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Baseball star’s love for the game keeps him climbing the national ranks

Mount Vernon junior is No. 3-ranked Class of 2025 baseball player in the nation

Mount Vernon’s Xavier Neyens hits a single against Nooksack Valley on March 26. Neyens is currently the No. 3-ranked Class of 2025 player in the nation. Neyens committed to Oregon State University in 2021 as an eighth grader. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)
By Connor J. Benintendi Sports Editor

During the high school baseball season, Mount Vernon junior Xavier Neyens is just like any other prep athlete. He helps lead fundraisers, spreads bark for the team’s boosters and plays a kid’s game with his childhood friends.

But in the summer, Neyens, the No. 3-ranked Class of 2025 baseball player in the nation, according to Perfect Game, plays that same game in front of hundreds of college and MLB scouts — all of whom are evaluating how a 17-year-old could contribute to their team in the future.

It’s only a lot of pressure if he allows it to be, Neyens said. Though he has big-league aspirations and dreams of winning the College World Series, he reminds himself to stay grounded.

“It’s a game I’ve played for over 10, 12 years now,” Neyens added. “It’s the same game that you play in the backyard with your friends, playing wiffle ball and all that.”

Neyens doesn’t pay attention to the rankings, he said. Despite that, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound do-it-all player acknowledged they are a way to get recognized. 

Mount Vernon’s Xavier Neyens tags out a Nooksack Valley player. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

That hasn’t mattered as much since Neyens, widely regarded as one of the nation’s best left-handed power hitters in his class, committed to Oregon State University as an eighth grader in 2021.

“When he was going into eighth grade, he played with my high school team on an away pickup game over in Pullman,” Mount Vernon head coach Tony Wolden said. “I thought he was the best player on the field that day.”

Neyens’ notoriety has continued to climb, but he has kept his focus, Wolden said. Right now, with Mount Vernon carrying an 8-2 overall record into spring break games, Neyens is only worried about winning a state championship and enjoying the season with his teammates.

“[Neyens] hasn’t let the outside noise and his status as a player lead him in any other direction other than getting better today, and it hasn’t gone to his head,” Wolden said. “He’s just a hard-working player who pays attention to what he needs to do and what our team needs to do to get better.”


‘A once-in-a-lifetime player’

Neyens started tee-ball at five years old, and he also grew up playing basketball and soccer. Though he still plays basketball in high school, baseball quickly became his main sport at a young age.

“I kind of picked baseball over basketball in a way when I was 10 — I just realized that I was a little bit better at [it],” Neyens said. “I thought maybe I could make a career out of it.”

He trained at Inside Pitch Bellingham, a Ferndale facility, working closely with owner and lead instructor Brandon Hundt, among others.

Quinn Swanson, Neyens’ current teammate and childhood best friend, said he always knew something was different about his friend.

“He was better than everyone else around here, so he played on better teams,” Swanson said. “[Neyens] just cared more than other people. That’s something that I noticed when we were younger … he is one of the most competitive people I’ve ever been around.”

It wasn’t until he was 11 that Neyens began traveling out of state for baseball, playing for Cascade Crush (now Cascade Baseball Club in Ferndale). When Neyens was 13, he started traveling to the East Coast for tournaments, increasing his exposure.

Mount Vernon’s Xavier Neyens steals second base against Nooksack Valley. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

Then, in 2021, Neyens received his offer from Oregon State. The Beavers had just won the College World Series in 2018. Neyens announced his commitment soon after.

“It’s definitely on the younger and earlier side of committing, but I wouldn’t change anything,” Neyens said, adding the historical success of Oregon State and quality of its coaches drew him in. 

As a freshman at Mount Vernon, Neyens played in 24 games and went 32 for 75 at the plate (.427) while piling up 22 RBI, 16 runs scored, 11 stolen bases and three home runs. 

Defensively, Neyens was a catcher early in his career but transitioned to shortstop, third base and pitcher in high school. He pitched 47 innings in his first season at Mount Vernon and allowed just 26 hits, nine earned runs and 28 walks while striking out 71 batters (including 26 strikeouts looking).

“He just started maturing as a player at a young age,” Wolden said. “He just loved the game, and it was something he was really good at.”

Neyens was named the Northwest Conference MVP as a freshman. A hand injury limited him to just 14 games as a sophomore in 2023, but he still amassed two home runs, 11 RBI and 18 runs scored while batting 15 for 37 (.405). He also struck out 50 of the 109 batters he faced on the mound.

That summer, in the 2023 World Wood Bat Association 17U National Championships, Neyens was named to the all-tournament team as a batter and pitcher. He and his team, Trosky National 2024, reached the Elite Eight in a tournament of more than 400 teams.

Xavier Neyens looks out into the outfield July 23, 2023, during the World Wood Bat Association 17U National Championships in Marietta, Georgia. (Photo courtesy of Xavier Neyens)

Neyens also played in the 2023 Area Code Games which, again, put him in front of hundreds of scouts.

Through 10 games in 2024, Neyens is 12 for 27 (.444) with five RBI and 13 runs scored. He’s already been walked 14 times and made teams pay by stealing nine bases.

“I know for me, as a coach, Xavier is a once-in-a-lifetime player. That much I do know,” Wolden said. “I’ve coached a lot of good players over the years, but his talents, the fact he’s his height and his weight — how he moves and how he plays is special.”

During the high school season, Neyens isn’t worried about summer ball, and vice versa, and he isn’t concerned about his individual performance.

“When high school baseball comes around, winning a ring is the number one priority,” Neyens said. “You’re really bought in on the team and I can care less about how I do in the game as long as we win. All I care about is winning. I love to compete; I love to win.”

Looking forward

With another year of high school ahead of him, Neyens isn’t thinking too far ahead. 

Despite the possibility of being a coveted 2025 MLB Draft pick right out of high school, he still plans to suit up in an Oregon State uniform. 

Mount Vernon’s Xavier Neyens talks with a teammate in the dugout during a game against Nooksack Valley. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

“If the draft presents itself as an opportunity, then obviously I’d have to look into that,” Neyens said. “But the number one focus right now is getting through high school ball and then getting to Oregon State.”

Neyens will continue at shortstop before likely playing third base in the summer. He wants to get better in the field after mostly focusing on hitting power.

Presently, he is enjoying the rest of his high school career alongside friends he played with growing up.

“This group is really special … I’ve kind of looked forward to this year since I was super young,” Neyens said of his Mount Vernon teammates. “I think we have a really good opportunity to do some really special things here this year.”

Connor J. Benintendi is CDN’s sports editor; reach him at connorbenintendi@cascadiadaily.com; 360-922-3090 ext. 104.

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