Ty Covalt (left) and David Allen (right) shake hands after signing to play baseball in college at a ceremony at McNary High School on Feb. 6. Covalt will play at Umpqua Community College while Allen witll compete at Pacific University. (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings)

Less than 8 percent of athletes that played a varsity sport in high school will go onto play in college. That statistic is why this year’s National Signing Day was particularly special for two athletes at McNary.

On Wednesday, Feb. 6, Celtic seniors Tyler Covalt and David Allen each signed their letter of intent to play college baseball in a ceremony at the College and Career Center at McNary High School.

Covalt signed to further his education and baseball career at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg while Allen signed to play with Pacific University in Forest Grove.

Covalt was a first-team all-Greater Valley Conference catcher last season and was one of two team captains for the Celtics.

Allen earned a honorable mention nod as a pitcher and will be McNary’s top arm this spring.

Both players have proven that they can make a big impact on the diamond, but what really makes them standout is their personal character.

“Both David and Tyler are high character guys and good students,” McNary head coach Larry Keeker said. “They represent and exude the characteristics that we really promote here and McNary High School. What I am really most proud of is who they are as people and how they represent our program.”

Covalt — who has played varsity baseball since his freshman year — knew that he wanted to play college baseball since he was a youngster. His journey to UCC, however, ended up being a unique one.

UCC dropped the sport of baseball back in 1985, but announced in January of last year that they were reinstating the program for the 2020 season. Three months after the announcement, the college hired nationally renown NAIA coach Jeremiah Robbins.

Robbins, who is from Roseburg, was the head coach at Lewis-Clark State for six seasons and led the team to three consecutive National Championships in 2015-17.

When Covalt starting looking at colleges, playing for Coach Robbins at Lewis-Clark State was at the top of his list. But Covalt’s mindset shifted when Robbins announced that he was taking over the new program at UCC — especially because Covalt wanted to stay in-state.

“When I found out, I was doing backflips,” Covalt said about Robbins taking over the UCC program.

Having passionate kids with great leadership qualities is integral when starting a program from the ground up, which is why Robbins wanted Covalt to be a part of the building process.

“Behind the plate, (Covalt) has command of the whole field. But his leadership is his biggest asset,” Robbins said. “We think he has a chance to leave a legacy at this program.”

After Robbins offered him a spot on the team, it was an easy decision for Covalt to accept.

“When (Umpqua) said they wanted me, I almost cried. I couldn’t explain the emotions I was feeling,” Covalt said. “I’ve had dreams about this since I was a little kid. I’ve missed school dances to go into the cages and put in work.”

On the field, Covalt prides himself on having an authoritative presence as a catcher and maintaining an unselfish plate-approach when he’s at-bat.

“Defensively, I feel like I can control the pace of the game and help get my pitchers strikes,” Covalt said. “I have really big connections with my pitchers.”

“Offensively, I know what needs to get done situationally. I’m not going to crank it out of the park every time, but I will get the job done, move guys around and be a good teammate.”

It will still be another year before Covalt is in a UCC uniform, but Robbins is greatly looking forward to the day he comes on campus.

“I’m so excited to get Tyler into our program,” Robbins said. “He’s a bulldog when it comes to working hard and he is off the charts when it comes to desire and passion for the game. We are blessed to have him being a part of building our program.”

While Covalt has been playing varsity baseball since his freshman year, Allen, on the other hand, didn’t get real varsity experience until just last season. But in a short time, the right-hander was able to transform himself into one of McNary’s most reliable pitchers.

“David was our most improved player last year and I think a lot of that had to do with him growing up as a high school player and physically getting bigger and stronger,” Keeker said. “He’s got good arm speed and is a good athlete.”

In 56 innings pitched last season, Allen had an incredible 1.12 ERA and struck out 30.

Even with his great command, Allen feels that his top weapon on the bump is his demeanor.

“I feel like my calmness on the mound is my best strength,” Allen said. “I don’t lose my temperament when I’m pitching. If something doesn’t go my way, I don’t let it get to me.”

Allen first gained interest in the Pacific baseball program after taking a college visit there earlier in the school year.

“I immediately liked the campus and they had programs there that I wanted to pursue, which was a major factor in why I wanted to go there,” Allen said. “Plus, I knew their baseball staff was really good and that they had a good pitching staff.”

Allen will get the chance to pitch alongside former McNary standout Josiah Gilbert, who is entering his sophomore year at Pacific. But the thing Allen is most looking forward to is just being able to play at the next level.

“Getting to go onto the the next level is really exciting because not a whole lot of people are able to do that,” Allen said. “It just shows that a lot of hard work and perseverance will take you where you need to go.”

While Covalt and Allen are both greatly looking forward to playing baseball in college, they also want to finish off their high school careers at McNary on the right note.

“Going into their senior year, we’re going to expect them to be leaders in their own unique way,” Keeker said. “Tyler will be more of a vocal guy and David will lead based on his actions and work ethic.”

“We expect them to lead the way and perform well in the field.”