Several baseball players that graduated from area high schools have found successes and struggles at the college, and their season recently ended.
Perhaps the most successful are three Pierz grads that play for St. Scholastica in Duluth.
Outfielders Lane Girtz (so.) and Aaron Weber (jr.) and pitcher Matt Tautges (so.) all played for the Saints last season.
Weber was an all-region outfielder for the Saints as a junior, batting .373 with a .429 on-base percentage. He hit three homers, scored 37 runs and drove in 39 RBIs.
“Aaron took me under his wing as soon as I got there, and while I was recovering from my surgery last year and didn’t play hardly at all he told me to keep working hard,” Girtz said. “We were then in a lot of the same lifting groups in the offseason and he kept saying, ‘your time will come,’ and sure enough about a quarter of the way through the year, I got some playing time and made the most of it.”
Girtz was also all-region after starting 24 games. He batted .400 with two homers, 21 RBIs and 37 runs scored.
He said that playing at the next level is a bit different than high school.
“The level is a little higher, and every pitcher you see knows exactly what he is doing and how to attack every single hitter,” Girtz said. “The game planning and all the charts and scouting we do is more complicated.”
Tautges made eight starts and nine appearances on the mound for the Saints. He pitched 52.1 innings pitched. He finishe with a 4-2 record with a 4.82 ERA and 39 strikeouts.
Girtz said there are a couple great things about playing baseball in college.
“I never really had the chance to just focus on one sport, and I miss the other sports, but I never had that chance,” Girtz said. “In the offseason you can lift specifically for that one sport, and go as hard as you can in one sport.”
“One of the coolest parts is that there were a couple games that Tautges was on the mound and me and Aaron Weber were in the outfield, and it felt good,” Girtz said.
He said they are all glad to represent Pierz.
“Never forgetting where you come from is important, and is always in the back of your mind,” Girtz said. “A lot of the things that I was taught in Pierz I brought along with me to Scholastica.”
Another Pierz grad recently completed a freshman season at Central Lakes College along with a freshman teammate that is a Little Falls graduate.
Both Preston Rocheleau, Pierz and Jake Kapphahn, Little Falls pitched and played shortstop for the 24-23 Raiders.
“It took a little bit to get used to, but once you got to know the guys it made it a little easier to transition,” Rocheleau said. “Knowing a couple of guys closely from surrounding areas helped a lot too.”
Both were among the leaders for the Raiders both at the plate and on the Mound.
Rocheleau went 5-4 with a 3.93 ERA and struck out 49 in 52.2 innings. Rocheleau batted well also, hitting .328 with a .467 on-base pereentage. He had a team-best 12 doubles, scored 24 runs and drove in 29 in 46 games played.
A big change for Rocheleau was playing with and against Spanish speaking players.
“I played a lot of people that only speak Spanish, and I had never encountered that before,” Rocheleau said.
However, he also encounters plenty of people who know about Pierz.
“A lot of people are like, ‘oh, you’re from Pierz,’ and then they talk about Thielen Meats a lot,” Rochealeau said with a chuckle.
The final university with a number of area graduates is Bemidji State, a Division II program in the Northern Sun conference.
Little Falls graduate Austin Weisz recently completed his sophomore season with the Beavers and as they only won eight games is already hungry to improve next season.
“It’s always fun playing with the dudes up there, and we have a lot of guys with potential, but we just didn’t really show it,” Weisz said. “We had a lot of ups and downs, but more downs, and we should have a lot of guys back next year.”
Weisz had a .271 on-base percentage and drew 11 walks in 21 starts and eight other apperances in center field for BSU.
He said his offense was not up to his own standards.
“I have gone into a slump for both years, and I am not where I want to be,” Weisz said. “In the outfield, I’ve been exceptional, but at the plate I’ve been far from where I want to be. I changed my swing a couple times in season both years, which I shouldn’t have done, but now I feel like I have her locked in, and am looking forward to next year.”
Weisz is joined by a pair of former Pioneers in junior Noah Boser and sophomore Matt Kummet.
“I roomed with Matt Kummet, and I know him, and there are just a lot of Central Minnesota dudes up there, and playing against or with them, it’s been a blast,” Weisz said.
Kummet, a catcher, started and played in 34 games for the Beavers, batting .265 with two homers, 11 RBIs and only one error in the field.
Boser started 33 games for BSU as a left fielder. He hit three homers, drove in nine runs and scored 14 more.
The reasons for the struggles according to Weisz is the very good pitching the players see.
“The pitching is just next level. These guys have three-plus offspeed pitches versus high school where you are seeing a guy with a good fastball and maybe one good offspeed pitch,” Weisz said. “There are so many guys with good changeups and sharp curveballs, so it has been an adjustment.”
Weisz agreed with Girtz that being able to focus on one sport year around is helpful.
“One good thing is that we see a lot more live pitching in college,” Weisz said. “To go from five months off to seeing live pitching that first day was a shock, so we do simulated scrimmages over the winter, and that helps.”
Kyle Boser, a Little Falls grad, recently completed his career at St. Cloud State University. He only pitcehd four times for the Huskies this spring.
If anyone knows of players from the Record area that play ball (or any sport) at the college level that would make a good story, be sure to contact Tyler Ohmann at email@example.com with more details.