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Fall Wrap-Up & Spring Preview with Paula U'Ren

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12/14/2018 - 12:00 PM

Fall Wrap-Up & Spring Preview with Paula U'Ren
Softball Head Coach Paula U'Ren

With finals and Winter Break right around the corner, the KVSC Sports Department wanted meet up one final time for the 2018 calendar year with the SCSU Softball program. KVSC Sports Director AJ Fredrickson had the chance to sit down and talk with Head Coach Paula U’Ren earlier this week to wrap up the team’s fall events and preview the spring season ahead.

 

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First Half A Breeze For Men's Hockey

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12/13/2018 - 3:10 PM

First Half A Breeze For Men's Hockey

10 straight. The Huskies have not lost a game since playing at #18 Notheastern on Oct. 27 and they made sure that continued against the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks to bring the first half of the season to an end.

Friday night the Huskies dominated the shots category 38-18, which included a 18-5 lead after the first. SCSU shut down the Mavericks on their own end to pick up the victory 2-0. The goals came from junior Jack Poehling and senior Jimmy Schuldt.

Saturday was a different story on the offensive end and the flood gates opened wide. The Huskies were in command of this game the whole way winning handily at a score of 7-1.

The Huskies wasted no time netting their first goal when sophomore Blake Lizotte scored just 1:19 in. The Mavericks tied the game up in the second period, but it wasn’t for long because senior Robby Jackson scored 35 seconds later.

The Huskies never looked back as the scoring continued with senior Patrick Newell, junior Jack Ahcan and sophomores Easton Brodzinski, Blake Lizotte and Kevin Fitzgerald.

Sophomore David Hrenak got the wins for both games over the weekend, picked up his second shut out of the season and is now 10-0-1.

Lizotte was awarded NCHC Offensive Player of the Week and Hrenak was awarded NCHC Goaltender of the Week for their play against Omaha-Nebraska.

This is the sixth weekend sweep of the season for the Huskies to pair with their 10-game unbeaten streak.

The Huskies have outscored their opponents 66-29 on the season and are averaging 10 more shots a game than opponents. The Huskies also own their opponents in the face off dot 515-393.

The team leader in goals and points so far is Newell with 10 and 20 respectively and the leader in assists is junior Ryan Poehling with 14. Newell’s numbers are good for first in the NCHC in both categories and Poehling is second in the conference.

The Huskies climb back to the #1 spot in the nation in both USCHO.com and USA Today polls owning 27 first place votes in one and 40 in the other.

The second half starts out strong for the Huskies as they will travel to Duluth on Jan.11 and 12 to play the Bulldogs in a matchup of teams that have held the #1 spot for portions of this season.

The Huskies return to action on Dec. 27 in an exhibition game against the U.S. National Team Development Program U18 squad.

Hrenák, Lizotte Earn Weekly Awards

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12/13/2018 - 12:15 PM

Hrenák, Lizotte Earn Weekly Awards
Credit: SCSU Athletics

A pair of Huskies earned weekly awards after strong performances in a weekend sweep over Nebraska-Omaha.

 

Sophomore Blake Lizotte was announced the Bauer National Collegiate Hockey Conference Offensive Player of the Week and goalie David Hrenák earned the NCHC Goaltender of the Week award.

 

Lizotte collected three points over the weekend tallying an assist Friday and two goals on Saturday. Along with the points, the forward finished the series with a +3 plus/minus and won a conference best 33 faceoffs. On the season, Lizotte has 15 points total with 6 goals and 9 assists.

 

Hrenák was a brick wall in goal for SCSU. The sophomore earned his second shutout of the season in Friday’s 2-0 win over UNO, collecting 18 saves. Saturday, Hrenák posted a 20 save performance for his 10th win this season. 10 wins for the sophomore is tied for second best in the country.

 

As a team, St. Cloud State is riding a 10-game unbeaten streak headed into the winter break. The red hot Huskies earned the #1 spot in both the USCHO.com NCAA Division 1 Men’s Hockey poll and USA TODAY/USA Hockey poll.

 

The Huskies return to the ice hosting an exhibition game against the U.S. National Team Development Program U18 squad on December 27th at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.

 

Three Times the Arm

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12/12/2018 - 10:55 AM

Three Times the Arm
Huskies righthander Nathan Strobel

 

A little less than nine months ago, St. Cloud State righthanded pitcher thought his baseball career was finished.

 

The fifth-year junior had exited his outing on March 30th at the University of Sioux Falls after feeling a sharp pain in his throwing arm as he delivered a pitch. As soon as the ball left his hand, he buckled over, dropped his glove, shouted for his pitching coach and began walking towards his dugout. A whirlwind of emotions ensued, as Strobel feared the worst: a torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL), an injury that had robbed him of nearly two seasons earlier in his career.

 

The injury gave Strobel a chance to reflect on his playing career, perhaps for a final time.

 

Of the 16 seniors on the 2019 St. Cloud State Baseball roster, Nathan Strobel has the distinction of being the “most senior,” as he'll be turning 24 in May. A 2013 graduate of Republic High School in Republic, Missouri, Strobel was a two-time All-District and First Team All-Conference selection as a prep. He dominated on the mound, going 5-1 with 58 strikeouts over 52.0 innings as a junior. He started three years in centerfield, a position he’s confident he could still handle.        

 

“Oh, absolutely!” Strobel bragged with a grin, “You can take the cat out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the cat, right?!”      

 

College teams were more interested in his electric right arm, and the potential of easy 90 mile per hour fastballs drew in plenty of programs. One of the first schools to show serious interest in Strobel was Missouri Southern State University, an NCAA Division II program in Joplin, Missouri. The Lions began recruiting Strobel late in his junior year. The competitor in Strobel gave him the desire to play for a successful program, and Missouri Southern showed him that promise by winning a 2013 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) Championship. 

 

“They were coming off of a conference championship in my freshman year,” remembered Strobel, “That was a really big deal for me, going to a program that was going to compete and win all the time. I just kind of clicked with the coaches when I was on my visit, and really liked what they had. It was close to home, and it really was a no-brainer for me at first.”     

 

Strobel began his 2014 true freshman season as most first year pitchers do, near the bottom of the pecking order. He made his collegiate debut against, ironically, future St. Cloud State conference rival Minnesota-Crookston on February 16th, 2014. The righty cruised through 2.0 shutout innings, working around three hits and a walk while striking out three. He picked up another scoreless outing in his next appearance, striking out the side and allowing a hit at Lincoln. After allowing one earned run over 1.1 relief frames and taking the loss in his next outing at Missouri S&T, the first of three outings that haunt his career took place on March 9th at Emporia State. Something didn’t feel right for Strobel as he warmed up.        

 

“I kind of felt a pop on one of my warmup pitches,” Strobel recounted, “It wasn’t immediate pain or anything, so I wasn’t too concerned.”      

 

Strobel said the soreness felt stranger as he continued throwing, and as he began his appearance, everything seemed to go haywire. His velocity was down, and his control seemed to go by the wayside. All four batters he faced reached, and he was promptly removed from the game and scheduled for tests. A few weeks later he received the diagnosis. 

 

He had Ulnar Nerve Entrapment Syndrome and needed to undergo Ulnar Tunnel Release Surgery. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, ulnar nerve entrapment syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve in the arm becomes compressed or irritated, often at the elbow. His 2014 season was over.  

 

“It was tough,” said Strobel, “because for the first couple of months we couldn’t figure out what it was.”   

 

After initial tests for a torn UCL were negative, Strobel ultimately found his diagnosis at the Dr. Andrews Clinic in Birmingham. He received a medical redshirt for his first season, saving him an extra year of eligibility. Near the end of his redshirt freshman fall at Missouri Southern, Strobel decided to transfer, desiring somewhere he could focus on development after his lost first season. He set his sights on Allen County Community College in Iola, Kansas.   

 

“I knew that I needed to get somewhere where I could be a little bit more focused on development, and JUCO is a good place to do that,” Strobel recounted, “One of my buddies had gone there, I talked with the coach, and we really hit it off. He told me his plan for getting me back to where I needed to be     

 

Like most young pitchers in their first season off elbow surgery, Strobel struggled to maintain consistency. He made 9 appearances with 6 starts for the Red Devils in 2015, chartering a 6.31 ERA and a 5.01 FIP across 25.2 frames. Despite the struggles statistically, he found success in staying healthy and progressing to his pre-surgery form.       

 

“The number one goal for me was to get my velocity back,” said Strobel, “For what we had, that was the most measurable thing that I could see to feel whether or not I was back to where I wanted to be. After that, it was trying to get a feel back for all my pitches, and that didn’t really happen until the end of the season.”

 

Strobel approached 2016 his redshirt sophomore campaign hungry for a second consecutive healthy season. As it ended up, he made just three appearances.           

In his third outing (and second start) of the year, Strobel cruised through the first 4.1 innings against Butler Community College, striking out a career-high 6 batters. He vividly remembers the pitch that dashed his career for the second time.   

 

“Oh yeah,” Strobel says, smiling in spite of himself, “That fifth inning was cut short because of that pitch. It was just immediate. I threw it, fastball, felt it, and I just walked off the field. I knew immediately.”

 

He underwent an MRI and received a diagnosis a few weeks later. This time, he did tear his UCL. Handed a one-way ticket to Tommy John Surgery, Strobel had reached the next itineration of his baseball journey. His 2016 season was over, and there was slim chance of being ready to pitch in 2017.           

 

As Strobel rehabbed post-Tommy John, he spent the 2016-17 school year away from collegiate baseball. He took a few classes at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, and had a few tryout style workouts with the Drury Panthers baseball team. He also coached high school baseball for a local school.

One focus for Strobel in his off year was conditioning, as he had slipped a bit in that area during his injury recoveries. He had pondered playing for Drury, but he hadn’t yet returned to form by the start of the season. Healthy at last in the beginning of the summer, Strobel began the search for his next team. A close friend and two-year teammate at Allen County told him he had a home waiting for him in Minnesota.          

 

Nathan Strobel holds nothing back when asked how large an impact Caeden Harris had on bringing him to St. Cloud State University.        

 

“One hundred percent,” Strobel laughed, “That’s the reason. He told me even when I was rehabbing and didn’t know if I was going to throw again, he said, ‘Well, you need to, you need to get up here, I think we could use you, and you’d have a great time. You’d love it here.’ He talked to Dolan, brought me up here, got on a visit, and I said, ‘You know what, you’re right.’ I met the guys, loved the facilities, and I thought I’d really fit in here.”       

