It’s every young ball player’s dream to play at the Division I level, and for a former Columbia Academy standout that dream has become reality.
Wiley Cleland, who is entering his sophomore season at Pearl River Community College after helping to lead the Wildcats to a MACJC state title, signed his letter of intent to play at Louisiana-Monroe next year. Cleland hit .255 with three home runs, 13 extra-base hits and 32 RBI and had six stolen bases as a freshman to earn a spot at the highest level.
“My goal my entire life throughout my entire baseball career has been to play Division I baseball. To finally have that come true, it takes a lot of pressure off,” he said.
Cleland said that he liked that Louisiana-Monroe is fairly like to close to home, and he really liked the churches there while making his visit. Cleland was also considering three other offers from Mississippi College, West Alabama and Arkansas-Little Rock but felt ULM was the right fit.
“They made a good offer, and it was just something I felt was right. I prayed about it, talked to my family about it, and it was where I felt like I needed to go,” he said.
Though his expected role with the Warhawks hasn’t been discussed yet, Cleland said he expects to be used in the corners — third base, first base, left field and right field — as a super utility player until an everyday spot opens up or he begins to flourish at one of the positions.
Cleland left CA as the all-time home run leader with 31, though his record fell last season as Slade Wilks finished his sophomore campaign with 32 for his career. His power numbers are sure to continue to rise, though, as Cleland has gained 20 pounds of muscle since arriving on the Poplarville campus and is now 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds.
But it is the mental side and his foot speed that have seen the most growth with the Wildcats.
“Mentally, I’ve learned to play the game at a faster pace. That’s probably where I’ve improved the most,” he said. “I’ve gotten a lot faster since I’ve been here. I went from 6.8 coming in to running a 6.6 now (in the 60-yard dash). That was big, real big.”
Cleland added that inking a Division I scholarship wouldn’t have been possible without the instruction he’s received at PRCC.
“No doubt I’ve grown more in a year-and-a-half here than I have in my entire life,” he said. “Pearl River is an extremely special place with extremely special people. It has really helped me grow.”
Louisiana-Monroe went 23-31 last season and 10-20 in Sun Belt Conference action.
Pictured Above: Pearl River Community College sophomore utility player Wiley Cleland, who won a state championship at Columbia Academy in 2017, signed with Louisiana-Monroe Nov. 14. Cleland had 32 RBI as a freshman at PRCC last season. | Photo by Kristi Harris/PRCC Athletics