College baseball: UWS having banner seasonWisconsin-Superior baseball coach Eddy Morgan was busy recruiting Lakeville (Minn.) North High School standout Tyler Brekke when he heard, to his disbelief, that teammate T.J. Evanson had yet to commit to a college.
By: Jon Nowacki, Duluth News Tribune
Wisconsin-Superior baseball coach Eddy Morgan was busy recruiting Lakeville (Minn.) North High School standout Tyler Brekke when he heard, to his disbelief, that teammate T.J. Evanson had yet to commit to a college.
Morgan never got Brekke, but he did get Evanson, and the Yellowjackets are better for it today.
“We told T.J. that he’d be a difference-maker when we recruited him,” Morgan recalled. “We just didn’t think it’d be right now.”
Evanson, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound first baseman with hands like vice grips, is hitting .410 with six home runs, nine doubles and 27 RBIs in just 21 games. To put that in perspective, that’d be like hitting 45 home runs and driving in 210 runs over a big league season.
Older baseball record-keeping at UWS is sketchy at best, but Evanson could be having the best freshman season in program history.
“I’d have to think so,” Morgan said. “T.J. is a (NCAA) Division II talent, no question about that. The scouting report is out on him now, and teams are going to try to pitch around him. T.J. will have to keep learning to overcome that, but if he keeps working hard there’s no telling how good he can be.”
Or how good the Yellowjackets can be.
UWS is 12-9 overall and 3-3 in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, quality numbers rarely seen in the program’s history.
Morgan has helped bring respectability in six seasons as head coach after inheriting a team that went 3-35 in 2006. The Yellowjackets’ 18 wins in 2010 were the most since the WIAC began keeping track in 1972. This season UWS hopes to qualify for its first WIAC tournament, with the top four teams in the conference making the postseason.
“I looked at going to other schools, but the coaches told me I probably wouldn’t get to play much the first couple years,” said Evanson, who received recruiting interest from NCAA Division I North Dakota State and Division II Concordia-St. Paul, where Brekke went. “I liked the idea of coming here, being able to contribute right away and trying to help the program reach new heights.”
Evanson hasn’t done it alone.
Besides him, speedy outfielder Wyatt Soderquist (.427 BA, 22R, 20 RBIs, 6SB) has emerged after playing sparingly last season, while junior catcher Jeff Miller (.338 BA, 6 2B, 25 RBIs) remains a steady presence behind the plate and in the batting order.
Seniors Ethan Branum, Nick Bursik and Mike Swanson of Superior lead a pitching staff that won’t overpower anybody but throws strikes.
Eight of UWS’ nine position players are expected back next season. If the Yellowjackets can find more pitching next season, Evanson said it’s scary how good they can be.
“Coming in as a freshman, with the seniors we have here, you really couldn’t ask for anything better,” Evanson said. “They worked me right in and helped me feel comfortable. I just can’t wait to see how good we can be if we keep working at it. The future is looking good.”
BEST OF THE REST
Minnesota Duluth has struggled this season, going 9-19 overall and 2-12 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, including six straight losses.
Anders Engberg (.341 BA, 19R, 16 RBIs), Mike Darley (.323 BA, 10R, 11 RBIs) and Marcus Riewer (.321 BA, 18R, 9RBIs) have led the Bulldogs offensively, while Collin Stinogel (3.25 ERA) and Jordan Smith (3.38 ERA), despite some hard-luck pitching statistics, have led the team on the mound.
“We’ve got a talented team but haven’t been able to get it done when the game has been on the line,” UMD coach Bob Rients said. “Overall the pitching has done very well, but ultimately, we’ve struggled to score runs. We can get guys on, but we haven’t gotten the key hit when we’ve needed it. That can have a snowball effect as guys can start to press.”
St. Scholastica, meanwhile, appears well on its way to its 16th straight Upper Midwest Athletic Conference title and eighth straight NCAA Division III regional appearance.
After the Saints uncharacteristically started 1-4 against tough competition, they got back to .500, won 11 straight and are now 17-8 and 9-0 in conference play.
St. Scholastica has been strong offensively, batting .322 as a team. Kyle Flagstad (.429), Kyle Moody (.378), Kyle Jensen (.360) and Tom Juberian (.351) all bat at least .350.
Jake Nystrom (4-2, 2.67 ERA), Jensen (3-2, 2.70 ERA) and Mickie Keuning (4-1, 3.68 ERA) of Duluth have been leaders on the mound.