The lanky shortstop who earned first-team all-league honors as a junior will continue his career with the Wildcats.

by: PHIL HAWKINS - Canby alumnus Austin Piert, a first-team all-league shortstop in the Three Rivers League as a junior, will continue his baseball career at Linfield College in McMinnville. Above, Piert makes a throw during a summer game with the North Willamette Valley team in the American Legion ranks.Austin Piert left the diamond in particularly good spirits after a Canby baseball game this past season. He had performed well.

“I just thought, ‘I can’t stop playing baseball,’” he said. “So my choice was made.”

That choice was to attend Linfield College in McMinnville, where he’ll continue playing the sport he’s loved since early childhood.

And Piert will join a Wildcats team that seems to be in a groove.

Under coach Scott Brosius, a Milwaukie-Putnam alumnus and former New York Yankees star who was named the most valuable player of the 1998 World Series, Linfield won the Division III national title this past season and amassed an astounding 42-8 overall record.

“He’s a really nice guy and really easy to talk to,” Piert said of Brosius, who played at Linfield before being drafted by the Oakland A’s in 1987. “I didn’t feel intimidated at all. He’s just really easy to get along with.”

The Wildcats’ roster currently features Three Rivers League alumni Kramer Lindell (West Linn) and Nick Fisher (Lakeridge) as well as several other Oregon products.

Piert adds experience as an accomplished infielder but said he’ll play where he’s wanted.

Piert’s decision to continue his career at Linfield, which competes in the Northwest Conference, was spurred by local connections to the college. J.J. Stolsig, the Cougars head coach, was a standout catcher there from 2002-05. Canby assistant Grant Boustead also played for the Wildcats as a catcher and infielder.

“That’s kind of how I got the idea,” Piert said.

He eventually got in touch with Brosius, visited the university and watched a couple games. He then followed the Wildcats’ run to a national championship with heightened interest.

Piert, who is interested in sports science, said he also weighed a future without competitive baseball at either Oregon or Grand Canyon University. Indeed, he had to commit to a future on the diamond before he could decide where to play.

That’s where his family came in.

His father, Charlie, played baseball at Canby in the 1980s and has played key roles in developing programs for local youth. His older brother, Brock, was on the local high school team until he graduated in 2009 and served as an assistant coach at Thurston-Springfield during that program’s run to the Class 6A finals in 2012.

Neither played baseball in the collegiate ranks.

“They wanted me to make the decision for myself, but they wanted what’s best for me, and they thought what was best was to keep playing,” Piert said. “They convinced me. ... They got me hooked on baseball when I was super little. I don’t even remember my first time playing, but I’ve just stayed with it.”

Piert has had his share of success along the way. A few summers ago, he was a member of the Canby squad that won a state championship. In his junior season, he earned first-team all-league honors as a shortstop.

Over the last four years, Piert said, he has grown physically and also improved his in-game decision-making.

“Just knowing where to go in each situation, I’ve matured a lot mentally,” the lanky right-hander said. “What I need to work on the most is hitting, and a lot of that is a mental game. It’s more mental than anything.”

Piert said he’s looking forward to joining the program at Linfield, which has not had a sub-.500 season since 1987. It has finished first in its league standings four times in the last six years.

“It’s cool to say I’m going there now,” he said.

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