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East Union OF ready to fly with Oregon Ducks
SOFT--Cherish Burks signing pic 2
Backed by her East Union coaches, standout center fielder Cherish Burks signs her letter of intent to continue her career at the University of Oregon at the school library Wednesday afternoon. Also joining her were, from left, grandmother Georgie Leonis, mom Lesa Leonis-Burks and dad Maurice Burks. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

Cherish Burks verbally committed to Oregon as a sophomore, but her decision was made long before that.

“I’ve always wanted to go to the University of Oregon since I was playing 10-unders. It’s always been my dream school,” East Union’s star center fielder said. “I would watch them on TV and (notice) their demeanor and how they’d carry themselves. I admired that and strived to be like them.”

She can strive no longer.

Burks is now officially part of the flock after putting pen to paper on National Signing Day Wednesday in front of a large group consisting of friends, family, coaches and teammates at the East Union library. Also visiting were longtime travel-ball coach Pete Aguayo, who travelled with his wife from Volcano, and Enochs High head baseball coach Chris Butterfield, Burks’ hitting coach.

She caught the eye of Ducks head coach Mike White and his staff during the OnDeck Softball Camp in Hemet the summer leading up to her sophomore year.

“There were hundreds of college coaches watching,” Burks said. “Someone from Oregon texted my coach to set up a day to visit, and it was then that I verballed.

Last spring, Burks was named All-Area Offensive Player of the Year by the Manteca Bulletin while voted Defensive Player of the Year by Valley Oak League coaches. She led the Lancers to a share of the VOL title and a final-round appearance in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs.

Burks isn’t your typical slap-hitting leadoff hitter and is a classic five-tool athlete. Her 2014 stats speak for themselves: .533 batting average, 1.471 on-base/slugging percentage, 48 hits, 43 runs 16 extra-base hits (four homers) and 26 steals.

While already an established standout, Burks truly put herself on the map in high school ball during a thrilling 3-2 upset win over cross-town rival and league power Sierra two years ago. She blasted a home run off Sierra ace Allie Walljasper, now with LSU, and later robbed her of the tying RBI in the bottom of the seventh by throwing out a runner at the plate for the final out.

Burks will undoubtedly go down as one of East Union’s all-time greatest softball players, following in the footsteps of other recent NCAA Division I signees Erin Arevalo (Georgia) and Cassie Waggy (Lehigh).

“Every time I rank them I get in trouble, so I’m just going to quote my lovely wife, Mrs. Donna Goulart,” said East Union head coach Brian Goulart. “She told me, ‘Cherish is the best player I’ve ever seen,’ and she’s seen them all. She always reminds me of how fortunate we are. Cherish knows that Donna is the president of the Cherish Burks Fan Club.

“Super excited for her,” he added. “We’re just thankful to be a part of the ride. I know in my heart she’s going to continue to get better and better. She’s going to play the best of the best in the country.”

Oregon is coming off a historic season in which in finished 56-9-1, won the Pac-12 title, earned its first-ever No. 1 national ranking and made its deepest run in the Women’s College World Series. The Ducks were eliminated by No. 2 Alabama 2-0 in the WCWS semifinals.

“They came up just short of playing for the title, but they’ve been getting better every year,” Burks said. “Hopefully I can help them get that World Series ring. I know I have to work my way up and fight for a starting spot. They don’t just hand out starting spots to scholarship athletes.”

Burks will study human physiology and later hopes to become a firefighter.