 

Strobel committed to the Huskies soon thereafter. Harris had played two seasons with Strobel at Allen County, redshirted with SCSU in 2017 and posted a 1.045 OPS as the Huskies’ starting left fielder in 2018.

 

In the fall of 2017, Strobel quite literally blew his new coaching staff away with his finally-healthy arsenal, flashing low-90s heat and a plus slider in the lower 80s. He was named the team’s closer heading into 2018, replacing the graduated Miles Nablo. The righthander was happy to see his velocity back to its peak form but found consistency of his control and command to still be lacking. 

 

Strobel recorded a stellar 1.84 ERA over 8 relief outings in 2018 going 1-1 with 2 saves. He threw 14.2 innings out of the pen, posting a 21.4% strikeout rate and a 10% walk rate along with a strong .677 opponent OPS. His spray stats were outstanding, as he worked at a 52.3% ground ball rate and a team-low 15.9% opponent hard hit rate. His FIP was a tad high at 4.19, although typical post-TJ early season command struggles led to high walk and hit-by-pitch numbers, accounting for the anomaly given his pure stuff. Finally, Strobel was enjoying success as an elite closer for a highly competitive team.

 

Then came the third itineration of Strobel’s injury bouts: March 30th, 2018.

 

St. Cloud State was in the third game of a weekend series on the road at the University of Sioux Falls. Strobel had been called upon out of the pen in the fifth inning, striking out both men he faced to strand a pair and preserve a 0-0 score. A rocky defensive inning in the sixth allowed two unearned runs to score, but Strobel came back out in the seventh. After forcing a quick lineout, Strobel fired the pitch that was thought to have ended his playing career.

 

“This one was a little bit different,” Strobel remembered, “It had kind of been nagging since I went out there for the second inning. It didn’t really hurt, like the first time I didn’t really think it was anything wild. I was like, alright, I’ll keep throwing. It was a fastball. I put one low on him, and I was like, that’s it. That one hurt too much. It didn’t really feel the same as when I popped my UCL, so I wasn’t really sure what was going on.”

 

As soon as the ball left his hand, he dropped his glove, clutched his arm, called for his pitching coach and walked to the dugout. Strobel’s season, and his career, was feared to be over. The initial diagnosis was another torn UCL. Assuming he wouldn’t be able to pitch in 2019, Strobel didn’t receive an MRI until mid summer. The final diagnosis left Strobel stunned, excited and jubilant all at once.

 

He had a torn forearm flexor, not a torn UCL. In fact, the doctors informed him that his flexor tear had healed so well that he would be fine in a few weeks. The Huskies had their closer back for the eagerly-anticipated 2019 season.

 

“I was really excited when I first got the diagnosis,” Strobel beamed, “Probably the most frustrating part for me was that I knew how good we were going to be this year, and that I wasn’t going to be part of that and help out somehow. That was a big relief for me, knowing that I would be able to come back and play with all the guys and compete for a World Series.”

 

Strobel went through a slow return-to-throw program as part of his nonsurgical flexor rehab. He had no significant setbacks and hasn’t experienced pain in quite some time. Due to a few class scheduling conflicts, he was unable participate in fall ball with the Huskies but has been throwing off a mound on his own and feels back to his normal self.

 

It’s been a long time coming, but Nathan Strobel is finally healthy and ready to roll as one of the best high-leverage stoppers in Division II.

 

“I definitely expect to pick up where I left off last year,” Strobel said confidently, “I felt pretty good before that injury, and I don’t think there’s any reason that I shouldn’t come out and be just like that again.”

 

Huskies Hoops Sweep Beavers, Marauders on the Road

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12/10/2018 - 11:45 AM

Huskies Hoops Sweep Beavers, Marauders on the Road
Photo - SCSU Athletics

 

12/7 – St. Cloud State 76 – University of Mary 64

 

In their first road game in the NSIC of the season, the Huskies knew they needed positive results after struggles against Duluth and Mankato. The Huskies would get that result behind strong games from senior Gage Davis and Brindley Theisen in a 76-64 win over Mary.

 

The score stayed tight in the beginning portions of the game, going back and forth in the first half with consistent scoring from both teams. Mary eventually was able to get in front of the Huskies by 6 points behind good shooting from behind the 3-point line.

 

SCSU would find their first lead of the game at 28-26, hitting back to back three pointers to jump in front of the Marauders.

 

Mary would stick around, and tie the game back up at 38 late in the first half. The halftime score would remain knotted up at 41 for both teams.

 

The Huskies would open the second half on a 7-0 scoring run, but Mary responded instantly with a 10-0 run of their own to take a 50-48 lead.

 

St. Cloud State need their playmakers to come up big at this point in the game, and they did just that. Brindley Theisen and Gage Davis posted double-digit scoring in the second half, not before a big first half performance from Sean Smith all together saw the Huskies get the lead back at 69-61 with just over three minutes remaining in the game.

 

The Marauders would not have a scoring run in them late, as the Huskies would knock off Mary 76-64 in Bismark for their first NSIC win of the season.

 

Gage Davis once again was dominant for SCSU, leading the huskies with 25 points. Brindley Theisen tallied 18 points, while Sean Smith earned 17 points in the win over Mary. Davis had a double double for SCSU with 14 rebounds.

 

12/8 – St. Cloud State 76 – Minot State 69

 

SCSU collected their first weekend sweep of the young season, topped off by a 76-69 win over Minot State Saturday night in Minot.

 

After a slow start for the Huskies offense in the opening moments of the game, a string of baskets pushed SCSU out to a 19-11 lead in the first half.

 

Minot State was able to work the ball inside, getting easy buckets streaking to tie the game with SCSU at 23 in the first half. MSU would take a 31-29 lead in the half.

 

The game would stay tight into the second half with both teams trading scoring buckets attempting to break away. With just over 7 minutes to go, the Huskies found a brief four point lead that was instantly answered by quality offense produced from the Beavers.

 

St. Cloud State would pull away at the very end behind some big baskets from Diamond Onwuka and Gage Davis pulling away from the Beavers with a 76 – 69 final score as the buzzer sounded.

 

Gage Davis collected his fourth straight game with more than 21 points for the Huskies, while Diamond Onwuka and Brindley Theisen also were in double digits for the Huskies.

 

SCSU walks away from the weekend 7-2 overall on the young season, also improving to 2-1 in NSIC play. The Huskies are back in Halenbeck Hall this weekend, taking on SMSU and then Sioux Falls. You can catch all of this weekends action LIVE on the KVSC Sports Stream.

 

#1 Wisconsin Sweep Huskies in St. Cloud

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12/10/2018 - 9:10 AM

#1 Wisconsin Sweep Huskies in St. Cloud
Photo - SCSU Athletics

12/7 - #1 Wisconsin 8 – St. Cloud State 2

 

The St. Cloud State women’s hockey team could not recover from four first period goals scored by the #1 ranked Badgers Friday afternoon falling 8-2 to Wisconsin.

 

Three of the four first period goals for Wisconsin came late in the period, led by junior Presley Norby who had two goals of the four goals total in the period.


Goal scoring trends for UW would remain headed into the second, as Annie Pankowski scored her 12th goal of the season for the Badgers pushing the lead to 5-0. Just minutes later, SCSU’s Hallie Theodosopoulos would find the back of the net for her 9th goal of the season to cut the lead to 5-1.

 

Wisconsin’s Annie Pankowski would fire in her second goal of the second period to take away any momentum the Huskies collected from the Theodosopoulos goal.

  

A five goal lead into the third period for the Badgers would be extended, as Sophie Shirley found the back of the net to push the lead to 7-1. SCSU’s Laura Kluge would collect the puck after a mistake in the crease by UW’s Kristen Campbell to give the Huskies their second goal of the game.


The Badgers were not done scoring, as Alexis Mauerman would find the second power play goal of the game for the Badgers propelling them to a 8-2 victory at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center Friday afternoon.

 

Emma Polusny in goal for SCSU came up with 42 saves but suffered her 6th loss in goal on the season for SCSU.

 

12/8 - #1 Wisconsin 3 – St. Cloud State 1

 

St. Cloud State battled to the end in a strong performance against the #1 ranked Badgers but came up short falling 3-1 completing the weekend sweep for Wisconsin.

 

The visiting team appeared to be keeping the first period scoring trend from Friday’s win going in Saturday’s battle, with freshman Britta Curl finding the back of the net just 6 minutes into the game giving a quick 1-0 lead to Wisconsin.

 

Despite the early setback, St. Cloud State played a very strong defensive effort keeping the Badgers at bay. Janine Alder was solid in goal the entire game for SCSU, stopping 22 Wisconsin shots alone in the second period. This led to the Huskies finding their only goal of the game, as Janna Haeg tipped in a shot from the blue line to tie the game at 2 in the 2nd period on the power play.

 

Haeg’s goal gave the Huskies life and momentum headed into the third period but it was not enough to hold off the offensive powerhouse of the Badgers. Wisconsin defender Mekenzie Steffen found the game winning goal with just over 7 minutes remaining in the third period. Annie Pankowski would find an empty net goal late for the Badgers to seal the game for UW.

 

Janine Alder was outstanding in goal for the Huskies, finishing the game with 46 saves.

 

With the win, Wisconsin extends its current win streak to 10. SCSU falls in a losing slump of four straight after getting swept in WCHA play two weekends in a row.

 

The Huskies are back on the ice December 29th and 30th in a non-conference match up with Lindenwood at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. 

Huskies Women's Hoops split weekend road trip, Dammann the hero vs Minot State

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12/10/2018 - 9:00 AM

Huskies Women's Hoops split weekend road trip, Dammann the hero vs Minot State
Photo - SCSU Athletics

12/7 – St. Cloud State 47 – University of Mary 59 – FINAL

 

The Huskies were looking to get a road trip off to a hot start against Mary Friday afternoon, but fell to the Mauraders 59 – 47.

 

SCSU opened up the contest with a 16-10 lead after the 1st quarter, but Mary would respond late in the game with a 25-11 scoring outburst in the 4th quarter leading them to a 59-47 win over the Huskies.

 

St. Cloud State lead for three quarters of the game Friday afternoon, but could not hold onto the lead into the fourth quarter for the loss.

