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The left-handed pitcher grew fond of the Wolves after she started attending their annual softball camp in Monmouth

REVIEW/NEWS PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Putnam's Maddie Mayer (center), celebrated Tuesday alongside parents John and Kathy after she signed a National Letter of Intent to play softball at Western Oregon University next year.Only a handful of high school softball players ever get offered an athletic scholarship to play college softball.

Putnam's Maddie Mayer is one of them.

Mayer, a left-handed pitcher, followed through on an oral commitment she made about two months ago and on Tuesday signed a National Letter of Intent to play NCAA Division II softball for Western Oregon University next year.

"I'm very relieved, because I feel like I've been waiting for this forever and I finally got to do it," Mayer said during a signing ceremony in front of family, friends and coaches in the Putnam gym. "And it's Western Oregon, which I hoped for forever. So, yeah, I'm really excited."

Mayer started playing club softball at age 7. She then became a regular at Western Oregon's annual softball camp on the Monmouth campus starting when she was 12, which in turn started a semi-frequent dialogue with Wolves coach Lonny Sargent.

"We talked back and forth, but it was mostly hit or miss," Mayer said. "I would call Coach Sargent or email him, and in all the emails back, he always told me that he hoped I was interested in Western and that he wanted to see me play there."

She started thinking that she might want to pursue college ball the summer after her eighth-grade year at Milwaukie's Alder Creek Middle School.

"Softball started getting really competitive then," Mayer said. "That's when we started traveling around and getting exposure, and people were showing interest and I was like, 'I can do this.'"

Club coach Mike Grogan has worked with Mayer for the past eight years, first with the North Clackamas Rebels, and later with Stealth Fastpitch.

"One year, it was like, 'Wow, Maddie's got a lot of talent,' and it was stuff that you don't teach," Grogan said. "It was stuff she was born with. She was naturally talented.

"Then the next year, it was, 'Wow, Maddie's really competitive.' I mean, every year is was something, building on what was already there. … I just feel lucky to be there and see that transition from that little kid who just loves to play to someone who is committed to playing at a high level."

Mayer was a freshman on Putnam's 2015 Class 5A state championship team, but took a backseat to Kingsmen's ace Sarah Abramson, who was a year older.

As a sophomore, Mayer missed the high school season after undergoing surgery on her pitching shoulder to remove an osteoid osteoma -- a benign bone tumor that can arise in any bone in the body.

"What I had was completely unrelated to sports activity," she said. "A lot of people get what I had, but apparently because I overused my arm, I noticed it and it started hurting."

She came back her junior year, and although Abramson still did most of the pitching, Mayer helped fill a need at second base -- a position normally reserved for right-handed players, but Mayer was an exception to the rule.

"Maddie is just a fantastic kid, and anyone who knows her, knows that," Putnam coach Samantha Frost said. "We were short a second baseman, and because she is such a great infielder, I had to move her there. It was so awkward for her, but she figured it out."

Mayer also was a force at the plate, boasting a .420 batting average (37 for 88) with a team-high nine doubles, one homer and 25 RBIs,. She also was named to the all-Northwest Oregon Conference second team after helping lead the Kingsmen (17-12 overall, 14-3 NWOC) to a fourth consecutive league championship and an appearance in the 5A quarterfinals.

"She really brought it for us last year," Frost said.

It remains to be seen how Putnam will use Mayer this coming spring, but her strongest position, and the one she plans to play in college is pitcher.

"A lot of people at Putnam haven't had a chance to see her do her thing in the circle," Stealth coach John Schweinsberg said during Tuesday's signing ceremony. "From my standpoint, she is probably the best pitcher and one of the best athletes I've got to coach for the last six years.

"She's something special. She had surgery on that pitching arm a couple years ago, came back from it and has been a helluva hitter and a helluva ballplayer, and Western is very lucky to get her."

Mayer said she also had talked to Linfield College in McMinnville and Pacific University in Forest Grove, but cancelled official visits she had scheduled to the two Division III schools after accepting the Wolves' offer in early September.

"I was really picky about how far away from home I wanted to be," Mayer said. "I wanted to be no more than an hour away, and Monmouth is like an hour and five minutes."

Mayer plans to major in community health and would like to get into the nursing program after she is finished playing softball.

"Normally, you apply to the nursing program after your freshman year, and if you get accepted, then you do the rest of your schooling through Oregon Health Sciences University on the Monmouth campus," she said. "In that case, you're considered an OHSU student, so I wouldn't be able to play softball.

"So, I'm majoring in community health, which has the same prerequisites as the nursing program, so I'll get all that done and then I'll apply for the nursing program after I graduate at Western."

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