CROOKSTON, Minn. - The University of Minnesota Crookston baseball team will open up the season Feb. 24 with a late night meeting with Minot State University in a doubleheader at 10 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. Feb. 25 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. The Golden Eagles will look to build on their breakout season of 2016, as the team set school records with 25 overall wins and 18 conference wins en route to their first NSIC Tournament appearance since 2001. UMC has ushered in one of the biggest turnarounds in all of college baseball. Over the last two seasons they have won 39 games after winning a combined two games over the previous two seasons.
The Golden Eagles have a strong core heading into the 2017 season, but they will have to replace several key graduates of the program with aces Nolan Wahlberg and Jarad Nelson graduated from the rotation. At the plate, All-NSIC Second team pick Kenny Perez was a senior, as were four-year leaders Ryan Haggstrom and Colton Haight. Seven other players graduated from the program.
UMC will look to a pair of sophomores to lead the way in Reed Hjelle (So., 1B, East Grand Forks, Minn.) and Zach Seipel (So., RHP, Eagan, Minn.). Hjelle led the team in batting average, while Seipel led the league with 11 saves as he earned All-NSIC Second Team honors. The Golden Eagles return five starters in the field and three pitchers who started games last season.
UMC was picked ninth in the NSIC Preseason Coaches’ Poll after finishing sixth in the standings in 2016. They will open up conference play March 18 at Winona State University after playing non-conference tilts at U.S. Bank Stadium and in Clearwater, Fla. They are slated to play their first home games March 29 against Minot State University.
Around The Horn
R-Jr. C 7 Zach Frazier, 6-4 210, Grand Rapids, Minn.
Sr. C 26 David Olson, 6-0 210, Stillwater, Minn.
R-Fr. C 4 Clarke Peterson, 5-6 190, East Grand Forks, Minn.
Frazier and Olson are the two returnees behind the dish for the Golden Eagles. Frazier shared the starting role last season with Colton Haight. He was strong defensively with a .967 fielding percentage with eight runners caught stealing on the year. At the plate, Frazier hit .236 with 21 runs scored, three home runs and 38 RBI’s. He held a .352 on-base percentage. Frazier is the leader behind the dish heading into the season. Olson appeared in six games as a back-up catcher. He hit .000 on the year. Clarke Peterson will also compete for time. The East Grand Forks High School product redshirted last year. Olson and Peterson are currently battling it out for the No. 2 catcher spot.
So. 1B 33 Reed Hjelle, 6-2 210, East Grand Forks, Minn.
Sr. 1B 42 Brandon Kresl, 6-1 210, Crookston, Minn.
R-So. 1B 28 Matt Nelson, 6-3 230, Lakeville, Minn.
Hjelle moves to first base to help replace the void of Ryan Haggstrom, who hit .361 last season and was always strong defensively where he was one of the best defensive first basemen in the league. Hjelle played first base in high school and will move there after playing in the outfield last season. He led the team with a .387 batting average last season. He had 13 doubles, seven home runs, 38 RBI’s and 39 runs scored. Both Brandon Kresl and Matt Nelson will look for at-bats for the Golden Eagles after redshirting the 2016 season. They both saw game action during the 2015 season.
Jr. 2B 10 Jason Angelo, 5-10 165, Manteca, Calif.
R-Jr. 2B 6 David Anaya, 5-11 170, Tucson, Ariz.
Sr. 2B 2 Patrick Amerson, 5-8 170, Eloy, Ariz.
Angelo and Anaya are battling it out for the second base position with Amerson also having a shot to see time at second base. Angelo started at third base last season, but has slid over to second base after the graduation of Thomas Kinsella. Angelo started 43 games last year and hit .389 with 33 runs scored and 24 RBI’s. Anaya redshirted last season after starting 28 games at second base during his sophomore season. Amerson appeared in eight games last season and hit .444 in a pinch-hitting role.
Jr. 3B 3 Jeremy Spinner, 5-8 140, Phoenix, Ariz.
Sr. 3B 2 Patrick Amerson, 5-8 170, Eloy, Ariz.
R-Jr. 3B 6 David Anaya, 5-11 170, Tucson, Ariz
R-Fr. 3B 32 Hunter Baldwin, 6-3 215, St. Thomas, N.D.