 

Junior Madelin Dammann led the Huskies offensively with 13 points, along with good work on the glass with 5 rebounds as well. Mallie Doucette and Tori Wortz also tagged along eight points for the Huskies as well.

 

Despite leading most of the game, SCSU offensively struggled finishing the game shooting 28% from the field and just 26% from behind the arc. Mary dominated the boards, finishing the game out rebounding SCSU 46-24.

 

The loss drops the Huskies to open NSIC play with a record of 0-2.

 

12/8 – St. Cloud State 61 – Minot State 60 – FINAL

 

Junior Madelin Dammann hit the game winning shot leaving just 0.1 seconds on the clock for the Huskies, propelling them to a dramatic 61-60 win over the Beavers in Minot.

 

With the final seconds ticking off the clock in the fourth quarter and the Huskies trailing by two, it was Dammann that collected the offensive rebound and put the shot back up along the baseline to sink Minot State. Dammann led all Huskies in scoring for the second straight game, finishing with 16 points.

 

Sophomore forward Nikki Kilboten collected a career – high 12 points in the win over MSU as well as freshman Katrina Theis not far behind with 11 points of her own.

 

Minot State out scored SCSU in the second quarter 23 – 3 to take a lead into the halftime break, but SCSU would finish the game outscoring the Beavers in the final two quarters.

 

The Huskies are back in Halenbeck Hall this weekend, taking on SMSU and the Sioux Falls. You can catch all of this weekends action LIVE on the KVSC Sports Stream.

 

Men's Hockey Welcomes In Struggling Mavericks

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12/05/2018 - 5:00 PM

Men's Hockey Welcomes In Struggling Mavericks
Credit: SCSU Athletics

The Huskies (11-1-2) come into the weekend to face the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (4-8-2) riding an eight game unbeaten streak but the feel from last weekend is more of a letdown than being excited from keeping that streak going.

The Huskies went to Oxford, Ohio and hit a RedHawks team in stride. The RedHawks were with St. Cloud in every step of the game. The games both officially ended in a tie but the two teams split extra NCHC points.

The Huskies picked up one on Friday in the Shootout and the RedHawks picked one up on Saturday when they scored in the 3-on-3 overtime.

The Mavericks come into the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center on a less than stellar campaign so far. They have key sweep against Arizona State and key wins against Western Michigan and Miami (OH).

The Mavericks are led by senior forward Mason Morelli, freshman Taylor Ward and senior Steven Spinner. On the offensive end the Mavericks rank near the bottom on the conference. Morelli and Ward won NCHC Player of the Month and NCHC Rookie of the Month, respectively, for November.

Morelli has 9 goals and 9 assists on the season and Ward has 5 goals and 8 assists this season. Spinner was an offensive force before he came to Omaha but in his four years he has left you wanting more and this season is the same with only 4 points in 13 games.

Nebraska-Omaha has a veteran backstop in senior Evan Weninger. Weninger is having his worst season of his college career statistically. He comes in sporting a 4.05 GAA and a .885 save percentage.

He has seen the Huskies a ton of his four years and the Mavericks have to hope that helps him or the Huskies firepower will make this a long weekend.

Hometown connection is senior defenseman Jimmy Schuldt’s younger brother, John, who will suit up for the Mavericks and freshman Travis Kothenbeutel who returns home, as he is a Sauk Rapids native.

Freshman Sam Hentges returned to the lineup last weekend at Miami (OH) after missing two games to a lower body injury. He was a top line winger before the injury but the strong play of sophomore Easton Brodzinski in his place has push Hentges to the fourth line.

This will be a story line to watch with the break coming up but the path back up for Hentges is blocked right now. I expect Coach Larson to keep him down the lineup and wait for a possible slump out of one of his wingers. If that happens, Hentges will be waiting to jump in that spot.

The Huskies got the wakeup call they needed last weekend in Oxford and that should make them focus on this series. The Huskies are a better team all around then the Mavericks and there is no way to beat around that bush.

They should come out and kill every facet of the games. This series should be a good opportunity for the Huskies to flow into the holiday break on a 10 game unbeaten streak and I expect them to do so.

NOTES:

-Ryan Poehling was named to the preliminary roster for the USA World Junior Team this week.

-Tyler Anderson is no longer wearing a cast on his hand but we probably won't see him in suit up until the exhibition game on Dec. 27.

 

Men' Hockey Extends Unbeaten Streak To 8 After Two Ties In Oxford

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12/03/2018 - 3:20 PM

Men' Hockey Extends Unbeaten Streak To 8 After Two Ties In Oxford
Credit: SCSU Athletics

The men’s hockey team flew out to Oxford, Ohio to take on the Miami RedHawks in NCHC regular season play.

The RedHawks proved up to the test as they pulled the Huskies into overtime during both games. These were the third and fourth times that these teams tied in a row. The first two were in the NCHC playoffs last March.

Friday’s game was tied 4-4 at the end of regulation. They two teams made it through a whole 4-on-4 overtime and a 3-on-3 overtime still scoreless. NCHC rules dictate that the game will go to a shootout that is sudden death in this occurrence.

The RedHawks opened with Casey Gilling who was stone walled by senior Jeff Smith. The Huskies turned to their skilled sophomore Blake Lizotte who was able to end the shootout right there and give the Huskies the extra point.

Saturday’s game followed a similar path to the end but with less on the offensive end for both teams.

The two teams went into the third tied 1-1. The Huskies sophomore Easton Brodzinski broke that tie from a scrum just outside of the crease opened up just enough for his shot to slide through.

The RedHawks answered the Huskies goal with one their own by Scott Corbett. The puck hit the far post and dropped right behind sophomore David Hrenak. Hrenak tried to jump on it but Corbett was crashing the net hard and poked it in to tie it 2-2.

Another tie after regulation and the 4-on-4 overtime period led to the end of a long couple of games in the 3-on-3 overtime period. The game ended when Alec Mahalak broke past the Huskies defense on a 2-on-1 where he hit Josh Melnick on the back door for the redirection into the net and an extra NCHC point.

The Huskies drop to 11-1-2 and the RedHawks improved to 9-6-3 on the season. The Huskies still hold the top spot in the NCHC but they are now the #2 team in the country. Massachusetts over took them for the top spot earning 26 first place votes to St. Clouds 22.

Huskies Fall in Pair of Games vs. #2 Gophers

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11/19/2018 - 12:00 PM

Huskies Fall in Pair of Games vs. #2 Gophers
Photo - SCSU Athletics

The #2 ranked Minnesota Gophers Women’s Hockey team completed a weekend sweep over SCSU with wins on Saturday and Sunday afternoon in the home and home series between WCHA rivals.

 

SATUDAY NOV. 17 – SCUS 3 - #2 UM 4 (OT)

 

Minnesota’s Kelly Pannek overtime goal gave the Gophers a 4-3 win over the St. Cloud State Huskies Saturday afternoon at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.

 

Pannek would kick off the scoring in the game for the Gophers with a unassisted goal two and a half minutes into the first period. The scoring would go silent until just after halfway through the second period, seeing the Huskies defense and sophomore Emma Polusny in goal shut down the Gophers attack.

 

SCSU would find the next goal of the game, as Brooke Kudirka found the back of the net for her first goal of the season. Kudirka’s goal tied the game up at 1 until the Huskies struck early in the third period.

 

Freshman standout Jenniina Nylund would spark the Huskies in the early stages of the third period, scoring just a minute and forty eight seconds into the period. Nylund’s goal was set up by a Taylor Wemple assist, and the Huskies found themselves with a 2-1 lead in the 3rd period over the #2 ranked Gophers.

 

Minnesota’s offensive power would come into full force after SCSU took the lead early in the 3rd period. Abigail Boreen would tie the game at the 11:08 mark of the 3rd period following a assist from Emily Brown. Then Sarah Potomak would strike just three minutes later to give the Gophers a come from behind 3-2 lead in the final minutes of the 3rd period.

 

St. Cloud State would not back down. The Huskies Hannah Portrykus scored her 7th goal of the season coming through in the clutch with a goal finished off from passes from Nylund and Abby Thiessen to tie the game at 3 sending the game into overtime against the Gophers.

 

The momentum seemed to come to an instant stop for the Huskies in the overtime period.

 

The Gophers Taylor Heise scored fired her fourth goal of the season past SCSU netminder Emma Polusny to win the game for Minnesota just two minutes and fifty-seven seconds into overtime.

 

SUNDAY NOV. 18  - #2 UM 7 – SCSU 2

 

St. Cloud State looked to bounce back Sunday afternoon in Ridder Arena, after Saturday’s heartbreaking loss to the Gophers in overtime. Minnesota would show other plans, showcasing their offensive power in a 7-2 dominant win over SCSU capping the weekend and season sweep over SCSU.

 

The Gophers came out on fire in the first period, posting four goals to open the game in the first period. Sophmore Grace Zumwinkle would find the first and final goal of the first period for the Gophers, while Nicole Schammel and Catie Skaja tallied on goals as well.

 

The Huskies did find a late spark, as a goal from Suvi Ollikainen cut the Gophers lead to 4-1 headed into the first intermission.

 

The momentum would not stop there for St. Cloud State, as Brooke Kudirka would tip in a goal early in the 2nd period to spark life for the Huskies at that point only trail by 2 goals.

 

Yet, the confident point in the game would quickly come to a close for the Huskies as the Gophers would respond with a late power play goal in the second period, as well as two third period goals to bury the Huskies and complete the weekend sweep with a 7-2 win over St. Cloud State.


The Huskies will face Bemidji State on Tuesday, November 20th facing the Beavers in the Women’s Hockey Hall of Fame Classic Game in Brainerd, MN. 

 

SCSU Mens Hoops Come Up Short Against MSU

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11/19/2018 - 9:00 AM

SCSU Mens Hoops Come Up Short Against MSU
Photo - SCSU Athletics

The St. Cloud State Men’s Basketball team fell Saturday afternoon to NSIC rival Minnesota State Mankato.

 

The first half was dominated by the Huskies, jumping out to a 36-30 lead at the halftime break. That came from some consistent shooting from the Huskies, leading the Mavericks in both three-point shooting percentage and from the field. Senior Gage Davis and Senior Sean Smith dominated the half, as Davis posted a strong 18 points while Smith dominated the glass for the Huskies with five blocks.

