When the Oregon State baseball program announced its Class of 2022 additions, there were 17 players on the list. Five of those players were from Oregon and only one, Santiam Christian’s Ely Kennel, was from the middle of the valley.
Kennel had other options, but when the Beavers made a scholarship offer, his decision was an easy one.
“I’ve always wanted to go there. It was my dream school since I was little. We always went to the games when I was growing up, so I could always watch them and admire the culture there. That was obvious to me lying choice,” said Kennel.
In announcing the Kennel signing, Oregon State coach Mitch Canham praised his competitiveness.
“Ely is about as competitive as they come and thrives in any situation. He has an incredible head on his shoulders, elevates everyone else around him and knows how to win. We are all so incredibly impressed with his growth in over the past few years, but are even more excited about how high his ceiling is going forward, because he’s already so close to campus, you can see in his eyes how eager he is to win here,” Canham said.
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A much more difficult decision for Kennel was whether to play his final season of football with Santiam Christian. He helped lead the Eagles to the 3A state championship as a sophomore and played in the pandemic-shortened spring season as a junior.
But in the end he chose not to play football last fall. Kennel said injury risk was a very small part of the decision.
“I could get hurt playing baseball, training, lifting, doing anything,” Kennel said.
Instead, his decision was about maximizing his preparation to play baseball and taking advantage of the opportunities he got this fall. He was invited to play in the Area Code Games, an all-star baseball tournament in San Diego, as well as the WWBA World Championships in Jupiter, Florida.
“Those were two big tournaments that I couldn’t have done if I had played football. It was my last chance to do that kind of thing for the next chapter, so I really wanted to use that time,” Kennel said. “It was definitely tough, because I like playing football, but I just had to weigh it up for myself.”
Kennel has also focused on off-season training. One of his main goals is to increase his arm strength. He is a short stop of 5 feet-11 and he would like to play in that position, if possible, in the state of Oregon. Building his arm is part of preparing for that competition and he also knows that arm strength will be helpful if he is moved to the outfield in the state of Oregon.
Kennel also spends a lot of time in the batting cage with his father. He enjoys this opportunity to both work on his game and spend time together before embarking on college life.
“I play sports every day with my father and it’s kind of our last time together. So I just wanted to enjoy training with him last year and prepare for the final step,” Kennel said.
He will play his senior season with Santiam Christian this spring. So far, his high school experience has been greatly curtailed by the pandemic. There was no baseball season his sophomore year and the schedule was shortened in his junior year with no state championships.
“I think it will be a good year for us. The program is really hungry. Looks like we missed two years in a row,” Kennel said.
Once the high school season is over, Kennel starts playing for the Corvallis Knights. He signed with the Knights on Sunday and is looking forward to the chance to play high-level baseball at Goss Stadium.
“It’s not like the summer ball I’m used to. It’s my first non-clubball summer experience and really good competition, so I’m super excited,” Kennel said.