CHEROKEE, Iowa | After careful consideration, Cody Ege has decided to take the next step in his baseball career.

The former Cherokee High School standout who helped pitch Louisville into the College World Series, signed a professional contract with the Texas Rangers’ organization here Friday.

Rangers scout Derek Lee made the trip north to sign the 22-year-old lefthanded pitcher. Texas selected Ege in the 15th round of the major league draft a couple of weeks ago.

“I had been talking to them since they drafted me and he (Lee) had been up here once already but I wasn’t ready to sign,” said Ege. “The idea was to get back home and spend some time with my family talking this thing out.

“There were so many pros and cons, but we just got out of Omaha (CWS) and it was a great way to end my college career.”

Ege decided to forego his senior season at Louisville but plans to return at some point to complete the final two semesters needed for a degree.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed but the Rangers have agreed to pay for the remainder of Ege’s college education.

“It’s great because my school will be paid for, I will get my degree and I get to play professional baseball,” Ege said. “It’s been my dream since I was a little kid, so this is just the next step in my life.”

The son of John Ege and Jayme and Barb Messerole will report to the Spokane (Wash.) Indians, a short-season A classification team in the Northwest League. He will depart for the west coast sometime this weekend.

“They’ve already started playing and I’m one of the last guys they signed, so I’m a little behind,” Ege said. “I haven’t pitched since Omaha so I’ll need a couple of bullpen sessions, but I’ll be ready.”

Ege said that although it was a long process, he feels he got a fair deal.

“For the most part when you’re going through something like this, everybody wants more and a better opportunity and they (team) are trying to get you as cheap as possible,” Ege said. “But it was a fair deal and I’m excited to get started.”

Ege posted a 4-1 record in 38 appearances for Louisville this season, fashioning a stingy 1.04 ERA in 34.1 innings. Opposing batters hit just .118 off Ege, who struck out 52 and allowed only 13 hits.

The highlight of his collegiate career came during a Super Regional against No. 2 national seed Vanderbilt when Ege recorded his first collegiate save in dramatic fashion.

The crafty southpaw struck out Mike Yastrzemski – the grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski – for the final out and clinched Louisville’s trip to the College World Series.

If you haven’t seen it by now, the highlight is priceless.

“I took my hat off and took my glove off and threw it in the air and I just dropped to my knees, and it felt like I was there for 10 seconds before anyone got to me,” recalled Ege. “I looked up and here comes the whole dugout and they dogpile-tackled me.”

Although the Cardinals’ stay in Omaha was short-lived (they lost to Indiana and Oregon State), Ege wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Ege pitched in both losses, 2-0 to Indiana and 11-4 to Oregon State.

“We wish we would have done better, but that’s something nobody can take away from us,” he said. “We were a part of it and it was a lot of fun.”

By all indications, Ege will continue to be utilized as a specialist.

“If and when I make it to the big leagues, that will be my role,” Ege said. “I’m just hoping that it’s not always against left-handed batters.”

While making his decision, Ege held numerous conversations with former high school and college teammate Matt Koch, who has a 5-3 record for the New York Mets’ Class A Savannah Sand Gnats.

“I talked to him a lot about it and he was a big help,” Ege said.

Ege and Koch were teammates on Cherokee’s 2007 state championship team coached by Scott Koch, Matt’s father. Ege was a three-time all-stater and had a 27-3 record over his final three seasons and as a junior, his ERA of 0.22 was the seventh lowest in Iowa high school history.

Ege had 21 relief appearances as a sophomore at Lousville, posting an 0-1 record in 15 innings. As a freshman, he was 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA in 19 relief appearances and batted .143 in limited appearances as a position player.