 

In the second half, SCSU dominated the opening stages jumping out to a 10-2 run to open the run, extending their lead to 46-32. Yet, that lead would slip away from SCSU as Mankato would come roaring, cutting the SCSU lead to 55-50 later in the second half.

 

It was fair from over at that point. The Huskies would not initially let the game slip away from them as Smith hit a pair of jumpers to push it back to a 7-point lead, before the Mavericks scored three straight baskets to knot the score up at 60.

 

MSU-Mankato would earn their first lead of the half when the score turned 69-67 with just 1:26 left in the 2nd half. Brindley Theisen would find a big basket to tie the game at 69. Both teams missed chances in the final seconds of regulation, pushing the marquee matchup into overtime.

 

Mankato came in clutch in overtime, scoring nine straight points to take a 78-69 lead. The Huskies would not recover from the deficit, failing on late free throws and a 3-point attempt that would end the game in favor of MSU – Mankato. The final score read Mavericks 80, St. Cloud State 77.

 

The loss for SCSU ends the three-game winning streak the Huskies were on to open the season. St. Cloud State won both straight matchups with the Mavericks during the 2017-18 season, as the loss Saturday afternoon for SCSU ends that streak vs. Mankato as well.

 

Gage Davis walked away from the game with a massive scoring line, finishing the game with a season high 28 points while pacing the Huskies on the glass with 13 rebounds for already his third double double in the young season. Brindley Theisen featured a very strong shooting effort, going 7-15 from the floor as well as Jace Kitchen scoring all 11 of his points in the second half for SCSU.

 

St. Cloud State will spend their Thanksgiving weekend on the west coast with a pair of matchups in the Sea Lion Thanksgiving Classic in San Diego, CA.

 

All-American Aces

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11/14/2018 - 7:45 PM

All-American Aces
Miks and Giese each make their return to the weekend rotation in 2019

As St. Cloud State baseball prepared for their 2017 season, two lefthanders were projected to lead the starting rotation.

 

Two-time All-American and reigning NSIC Pitcher of the Year Sheldon Miks was to be counted on as the staff ace in his junior campaign, and redshirt sophomore Cal Giese looked to build upon a stellar first season in which he earned the win in the Huskies’ 2016 NSIC Tournament Championship game.

 

The expectations for the duo to anchor the rotation were dashed just five games into the season, as Miks was pulled from his second start of the year after feeling a pop in his elbow. He wouldn’t throw another pitch in 2017 and underwent Tommy John Surgery in June. Giese took the reigns as the Huskies ace, earning First Team All-NSIC honors and being named Second Team All-Central Region by ABCA/Rawlings.

 

Entering 2018, most pundits were aware that Miks would likely miss most of, if not all the season. However, hopes were high for Giese, as the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) named him a Preseason All-American.

 

Giese didn’t throw a single pitch for the Huskies, as he had been dealing with an elbow issue dating back to his lone 2017 Northwoods League start. He underwent surgery on his elbow in April, effectively ending his season. Miks did make his return to the mound after being cleared for short relief work in late April, but in all it had been a lost season from the two.

 

In 2019 SCSU will finally find their weekend rotation anchored by the two redshirt senior All-Americans, a dream that began all the way back in 2014.

 

Miks and Giese had just wrapped their senior seasons of high school baseball. Miks was a Mr. Minnesota Baseball finalist in his final campaign at Shakopee High School while also earning his second All-State and third All-Section and All-Minneota Conference accolades. Giese had finished a stellar career at Stevens Point Area Senior High (SPASH), picking up All-State and All-Region honors and being named the #22 prospect in the state of Wisconsin by highly-regarded Prep Baseball Report. Each player had an interesting story as they made their commitments to St. Cloud State.

 

Giese remembered throwing to an old ally in his bullpen for the Huskies’ coaching staff.

 

“I think it was junior year. Dolan came and watched a few high school games, and then I think he watched one of my legion games in the summer. He asked me to come visit, I came and visited St. Cloud in the summer with a few other people…We threw a bullpen in front of him, we actually threw to Michael Jurgella at the time when he was here, which was kinda cool because he went to my high school.”

 

Giese received an offer to become another SPASH product to play for the Huskies on that same visit, and later accepted.

 

Miks’ story was a little interesting.

 

“I actually was coming back from my cabin and got a voicemail from a number I didn’t know. I tried to play the voicemail, it was Dolan, and my phone died so I didn’t actually get to hear the rest of it. I ended up getting a new phone and got another call, and I came on a visit.”

 

Like Giese, Miks received an offer on his visit and later accepted.

 

As Opening Day 2015 loomed, it didn’t appear like Giese and Miks would be together for five seasons.

 

Giese was an accounting major, wasn’t bringing in any college credits, and planned on being on campus for five years. Combining his academic plans with the veteran Huskies staff, he redshirted in 2015.

 

Miks was expected to play a role on the Huskies staff as a true freshman, and made a statement attesting to those projections in his collegiate debut.

 

The 6’4 lefthander fired 7.0 innings in his first start on March 1st, 2015 at Harding University, allowing just 2 unearned runs on 4 hits and a walk while striking out 4. Eight days later at the Tucson Invitational, he delivered his first career complete game against Arizona Christian, allowing an earned run on 8 hits with 4 punchouts. Miks quickly ascended to the top of the Huskies’ rotation, joining Reese Gregory, Garrett Harrison, Ryan Diers, and Logan Spitzak as one of the most formidable rotations in the Nation.

 

Miks produced one of the greatest seasons in St. Cloud State history, going 10-2 with a 1.15 ERA, a 2.45 FIP, and a 0.837 WHIP across 86.0 innings. He appeared in 16 games with 12 starts, twirling 7 complete games and 4 shutouts. He struck out 59 and walked just 11, holding opponents to a mind-blowing slash line of .196/.225/.244 for a .469 OPS against. His strikeout rate stood at 18.1%, with a miniscule walk rate of 3.4%. The lefty earned a laundry list of accolades, being named a Daktronics DII All-American, NCBWA All-Central Region, NSIC Freshman of the Year, First Team All-NSIC, and was selected to the NSIC All-Tournament Team.

 

Sheldon credited both his tremendous lineup and his All-American senior catcher, Michael Jurgella, for his success.

 

Regarding Jurgella, Miks praised the backstop’s IQ for the game.

 

“He was always two steps ahead of everything. He always knew what was going to happen, as far as pitch-calling, and we were always on the same page. He put down a number, I nodded my head, and that was pretty much how it went. I already had the grip in my hand, and he made it so simple. I didn’t have to think, and I could just go throw.”

 

His first career postseason start still stands as one of his best collegiate outings, as he struck out 9 Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in a complete game two-hit shutout to send the Huskies to Championship Sunday of the 2015 NSIC Tournament.

 

He faltered in the NCAA Central Region Tournament, taking his first two losses of his career. Both came at the hands of Henderson State University, the first coming in the Tournament opener. Miks allowed 9 runs, just 2 earned, over 7.1 innings. He surrendered 9 hits and walked one while striking out 5. A three-run 5th inning home run by Claude Johnson after a two-out error by Kyle Lieser put the Reddies in front, then an error in the eighth turned into four more unearned runs.

 

The #1 ranked Huskies fought their way back into the Central Region Championship game against Henderson State. SCSU knocked Reddies swingman Luke Tebbetts out of the game in the third, leading 7-2. Henderson brought the game even at 7 in the eighth after receiving a dominant 6.0 inning effort from fireman reliever Jordan Taylor. With the season on the line, St. Cloud State first turned to 13-0 NSIC Pitcher of the Year Reese Gregory for an inning plus, then brought Miks out of the pen for the bottom of the 10th. Miks promptly surrendered a double to A.J. Kruzel, then a walk-off single by Hayden Lessenberry after a sacrifice bunt ended the Huskies season.

 

After the heart-wrenching end to the St. Cloud State season, Miks joined the St. Cloud Rox of the Northwoods League. Facing elite college baseball talent every outing, his legend grew even more with a dominant summer performance.

Miks posted a 5-1 record across 13 appearances, starting 8 games and posting a 2.74 ERA and a 2.84 FIP across 49.1 innings for the Rox. He struck out 49, walked 14, recorded a 1.196 WHIP, and held opponents to an ugly .590 OPS.

 

The experience helped him greatly.

 

“It was eye-opener, more than anything. It’s just such a grind, to go out to the baseball field every single day and try and compete against top-tier talent. That was the biggest thing for me, was I needed to focus every single day, and then have my best stuff every single day, otherwise it was going to be a struggle. You can’t get away with making a few bad pitches in an at-bat with some of those hitters, otherwise they’re going to punish you.”

 

He also made a significant connection with his future pitching coach, then-University of North Dakota weekend starter Brett DeGagne.

 

“He came a little later in the season, probably three weeks in, and we were at Waterloo. He showed up, and everybody was kind of wondering who the new guy was. So I got to talking with him, we hit it off, and from there on out we pretty much worked out and played catch every day for the rest of the summer. That was one guy who really had a big impact on developing a mental side of the game for me.”

 

Following his summer in the Woods’, all eyes were on St. Cloud State entering the 2016 season.

 

The sophomore Miks would serve as the staff “Ace A” to senior Reese Gregory’s “Ace B”, and the Huskies boasted a senior-laden lineup featuring Gregory, Lieser, Brandon Arnold, Karl Sorenson, Zach Hoffmann, and Zak Hoffman. With Spitzak moving into Gregory’s closing role and Harrison graduated, the Huskies had a few questions needing to be answered in their rotation.

 

Cal Giese made his collegiate debut on the big stage at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, striking out 5 and allowing 2 earned runs over 2.0 relief frames against St. Mary’s University. He won his first career start at the Tucson Invitational against Briar Cliff, working 5.0 innings and allowing 3 runs on 9 hits and 3 walks, punching out 7. He primarily spent his redshirt freshman season as a starter for SCSU, making two more relief outings along the way.

 

Giese chartered a 7-2 record over his 10 appearances and 7 starts, throwing 44.2 innings to the tune of a 4.03 ERA. His FIP stood at stellar 2.83, just behind Gregory as second-best on the staff among starters. He struck out 61 and walked 14, producing strong rates of 28.4% and 6.5% respectively. The strikeout rate tied him with Bolder for the highest among Huskies with at least 3 appearances.

 

Much like his counterpart Miks, Giese’s first collegiate postseason start was a memorable one.