Spinner has had a great off-season and goes into the season with a slight edge over Amerson and Anaya third base with all three working hard to see the field this season. Spinner appeared in 13 games, mostly as a runner, but he has made potentially the biggest jump of any player heading into his second year in the program. Mayville State transfer Hunter Baldwin gives UMC an added bat off of the bench at third base.
Jr. SS 27 Ethan Mushitz, 6-0 170, East Grand Forks, Minn.
R-Jr. SS 6 David Anaya, 5-11 170, Tucson, Ariz.
Sr. SS 2 Patrick Amerson, 5-8 170, Eloy, Ariz.
Mushitz is slated to enter his third year as a starter for the Golden Eagles. The East Grand Forks-native started all 46 games last season. He hit .274 on the season with 39 runs scored, eight doubles, one home run and 22 RBI’s. He had a .391 on-base percentage. He will be backed up by Anaya and Amerson.
Jr. LF 5 James Cullinane, 6-1 185, San Francisco, Calif.
R-Jr. CF 1 Anthony Stewart, 5-10 155, Oak Harbor, Wash.
Jr. RF 20 Mitchell Bornhauser, 5-11 190, Northfield, Minn.
Sr. OF 11 Patrick Higgins, 5-10 190, Eagan, Minn.
Jr. OF 13 Riley Thompson, 6-1 190, Owatonna, Minn.
Jr. OF 8 Scott Mortenson, 5-11 165, East Grand Forks, Minn.
R-Fr. OF 29 Wyatt Peppel, 6-0 240, Greenbush, Minn.
After putting in the work in the off-season, UMC has three players in the outfield who are penciled in as starters going into the spring with other players still battling behind them. Junior College transfer James Cullinane comes in as the starter at left field after a strong off-season. Anthony Stewart, a junior college transfer from Southeastern Community College in Nebraska, brings his speed to the outfield and the base paths after redshirting last season. In right field, Bornhauser, who originally walked on to the program as a freshman, has been the epitome of work ethic and has found his way into a key role in the program. He hit .214 with nine starts last season in the outfield. He had one home run on the year.
Behind the three, UMC has three other outfielders who will see time this year, whether it is in the outfield or at designated hitter. Senior Patrick Higgins battled injuries last season but will contribute in some way as a senior. Higgins hit .231 with nine starts as a junior. Riley Thompson will also be a major factor after starting 31 games last season. The junior hit .369 last season with six doubles and two home runs. Transfer Scott Mortenson, from East Grand Forks, Minn., will bring a left-handed bat for UMC, joining Stewart and Mushitz as left-handed bats on the UMC roster. Wyatt Peppel, a Greenbush, Minn. Native, will add a bat to the bench after redshirting last season.
Sr. RHP 9 Matthew Dallas, 6-0 195, Boise, Idaho
So. RHP 12 Parker Hanson, 6-1 185, Hawley, Minn.
Jr. RHP 14 Gabriel Cavasos, 5-9 215, San Antonio, Texas
R-Fr. RHP 15 Eric Newman, 6-3 210, Buffalo, Minn.
R-Jr. RHP 16 Jacob Butcher, 6-0 180, Palmer, Alaska
R-Jr. RHP 17 Wyatt Huso, 6-2 230, Eagan, Minn.
Fr. RHP 18 Justin Yutrzenka, 5-10 190, Argyle, Minn.
So. RHP 21 Zach Seipel, 6-3 200, Eagan, Minn.
Fr. RHP 23 Jayden Grover, 6-3 210, Cooperstown, N.D.
Sr. RHP 24 Cayden Barta, 6-4 180, Fargo, N.D.
So. LHP 25 Aaron Hollcraft, 6-0 185, Crookston, Minn.
So. LHP 30 Nate Albrecht, 6-1 245, Wahpeton, N.D.
Sr. RHP 31 Zac Carrillo, 6-1 170, Manteca, Calif.
So. RHP 32 Hunter Baldwin, 6-3 215, St. Thomas, N.D.
Sr. RHP 34 Cody Pamperin, 6-0 215, Shakopee, Minn.
R-Fr. RHP 38 Esten Beneda, 6-1 225, Lankin, N.D.
Jr. RHP 39 Owen Ellefson, 6-4 180, Argyle, Minn.
