Neosho senior Brett Cook has made the grade both in the classroom and on the diamond, and that's why he signed his letter of intent Wednesday to continue both his academic and athletic career at NCAA Division II Northwest Missouri.

Cook said that he will be a corner infielder for the Bearcats and he's lining up a major in engineering to maximize his mathematical skills.

"It's just an exciting experience," Cook said. "I'm just glad all the hard work paid off. Spending all that time and effort.

"Just the way they (Northwest Missouri) pursued me. All the coaches up there, they're nice and comforting. It's great. I'm just glad to be able to go out and play, and relax. All the support that my family's gave me it's nice."

Neosho head coach Danny Powers took over the reins of the Wildcat baseball program when Cook and his classmates entered high school.

"This is my fourth year at Neosho," Powers said, "so that means I got to see Brett from his freshman year all the way up to his senior year coming up in the spring. I know how badly he and his family both wanted Brett to continue his athletic career. It's shown in his work ethic.

"I can remember, obviously coming in as a first-year coach to Neosho, kinda looking at the youth and trying to see what we have coming up. We're having one of our first practices and you hear the ping of the bat kinda going crazy in the cage. I look over and ask my assistants 'Who's this kid?' They go, 'That's Brett Cook.' I go, 'What class is he in?' He was a freshman, which made it even more exciting.

"The one thing Northwest is going to get from Brett is somebody that's never afraid to fail. Brett has worked tirelessly to become a better baseball player all-around. In the three years that I've known him, he competes very well in the spring. He certainly does his job in the summer. He goes and competes at a high level.

"Brett's also an outstanding student. That's one thing at Neosho, in the baseball program, we always preach that you have to do both. Brett always takes care of business both in the classroom and on the athletic field."

Powers said that Cook ranked second on the Wildcats in RBI and doubles last season. Cook's senior year will mark his third season being a varsity contributor.

Northwest Missouri is coming off a 30-22 overall and 25-11 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association record last season. Powers, who enjoyed an outstanding career at Central Missouri (a Northwest Missouri rival), knows firsthand about playing in the MIAA.

"I know he will fit in if he continues to work hard," Powers said. "I might be a little biased, but I feel the MIAA, where Brett's going to compete, is probably the toughest athletic conference in Division II, particularly for baseball. I have no doubts that Brett will step up to the challenge and do well there. Northwest is getting a good baseball player."

Northwest Missouri's recruiting class for the upcoming season has been ranked No. 17 overall in NCAA-II by Perfect Game USA, the highest ranking for any MIAA school.