 

The lefthander received the win in the Huskies’ 2016 NSIC Tournament Championship-clinching 6-4 victory over Concordia-St. Paul, dealing 5.0 innings of 5-hit ball and allowing 2 earned while striking out 5.

 

Giese played with his hometown Wisconsin Rapids Rafters of the Northwoods League following the 2016 season, going 3-3 with a 3.79 FIP over 12 appearances and 7 starts.

 

Miks’ 2016 wasn’t too shabby either.

 

He made his season debut on February 7th with a complete-game victory over the University of Central Missouri at Minute Maid Park, allowing one run across 9.0 innings on 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out a career-high 12, earning NSIC Pitcher of the Week for his efforts. Better feel for his cutter allowed his strikeout numbers to jump in his sophomore campaign.

 

The Huskies’ ace posted another dominant season, going 8-3 with a 1.96 ERA and a 2.96 FIP across 87.1 innings, making 16 appearances and 11 starts. He struck out 79 and walked just 8, finishing with a 1.122 WHIP, a .667 opponent OPS, a 21.8% K rate and an eye-popping 2.2% walk rate. Miks was named an NCBWA Honorable Mention All-American, NCBWA Central Region Pitcher of the Year, NSIC Pitcher of the Year, Consensus NCBWA First Team All-Region, a Tomko Award Top 10 Finalist, a member of the NSIC All-Tournament Team, and First Team All-NSIC.

 

For the second straight season, Miks sent SCSU to Championship Sunday of the NSIC Tournament, setting the stage for Giese in the clincher. Sheldon fired 7.0 scoreless frames of 6-hit ball against Concordia-St. Paul, striking out 9.

In the 2016 NCAA Central Region Tournament, the Huskies lost 1-0 in the opening game, a memorable 11 inning thriller to Minnesota State-Mankato.

 

Miks was handed the ball with the season on the line the next morning against Missouri Western State but was pulled about 50 pitches in after the Huskies took a 6-1 lead after two. SCSU’s next elimination game came versus Emporia State the next day. Up a run in the top of the sixth, the Huskies turned to Miks out of the bullpen. Just a day after throwing around 50 pitches, he fired 125 pitches across 7.0 innings of 3-run ball, taking the season-ending loss in extras.

 

Despite coming up short once again in the NCAA Regional Tournament and graduating nearly their entire lineup, St. Cloud State still had plenty of areas to be excited about entering 2017.

 

Chief among them was Sheldon Miks’ hyped-up junior season.

 

Miks received his first career Opening Day start at U.S. Bank Stadium against Gus Varland and the Concordia-St. Paul Golden Bears, tossing 4.0 innings of 3-run ball on 7 hits and 4 strikeouts. A mistake changeup to CSP’s Zach Elder turned into a game-deciding 2-run shot to dead center, giving Miks his first loss of the year.

 

On March 6th, the Huskies took on Southwest Minnesota State at the Tucson Invitational. The Huskies led 3-0 going into the bottom of the third. Then came a moment that would dramatically change the course of St. Cloud State’s season.

 

It’s best to let Sheldon Miks tell this part of the story.

 

“I threw a curveball to Metzger. And I threw it about 40 feet. 40, 50 feet. I felt a pop in my elbow. So I’m kind of sitting there on the mound a little bit, and I catch the ball back from Metzger. I kind of walk around the mound, take a second…I get back on the mound, and Metzger noticed something, so from then on he called just fastballs. Eight pitches later I get out of the inning, Metzger comes up to me, and he goes ‘What happened?’ I said, ‘Well, I felt a pop in my elbow and it hurts to throw.’ I sat down on the bench, DeGagne comes up to me and kind of asked the same question, and I said, ‘I’m done. It hurts to even throw a fastball.’”

 

David Kroger and Zach Siggelkow finished off the Huskies’ win, but the team’s concern was on Miks’ left elbow. The ace was shut down and underwent an MRI. He received the diagnosis during the Huskies’ NSIC Regular Season opener on the road at the University of Sioux Falls.

 

He had torn his left Ulnar Collateral Ligament.

 

Tommy John Surgery.

 

“I had the MRI a few weeks later after we got back from Arizona, we were on a road trip at Augie. I was shagging foul balls, and our trainer came up to me and said we need to talk. I kind of knew what it was about. And she goes, ‘Well, it’s torn.’ I said, ‘Okay, well, so what’s the next step?’ There was a lot of things going through my mind at that time, and it was…it was pretty tough, mentally, to know that I was done for the rest of the year and probably the following year…it was a lot of emotion going through my head at that one instance. I still remember that to this day. I just kind of sat out there in the outfield. I was actually behind the fence, shagging home run balls, because Augustana’s fence is short. I just kind of sat there, and just kind of thought for the thirty minutes that we took BP.” Miks remembered.

 

Suddenly, the Huskies no longer had their ace. They needed someone to step up and fill the massive void left in their weekend rotation.

 

And boy, did Cal Giese step up in his redshirt sophomore season.

 

The southpaw went 9-2 with a 1.86 ERA and a 2.01 FIP across 13 starts and 72.2 innings, striking out 19 and holding opponents to a .238/.293/.275 slash line for a .568 opponent OPS. Giese struck out hitters at a 26.2% clip while issuing walks at just a 6.3% rate. He was named NCBWA Honorable Mention All-Central Region, ABCA/Rawlings Second Team All-Central Region, and First Team All-NSIC.

 

One of his many stellar starts was a duel with undefeated 2017 NCBWA Division II Pitcher of the Year Jacob Blank and the Augustana Vikings in game two of the 2017 NSIC Tournament. Giese struck out 8 over 6.0 innings, allowing 2 earned runs on 6 hits and 2 walks as both he and Blank took no-decisions in the eventual Huskies victory.

 

Giese then carved up Missouri Western State in the Huskies’ first NCAA Central Region Tournament game, firing 6.0 shutout innings of 4-hit baseball, walking none and striking out 7 Griffons as he won his ninth game of the year.

Following SCSU’s Regional exit, Giese rejoined the Rafters in the Northwoods League. After his first start, Giese felt something was amiss.

 

“I had some elbow pain in my first Northwoods start that summer, I think it was June 2nd or June 3rd. I threw 5.0 innings, still threw fine, but I said, ‘Hey, I’m going to get this checked out,’ and I stopped playing baseball for the rest of the summer. I had a couple MRI’s, nothing UCL damage, nothing wrong with it. I went to Dr. Buss in Minneapolis, and he said, ‘Your ulnar nerve is flipping over your bone in your elbow.’”

 

Giese underwent Ulnar Nerve Transposition Surgery on April 3rd.

The NCBWA wasn’t aware of Giese’s injury, naming him a Preseason All-American.

 

St. Cloud State battled through their 2018 season without their two All-American rotation anchors. Despite a pitching staff held together with pins and needles and just 10 healthy position players, the Huskies made yet another NCAA Central Region Tournament appearance, largely due to the emergence of new staff ace and then-junior righthander Dominic Austing.

 

Just before the 2018 NSIC Tournament, Sheldon Miks was cleared for short relief. The Huskies fell behind 7-3 at Bemidji State on April 28th.

326 days removed from Tommy John Surgery, the two-time All-American trotted out of the bullpen for his first appearance since the fateful start against SMSU.

 

He’ll never forget that moment.

 

“Warming up in the bullpen, I remember, we got down kind of early into that game, so I kind of knew I was coming in. Warming up, I felt pretty good, or good enough to where I was confident, and felt that my arm wasn’t going to implode on me. I remember running out to the mound, our parents had a little bleacher right by our dugout, and they gave me a pretty good applause. That was probably one of the coolest things that I’ve had happen to me in my career. Jogging out to the mound, hearing all those parents cheering for me…that was…something that I will remember for a long time.” said Miks.

 

Miks struck out the first batter he faced, swinging. Then, a flyout. He capped off the 1-2-3 inning by striking out Bemidji State great Scott Litchy on three pitches.

 

Huskies closer Nathan Strobel had gone down with an injury earlier in the season, so Miks was inserted as the new SCSU stopper out of the pen’. He picked up a save in the Huskies’ NCAA Central Region Tournament win over Central Oklahoma, allowing a single before striking out the last batter of the game.

 

The lefthander threw 3.0 innings in his 3 appearances of 2018, allowing just 1 hit and striking out 5.

 

Both Miks and Giese have been cleared to return to their roles as starters in their redshirt senior seasons. Miks will be almost two years removed from Tommy John, while Giese’s surgery is relatively low-impact on post-operation production.

 

With the NSIC’s move to three-game weekend series' in 2019, the Huskies are in position to boast arguably the best weekend rotation in the Nation. Dominic Austing will likely be named a Preseason All-American, giving SCSU three All-Americans on their weekend staff. Combining 2018 Division II NJCAA All-American Blake Flint, debatably the NSIC’s best swingman in Kyle Boser; Strobel, Matt Butler, Zach Walz, Zach Iten, Shannon Ahern, Aaron Hammann, DJ Wyman, Matt Osterberg, and Trevor Koenig, the Huskies have the deepest staff they’ve had in years.

 

After years of heartbreaking Regional exits, Miks and Giese think the missing piece has been found.

 

“I think this is the deepest staff of the teams I’ve been on, and I think having a strong bullpen and having options as starters. Yeah it’s great to have three or four locked-in starters, but having options of guys that can throw fifth, sixth, seventh games if needed, having that option and also knowing that games can be shut down with great guys out of the bullpen is one of the most important keys to making deep runs in the playoffs.” said Giese.

 

Miks concurred, “Yeah, this is hands-down the deepest staff I’ve ever been a part of. Even my freshman year, when we went 55-4 or whatever it was, we only had Gregory, Harrison, Spitzak, Diers, if you want to include me. I mean, that’s five guys…we have top to bottom, its 18 guys that can go out there and put up 3.0-4.0 scoreless innings on any given day.”

 

It’s not exactly the dream the St. Cloud State fans had five years ago, but the stars certainly seem to be aligning in 2019 as the program hunts for its first College World Series appearance.

 

The Next Great St. Cloud State Catcher

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11/05/2018 - 10:45 AM

The Next Great St. Cloud State Catcher
Toran Shahidi

In head coach Pat Dolan’s tenure at St. Cloud State University, elite catchers setting up shop in the Huskies’ lineup has been the norm.

