located in the midst of the major league teams in Minneapolis, which gives the students an opportunity to take in their favorite sports.

With cold and snowy winters in Minneapolis, the Rams get to play at least one doubleheader at U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings.

“That’s fun for the players,” Babcock said.

Sheley plans to major in sports management with an emphasis on coaching. He would like to be a baseball coach.

North Central also is a stone’s throw from museums, historic buildings, Mall of America, and if you are adventurous there is the Minneapolis Food Tour in June.

The university also is 3 miles north of the intersection where George Floyd died last year. Floyd’s memorial was held in the sanctuary on the campus.

Sheley said the civil unrest in Minneapolis is concerning, but it did not deter him from selecting North Central.

“I think I will feel safe on the school campus,” he said. “I’ve been praying through these times. Part of the reason I chose North Central was because of how involved they are in the community.”

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