UMC comes into 2017 season with 17 pitchers battling for time on the mound. After strong off-seasons, six players have set themselves apart from the pack in the discussion for starting spots, with several other players still having shots to contribute out of the bullpen or shots to earn starting spots. Pamperin, a senior who has held a variety of roles over his previous three seasons, enters the 2017 season in the starting rotation. He is closing in on the school appearances record heading into his final season. Pamperin was 3-2 with a 5.74 ERA in 21 appearances and 31.1 innings pitched in a set-up role last season. Nate Albrecht, a lefty from Wahpeton, N.D., is also in discussion for a starting role after a strong fall. Albrecht was 1-0 in 10 innings pitched last season. Parker Hanson, a native of Hawley, Minn., transferred in from Dakota County Technical College and will be in the hunt for a starting role. Jacob Butcher, a transfer from Blue Mountain Community College who sat out last season as a redshirt is also in the discussion, as are Northland Community and Technical College transfer Gabriel Cavasos and Stephen-Argyle High School product Yutrzenka.
The undisputed leader out of the bullpen is Zach Seipel. The NSIC’s leader in saves last season with 17, Seipel burst on to the college scene with 17 innings pitched and a 2-1 mark with a 4.24 ERA. His performance on the mound earned him All-NSIC Second Team honors.
In addition to Seipel, look for several other pitchers to make their mark. Matthew Dallas, a senior from Boise, Idaho, had a strong summer in Canada pitching and will look to make an impact this season after appearing in 6.2 innings as a junior. Seniors Zac Carrillo and Cayden Barta also bring leadership to the pen. Freshman Jayden Grover, a native of Cooperstown, N.D. should factor in, as well.
Look for redshirt junior Wyatt Huso to earn innings, along with a pair of redshirts from last season in Eric Newman and Esten Beneda. Aaron Hollcraft is should also be a factor as the two-sport athlete finishes up basketball season. The lefty from Crookston, Minn., appeared in 18.1 innings as a freshman and will continue to improve into his sophomore campaign. Junior college transfer Owen Ellefson from Argyle, Minn., has also worked hard in the off-season and he should see time in some way this season. Baldwin, who is a two-way player, could also see time out of the bullpen after transferring from Mayville State University.
Fr. LHP 19 Dalton Grose, 6-3 215, Waterville, Minn.
Fr. 2B/SS 35 Adam Shykes, 5-8 150, Duluth, Minn.
Fr. 1B/3B 40 T.J. Hokanson, 6-0 205, Chanhassen, Minn.
Fr. C 43 Travis Conoryea, 5-7 170, Inver Grove Heights, Minn.
Fr. RHP 44 Brandon Lacher, 5-10 160, Christine, N.D.
Fr. OF 45 Josh Bollig, 5-8 155, Detroit Lakes, Minn.
Fr. OF 46 Reece Johnson, 5-11 190, Larimore, N.D.
So. IF 47 Tyson Tallakson, 5-8 190, Kindred, N.D.
Fr. IF/RHP 48 Griffin Fussy, 5-11 185, Ham Lake, Minn.
Fr. RHP 50 Greg Johnson , 6-0 195, Montgomery, Minn.
The Golden Eagles have 10 players who are slated to redshirt this season as they look to get stronger and more prepared for the future. These 10 players all look to make impacts in the future for UMC as Coach Gust continues to build the program.
Head Coach Steve Gust, a local product from tiny Sherack, Minn., and an East Grand Forks High School product, enters his third season as Head Coach. Gust has led the way for a major turnaround for the UMC baseball program as they have had 39 wins in his first two seasons leading the way. Gust will also be the primary pitching coach for the Golden Eagles. Assistant Coach Tim Ryan enters his first season with the Golden Eagles. Ryan has been an assistant coach at several levels. He was also head coach at Texas College during the 2014-15 season. The former NCAA Division I player at Centenary College, will work with the hitters this season.
Gust is also joined on staff by several volunteer assistants. Former players Travis Madgzas and Timothy Scott, Jr. will help out this season. Magdzas played for the Golden Eagles from 2013-15. He is now a member of the Crookston Police Department. Scott, played for UMC the last two seasons and has been finishing up his degree by student teaching in the area. Alex Sumner, who played for Gust at Dakota Wesleyan University, will help out the team for his third season. Sumner also works as the Executive Director of Little League Baseball in Fargo, N.D.