 
Dolan’s top-rate catcher tradition began with the Nate Hammes era, spanning from 2008 to 2010. Hammes posted three straight seasons with an OPS of .888 or better, while driving in 40+ runs in 2009 and 2010. The former Concordia-St. Paul Golden Bear also gunned down runners at a 25.9% clip over his SCSU career. His backup in 2009, Jeremy Ische, was recently named head coach at Upper Iowa.
 
After Hammes’ graduation, Travis Enger took over as SCSU’s backstop in 2011, slashing .339/.397/.441 while posting a 32.6% caught stealing rate in his redshirt-freshman season and finishing his career with back-to-back seasons with a caught stealing rate better than 40.0%. In the following season, redshirt-freshman Michael Jurgella joined the fray, sharing time with the defensive-minded Enger from 2012 to 2014. In his four seasons at SCSU, Jurgella’s OPS never dipped below .870, and had an OPS of 1.000+ in his redshirt-junior and senior years. His senior campaign was a monster one, slashing .399/.482/.690 for a 1.172 OPS, 16 doubles, 2 triples, 14 bombs, and 64 RBI.
 
The Zach Metzger era began in 2016, as the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi transfer caught 42 games for the Huskies in his junior season. “Metz” gunned down baserunners at a 37.0% clip and posted an OPS of .774 while handling a pitching staff that contained two All-Americans in Reese Gregory and Sheldon Miks. Metzger’s 2017 senior season started splendidly, but an injury to his knee cut his year short, opening the door for junior Bemidji State transfer and St. Cloud Cathedral grad Bo Schmitz to take the reigns behind the dish. Despite the injury, Metzger clubbed 10 doubles and drove in 26 runs in 28 games, posting an OPS of .898 and leading the NSIC with a 50.0% caught stealing rate. Schmitz led SCSU with 58 runs scored, slashed .328/.414/.419 and belted 9 doubles, 1 triple, and 2 home runs while stealing 10 bags. As a senior in 2018, Bo capped off his Huskies career by slashing .359/.422/.558 and led the team with 8 home runs to go with 44 RBI.
 
As the Huskies’ 2018 campaign wrapped up at the NCAA Central Region Tournament in May, SCSU graduated four seniors: starting centerfielder Jackson Goplen, starting designated hitter Isaac Matchinsky, reliever Logan Sandgren, and Schmitz. Dolan and his staff had essentially wrapped up their recruiting by this time, with a talented class of prep stars and JUCO transfers coming in to fill the Huskies’ opening roles. However, one position remained unfilled.
 
The Huskies needed a veteran, high-impact catcher, and they had none on roster.
 
Enter Toran Shahidi.
 
The 5’6, 180-pound backstop spent five seasons as the starting catcher at Ames High School in Ames, Iowa, graduating in 2014. Entering his senior season, he had no idea if he would have the opportunity to play college baseball.
 
“Going into my senior season of high school, I didn’t know (if) I was going to play college baseball. I was 5-foot-6, 145 pounds…I had no chest on me, I had no arms, I couldn’t really squat that much, I couldn’t bench. I was weak. I was physically inferior to my competition at the higher levels. But…I outplayed my tools with heart, being smarter than everyone else. I did my best every single day, I worked my butt off. It was a goal of mine to get a college scholarship at the college level, I just didn’t know what level. Kirkwood came and saw me at a tournament, I did good, and they offered me a scholarship.” Shahidi said.
 
Kirkwood Community College lies in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, home of the Cedar Rapids Kernels, the Minnesota Twins Low-A affiliate. Shahidi’s intangibles, along with his talent, caught the eye of Eagles head coach Todd Rima.
 
Rima recounted, “The thing that stood out for us right away was two things. The way that Toran played the game. Tremendous energy, hard worker, loved the game, and then Toran just had an infectious personality. He was a guy that people wanted to be around, he was a leader, and we wanted that to be part of our program. That was a big piece of why we went after him, and he delivered that when he got here. He was exactly the kid that we thought we were getting, and we loved having him be a Kirkwood Eagle.”
 
Shahidi burst onto the scene as a freshman at Kirkwood, playing in 29 games and slashing .342/.473/.411 for an .883 OPS. The righthanded-hitting catcher walked at a 14.3% clip, clubbed 5 doubles, and drove in 9. His stellar arm flashed plus for the Eagles, nabbing 6 of 12 opposing baserunners. He spent the summer of 2015 in the Prospect League with the Quincy Gems of Quincy, Illinois, gaining experience with a wood bat. He struggled at the plate, largely due to a .191 BABiP.
 
Then, as he was preparing for his sophomore season in the fall of 2015, a nagging injury from the winter prior began to increase in severity.
 
Shahidi remembered, “In the winter of my freshman year at Kirkwood, there were me and a couple other guys that liked to play around with some hang cleans and power cleans after we got done with our team lift. I’m in there one day, doing some good amount of weight, I catch a clean and my right shoulder sinks down. I’m like ‘Ah, that’s nothing, I’ll be fine.’ About a week later, I start to notice bruises around my elbow, which is just blood pooling. I called my grandpa, he’s a physical therapist, and he says, ‘You probably tore something up in your shoulder, minor, you should be fine.’ Playing through the year, I couldn’t catch three or four games a week. I could catch two. I could catch two really good ones and I’d have nothing left. So I’m like, ‘Something’s up here. Maybe I’m tired, I’m not strong enough body-wise.’ I played the year, had a good year, then I went to summer ball and couldn’t throw anybody out. I’d get nothing on a throw to second…I go back to Kirkwood for my second year, and I’m feeling really good…I go in on my pro day. In high school I threw about 77-78 to second base. On my pro day I threw like 71.”
 
Soon thereafter, Shahidi went in to his strength coach for testing, and was told that he likely had a torn labrum. 
 
“I was like, ‘No, this is fake, this isn’t real, I’m probably fine, just needed rehab.’ I played the next day in our scrimmage as our DH, and I’m like eh, I feel fine. I was trying to beg my coaches to let me play, they wouldn’t do it because they knew I was hurt, so I call my dad to say something’s up here. One of my good high school friends, his dad runs all physical therapy out of Ames, Iowa…One of his good friends is the head surgeon for Iowa State. And he’s like, ‘Hey, we’ve got a catcher here, one of Sam’s friends, you need to help him out.’ So I’m set up for an appointment the next day on September 5th. I go in there for my appointment, and he says, ‘Yeah, you look really weak here. We need to get this checked. I want to set you up for an MRI here in an hour. I’m sitting here for a process that usually takes a couple weeks, and I’m getting it done in a day. They go in, they do the MRI, said they’d call me with the results on Monday. I wait till Monday, I’m sitting in class, get the call, walk into the hall, and he says, ‘Toran, you have a significant tear of your labrum. You’re going to need surgery.” And I’m just…I’m just sitting there in class, and I’m about ready to cry, because I know everything I’ve worked this hard for is right at my fingertips, and it’s going to be taken from me. I didn’t know what to expect. I knew the recovery, I knew the return rate was very, very low, it’s like 20% recovery return to anything like what they were. I call my dad, we go back in to talk about setting up surgeries and when we’re going to do it, and he (the surgeon) says, ‘I can’t tell you that you’re ever going to catch again. You could probably play first base.’ Look at me. I’m 5’6 and 155 pounds at this time. I’m not going to play first base. I don’t hit for power, I don’t run, so it’s not going to work out. They did the surgery on October 5th. I had some dark times prior to it, just…depression, kind of worrying about it and not knowing if I’m ever going to get back to it. Have surgery on October 5th, and ever since then I’ve known who I was. That’s the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, and I’ve grown as a man doing it.”
 
Because of the injury, Shahidi was forced to redshirt in 2016. Rima remembers seeing his catcher’s tremendous character shining through during the trying year.
 
Said Rima, “You know, I think that’s tough on anybody. Toran loves the game, he loves to play, I think it was tough at first for him…The thing I really admired throughout it, Toran became a leader in not playing. And he brought energy to games and practices even when he couldn’t compete, the guys rallied around him a little bit, and that I really, really respected. You learn a lot about a kid when times get tough. And the way he handled it, I don’t if I’ve had a kid handle it as well as he did. And just to see that he had an impact on our team, even when he knew every day that he couldn’t play, I thought that was pretty special. I’ll always remember that about Toran.”
 
After a long and arduous recovery time, Shahidi made his return to competitive baseball with the Wisconsin Woodchucks of the Northwoods League late in the summer of 2016. Despite going from facing zero college pitching for nearly a year to matching up against some of the best arms in the country, Shahidi hit .235 with a .316 on-base percentage in 9 games for the Chucks’. 
 
Something seemed off for Toran as he readied for his 2017 redshirt-sophomore campaign, discovering that he needed contacts right before Kirkwood’s season began.
 
Shahidi posted a .252/.404/.364 slash line at Kirkwood in 2017, cumulating in a .769 OPS with 9 doubles, 1 home run, and 19 RBI. He again impressed defensively at catcher, but he was quick to point out that he didn’t produce as well as he thought he should.
 
“I could have been better. I could’ve been a better teammate. I could’ve been better at the plate. I had so many opportunities to help my team win games, and I just couldn’t come through. I was trying to do things offensively that just didn’t work, I was really choppy through the zone, I was trying to hit way too many nukes, I was not myself…I wasn’t me. Defensively, I was really good, offensively, I was just disappointed with myself that I couldn’t help my team.”
 
After a tremendous showing at a showcase, shining defensively and going 3-4, Shahidi received a call from the University of South Carolina-Upstate Spartans, a Division I NCAA program in the Atlantic Sun Conference. He went on a visit, and quickly committed.
 
At USC-Upstate, Shahidi served as the everyday DH while backing up Charlie Carpenter, selected by Atlanta in the 26th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, at catcher. Shahidi burst out of the gate early, his average holding steady between .280-.310, but then a cold spell dragged his production down. He struggled mightily for roughly half a month, his average dipping to .230 on April 8th after the Spartans’ road series at the University of North Florida. Then, in Upstate’s midweek road tilt with UNC-Asheville on Tuesday, April 10th, Shahidi figured it out.
 
“I’m taking BP, and my first round is hit-and-run, and I hit a ball over the third base dugout, I hooked it so bad. I’m sitting there thinking, ‘What is going on? Alright, we’re going to make a few changes here. Just going to make a few simple adjustments.”
 
And boy, did those adjustments work. Shahidi went 3-5, falling a triple shy of the cycle while belting his first NCAA DI home run. Over his final 17 games, including the springboard start against Asheville, Toran slashed .338/.417/.473 for an .890 OPS to go with 5 doubles, one triple, and the lone home run and 11 runs driven in. All in all, Shahidi posted a .280/.405/.379 slash line at Upstate with 11 doubles, the triple and home run, and 19 RBI across 43 games and 41 starts. He started 12 games behind the dish, with the remaining 29 starts coming at DH. While at catcher, Shahidi gunned down 28.6% of opposing baserunners, didn’t allow a single passed ball, and produced a .990 fielding percentage.
 
Four years removed from high school, Shahidi decided he wanted to finish off his collegiate career closer to home. He mutually parted ways with USC-Upstate and began his search for the “perfect fit” for his fifth-year senior campaign. 
 
Enter the Huskies.
 
St. Cloud State had spent the 2017-18 recruiting period recruiting Toran’s younger brother, Tavan, to fill their hole at catcher in 2019. Tavan committed to the University of Maryland in June, and while the Shahidi family was celebrating Tavan’s commitment at dinner, the newly-signed Terrapin pitched his older brother an idea.
 
“We’re sitting at dinner, for him, and he says, ‘You know where you’re going yet?’ I say, ‘I have no idea.’ He says, ‘Why don’t you go to Cloud?’ I say alright, I’ll check it out, and he shoots Dolan a text at dinner. He says, ‘Hey, my brother’s a DI kickback looking for a school for his fifth year. No more than five minutes later am I on the phone with Dolan, and this guy keeps talking about ‘Slam dunks,’ and ‘Oh, it’s gonna be a slam dunk for us if you come here!’ And I’m like, who is this guy? This guy’s way too nice to be a baseball coach here.”
 
Three days later, Toran made the trip to the Granite City to visit St. Cloud State. Of course, he brought Tavan along with him. He was blown away by his experience.
 
“I’m walking around campus, and Doc is showing me all these things and talking about it, and I am so impressed by the campus here. The people, everyone I met was top-notch, it was truly great. I’m walking around and I’m like, ‘I could see myself just going to school here.’ It didn’t hurt that he explained that they had 15 seniors coming back.”
 
About two weeks after his visit, Toran called Dolan with the news that he was going to be a Huskie.
 
With fall ball recently completed, SCSU associate head coach Doc Swendra raved about what the Huskies had seen out of their new starting catcher.
One trait caught his eye immediately.
 
“Great leadership. That’s what we expect out of our fifth-year seniors, that leadership, but he has it. It looks like, even the younger guys look up to him. You know, when you bring in a guy for one year like that sometimes you kind of wonder if they’re going to be able to fit in with the group of guys that are already there. He had no problem getting involved and getting to be friends with our guys. It didn’t take that long at all. First thing that comes to my mind is that leadership, he comes in with that mentality that ‘This is what we’re going to do to get the job done,’ and everybody respects that. As far as his game, you know, he’s a solid hitter. He can certainly hit the ball. When you’re playing big-time Division I and you can hit .280, .290; 11, 12 doubles, you know he can certainly produce at the Division II level. And that’s great for us. Defensively, he’s a great defensive blocking catcher. Strong arm, all the way around we know we got ourselves a pretty good ballplayer.” said Swendra.
 
Locked in and ready to help lead the St. Cloud State Huskies into a 2019 season full of promise and expectations, Toran Shahidi knows exactly what he’s here to do.
 
“We’re not here to get participation trophies and all that. We’re here to win a National Title. That takes grown men doing grown men things. On a field. With a ball. And a bat. And throwing it by people. And hitting it over the wall. We’re going to win games here, and I believe that this is the best team I’ve been a part of in a while, with a great group of guys that truly love each other. I’m so excited to be a part of this, that these guys have accepted me, and Coach Dolan has given me this chance to come in and finish off my college career like this. It’s a dream come true.”
 
Podcast

Shoulders, Elbows, Mavericks and Larks: The NSIC’s Unheralded Elite Reliever

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10/15/2018 - 10:00 AM

Shoulders, Elbows, Mavericks and Larks: The NSIC’s Unheralded Elite Reliever
Matt Butler delivers a pitch in the 2018 NSIC Tournament

It hasn’t been an easy path to success for St. Cloud State’s Matt Butler.

In the summer of 2017, the idea of success was practically unimaginable.

Butler had just completed his redshirt sophomore season, one that saw him make just three appearances out of a loaded Huskies bullpen. After debuting with a scoreless outing in the Tucson Invitational against #7 Azusa Pacific, allowing one hit and a walk while retiring one, Butler gave up one run on 2 hits and a walk against Oklahoma Panhandle State. Fourteen days later, he had the worst outing of his career at Wayne State College. Five runs, all earned, on 3 hits and 2 walks. Butler retired just one man before being pulled. He didn’t make another appearance for the rest of the spring.

Now, the 2017 St. Cloud State bullpen certainly wasn’t an easy one for a sophomore to find a role in. Not since 2011 had Head Coach Pat Dolan wielded such a deep stable of arms. Much like that year’s foursome of closer Ryne Schwenke and setup men Austen Bosch, Chris Kubitz, and David Koenig; 2017’s pen’ boasted the dominance of Miles Nablo’s 2.37 ERA and 7 saves, Kevin Bolder’s 3.38 ERA, David Kroger’s 4.42 FIP, and Kyle Boser’s 3.57 ERA and .516 OPS against. Mixing in plenty of relief outings for Aaron Hammann, Shannon Ahern, and Zach Siggelkow, innings were very difficult to come by for a righthander that had struggled with injuries and consistency.

When Matt Butler committed to SCSU during his senior year of high school in Naperville, Illinois, he was certainly anything but “unheralded.” An All-Conference outfielder and pitcher, Butler threw for a 9-2 record with a 1.75 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 80.0 innings during his national summer schedule with the Naperville Renegades. Then, in his high school playoffs during his senior year, disaster struck. Although he isn’t exactly certain when the injury occurred, Butler remembers throwing a warmup pitch halfway up the backstop during one of his postseason outings. He went in to get his arm checked out over the summer, and was diagnosed with a SLAP tear of the labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder.

A SLAP tear, or a Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior, is a front-to-back tear of the upper labrum.

Labrum injuries are known as one of the most career-threatening injuries for Major League pitchers. Imagine a just-graduated high school senior receiving the diagnosis. Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus did an in-depth study of labrum injuries to professional pitchers in 2012 and discovered some jarring realities. Of the 67 pitchers he identified, 20 didn’t return to the Major Leagues, and 58% pitched in 50.0 or fewer innings following the surgery.

Butler underwent surgery seven days before stepping on campus.

“It was very disappointing. I wasn’t…in a very good place mentally. I was very upset because of how everything happened, but it worked out for the best.” said Butler.

So, instead of coming on campus as a true freshman, ready to get to work in fall ball with one of the top teams in the country, Butler came to St. Cloud in a sling. He ended up being far from the only redshirt in that 2015 class. Mat Meyer, Mitch Mallek, Judd Davis, Ryan Wesley, Cal Giese, Boser, and Sigglekow joined Butler as redshirts, although none joining him as a med-red. Sheldon Miks and Bolder were the only members of the class to play as true freshmen. Butler became extremely close with his teammates, finding positivity throughout his rehab in his bond with them.

He finally was cleared to throw off a mound near the end of the 2015 season, firing a few bullpens before heading back to Naperville after the Huskies’ loss in the NCAA Regional Tournament. Butler’s brother is a catcher, which provided an easy opportunity for him to continue throwing throughout the summer.

Healthy and hungry for an opportunity to show what he could do, Butler entered fall ball in 2015-16 as a redshirt-freshman just off a labrum injury. Although he felt he threw well that fall, he struggled to find innings on a staff that included two All-Americans in Reese Gregory and Miks, along with a deep bullpen anchored by Logan Spitzak, Nablo, and Kroger. Butler made just five appearances in his 2016 season, striking out 4 and walking 1 over 4.1 frames.

Despite an unsightly 8.31 ERA, his stellar 2.64 FIP, 1.15 WHIP, .235 opponent batting average and .594 opponent OPS gave the first hints of Butler’s potential.
Butler began his summer of 2016 with the Joliet Admirals, a summer collegiate baseball club. Two years after his shoulder failed him, this time his elbow began to bark. Lingering soreness kept him from consistency and effectiveness, as he walked 17.6% of the batters he faced in 4 appearances and a start with Joliet, posting a 6.75 ERA. He made the decision to shut himself down in hopes that the elbow would heal and to prepare for his redshirt-sophomore season.

Butler wasn’t quite 100% healthy for the start of fall ball in 2016-17, his elbow still nagging with pain. He entered the 2017 season without a defined role, and after posting a 32.40 ERA in his three outings, the elbow wasn’t the only thing bothering him as he returned to Naperville after the Huskies’ exit in the Regional.

In the summer of 2017, Matt Butler weighed a major life decision: did he want to continue playing college baseball?

“I was sitting at home, I didn’t know if I was going to come back. I was going to come back for school, but I didn’t know if I was going to play baseball. I was still pretty upset from that season…I would say I was pretty close (to retiring), I had talked to my parents about it and they were supportive about it…I was pretty close to it, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I didn’t want to give up on it. Everything I’ve said before about how close my class is, I wanted to finish it out with them.”

Butler returned to campus in the fall of 2017. Finally, everything seemed to come together for the redshirt-junior. One afternoon at practice that fall, then-SCSU Pitching Coach Brett DeGagne had a man-to-man conversation with his righthander. The message was simple: If you want it, go get it. Butler found himself with a revitalized focus on baseball. A full three years removed from his labrum surgery, and his elbow as quiet as could be, Butler raised eyebrows in the fall. His velocity was up. DeGagne moved Butler across the rubber, and worked on repeating his delivery in hopes of unlocking the talent hidden in his pitcher’s right arm.

Finally, in his fourth year on campus, Butler had a role in the St. Cloud State bullpen. He made his debut with a scoreless frame on Opening Day at Missouri Western State, working around a pair of walks. Then, on March 2nd in the Tucson Invitational, he had an outing that could have derailed him in the past.


3.0 innings, 8 hits, 6 runs, 5 earned, one walk, and just 2 strikeouts against Ottawa University.

However, despite the ugly numbers, there were immensely promising signs for Butler.

Facing a team in its first season as a program, scouting reports were scarce. Ottawa’s lineup was tooled to utilize their speed to beat out infield hits and force errors, and the Huskies infield defense was far from mid-season form. Butler worked at a mind-blowing 85.7% ground ball rate and a 64.3% soft contact rate in the outing, surrendering a miniscule 7.1% hard hit rate. Bleeders, rollers, and would-be outs did Butler in, not hard hit balls and nonexistent command.

DeGagne’s confidence didn’t waver in his righthander, but high-leverage outings were still out of reach for the middle reliever. He threw three consecutive scoreless outings to open NSIC play, punching out 2 and allowing just one hit over 2.0 frames. A low-leverage outing in an 8 run game at Minnesota-Crookston capped off that stretch.

Then, on a cold night in Bemidji, Butler got his chance to enter the ring with the Mavericks.

After the Huskies’ starter exited early and their first relief option struggled to record the third out in the fourth inning, St. Cloud State trailed archrival Minnesota State-Mankato 6-2. The Huskies were nearly out of relievers in the finale of the four-game series. They needed someone to step up and save the pen, and after a walk loaded the bases, Pat Dolan handed the ball to Butler. After walking Kato shortstop Luke Waldek on a 3-2 count, Butler bore down and struck out All-NSIC senior Dylan Dresel to leave the bases loaded. He went on to have the best outing of his career, going the final 5.1 innings and allowing one unearned run on 5 hits and a walk while striking out a career-high 6 Mavericks. Butler worked at a 53.3% ground ball rate, a 40% soft contact rate, and a 13.6% swinging strike rate. His sinker sawed off batters, and his curveball was sharper than ever.

St. Cloud State went on to lose the game, still earning a crucial series split with Mankato.

In Pat Dolan’s postgame message to the team on the bus ride to St. Cloud, he spoke about opportunities and making the most of them, then praised Butler’s patience in awaiting his, then running with it. Butler quickly ascended the bullpen, joining Zach Iten and the soon-to-be returning Miks as SCSU’s top high-leverage firemen.

Butler’s 2018 showed the promise of an elite reliever in the Northern Sun. Many casual baseball fans will see his 5.17 ERA and allow that to write the story of his season, but a deeper look into his numbers give Huskies fans a whirlwind of excitement for his senior season. An elite 3.04 FIP, a 25.7% strikeout rate, a 53.2% groundball rate, a 10.6% pop-up rate, and a team-leading 51.1% soft contact rate scream late-inning leverage man. He was a bit plagued by walks, with a 10.8% walk rate, but relievers are allowed to have higher base on ball totals, as long as they produce punchouts and ground balls. Butler also posted the second-lowest hard-hit rate on the staff at 19.1%, just behind closer Nathan Strobel.

So, what attributed to the high ERA? If all the above performance-indicating numbers were so elite, why the 5.17 ERA? It’s actually very easy to find the answer: BABiP, or Batting Average on Balls in Play. In the NSIC, which is statistically a very offensive-friendly environment, league average BABiP is roughly in the .330 range, or approximately 20 points higher than the MLB average. What does that tell us? Take a player’s BABiP, then look at their spray rates. Butler excels at using his plus sinker-curve combination at generating a great deal of weak ground balls and pop ups, which are far and away the most reliable out in baseball, and he avoids hard hit line drives and fly balls, which statistically go for the most hits. However, with a look at Butler’s stats, you can very quickly see that he was debatably the unluckiest pitcher in the NSIC a season ago, as his BABiP stood at a whopping .488, attributing to his .355 batting average against. As the “luck pendulum” swings back his way in 2019 (just as it did in Bismarck, which we’ll get to shortly), Butler’s BAA and ERA should both easily fall into much more dominant numbers.

After his 2018 Huskies season, Butler spent a short while back in Naperville with his family, then came back to St. Cloud to play amateur ball with Sauk Rapids. During the Huskies season, Brett DeGagne had been hired as the Pitching Coach for the Northwoods League’s Bismarck Larks, beginning in the 2018 summer season. DeGagne had discussed the possibility of bringing Butler with him to the Larks, and that came to fruition just a few weeks into June. The Larks needed a long reliever, and were headed through St. Cloud on their way to Rochester. Butler signed his contract and met the team at a gas station.

The Northwoods League is a 72-game summer collegiate league, widely recognized among baseball circles as best in the Midwest and second only to the Cape Cod League in terms of talent. With its excellent simulation of a Minor League season, the Northwoods is often a hitters’ haven. Right on que, Butler made his Northwoods debut in one of the friendlier hitting environments in the league, Copeland Park in La Crosse. Brought on in relief against a fearsome Loggers lineup that featured two 40-RBI men in San Diego’s Shane McGuire and Butler University’s Harrison Freed, Butler managed to go 3.0 innings while allowing just one earned on 5 hits, 2 walks and 3 strikeouts. Butler quickly ascended yet another pitching staff, ending his Northwoods season with a sparkling 2.63 ERA in 12 appearances and 5 starts. He was named Northwoods League Pitcher of the Night after throwing a “no-hitter” on July 29th against Eau Claire, firing 6.0 official innings of no-hit ball while striking out 7 and walking 4 in a 0-0 tie. Butler did allow a hit in the seventh, but the game was called due to rain at the seventh inning stretch, giving him the official no-hitter. Butler’s finest start came against the Mankato MoonDogs on August 4th, receiving a no-decision despite throwing 6.0 innings of 1-run ball on 3 hits and 3 walks while recording 8 punchouts versus one of the league’s most powerful lineups.

Across 37.2 innings with the Larks, Butler posted a 21.5% strikeout rate, a 12.7% walk rate, a 3.31 FIP, a 1.35 WHIP, and an elite .226/.329/.299 opponent slash line for a .628 opponent OPS. Finally, Butler’s luck factors went in his favor, as his BABiP cratered to a .294 mark.

Injuries and past struggles behind him, Matt Butler is prepared to enter the 2019 season as one of the NSIC’s most unheralded elite relievers. He’ll be one of the anchors for a bullpen that has the potential to be the best in Pat Dolan’s time at SCSU, and for Butler, only one thing is on his mind in terms of goals he hopes to accomplish.

“Most importantly, I want this team to go to the World Series. We’ve been close, made a regional every year I was here, we got a huge senior class, lots of senior leadership, I want to make that step and make it to the World Series this year…I’m ready to do whatever they ask of me, whether it’s a spot start, close, long relief, whatever they need, I’m ready to go, I just want to help this team win. And we’re going to win. So, I just want to contribute to it.”

Matt Butler’s path to success hasn’t been an easy one.

Some just might say it’s been the best one.

Podcast

SCSU Volleyball Upsets #10 SMSU in Four

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10/06/2018 - 7:45 PM

SCSU Volleyball Upsets #10 SMSU in Four
Rachel terminated a career-high 21 kills in the upset

The St. Cloud State Volleyball program hadn't defeated a ranked program on the road in nearly 20 years.

That streak came to an end on Saturday afternoon, as the Huskies (11-6, 7-4) took down #10 Southwest Minnesota State (13-6, 8-3) in four sets, 25-19, 25-20, 19-25, and 25-22.

The Huskies started off strong in the first set, holding the potent SMSU offense to hit a meager .184 on a 12-5-38 line. SCSU opened and closed the set on 4-0 runs, and never trailed by more than 2 points as they took the set 25-19. In the second set, the Mustangs found their offensive rhythm after moving to a 6-2, hitting .317, but St. Cloud State's passers continued their excellent play in keeping the Huskies in system throughout the set. Scoring runs again defined SCSU's dominance, as they picked up two 4-0 runs and one 3-0 stretch to give them a 25-20 victory. Southwest's defense tightened up and the Huskies struggled to get into system in the third set, as SMSU earned their only set win, 25-19.

The fourth set couldn't have opened any worse for SCSU, as they watched the Mustangs jump out to a 5-0 lead. The Huskies clawed back, again relying on their outstanding serve receive to side out on all but two SMSU serves after the 5-0 start. Micah Nier helped drive the Huskies' match-closing 4-1 run, racking up three consecutive kills before a ball handling error gave SCSU the 25-22 victory.

St. Cloud State's offense fired on all cylinders against an elite SMSU defense, beginning with Linsey Rachel's career-high 21 kills on .327 hitting to go with 11 digs. Sophomore setter Maddy Torve recorded a career-high 55 assists, 9 digs, an ace and a block. She did a tremendous job of involving multiple attackers and avoiding double blocks, and it really shined with the Huskies' middle hitter success. Nier terminated a season-high 11 kills on .435 hitting to go with 5 digs, 3 blocks, and an ace; while Marshall native Marah Mulso hit .368 with 8 kills, 3 digs, and 2 blocks. The two posted a combined attacking line of 19-2-42. Abby Templin added 9 kills and 4 blocks, serving as one of the key players on the Huskies' defense.

Junior libero Clara Krenz became third all-time in career digs at St. Cloud State while racking up 24 digs, 5 assists, 2 aces and a kill. Taylor Olstad added 14 digs, and Rachel Houle picked up a career-high 11 digs.

On the SMSU side, reigning National Player of the Year Taylor Reiss went 20-3-53 for a .321 hitting percentage along with 17 digs and 2 blocks. Meg Schmidt added 16 kills on .303 hitting, and Angela Young had 10 kills while hitting .345. Libero Kaylee Burmeister led the Mustangs defense with 22 digs.

St. Cloud State returns to action on Tuesday to wrap up their three match road swing at the University of Minnesota-Duluth at 6:00 p.m. As always, the match can be heard on the KVSC Sports Stream with Thomas Breach on the call, with Husky Den Pregame kicking off at 5:45 p.m.

Box Score

KVSC Sports Talks with Morgan Emmans, Bradi Yost, and Kate Kopeck

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10/05/2018 - 11:30 AM

KVSC Sports Talks with Morgan Emmans, Bradi Yost, and Kate Kopeck
Softball names seniors as captains

It was announced two weeks ago that Morgan Emmans, Bradi Yost, and Kate Kopeck would be the captaincy trio for SCSU Softball during the 2018-19 season. KVSC Sports had the pleasure of sitting down with all three to discuss about being named the captains, the team, as well as preview the season ahead.

 

LISTEN HERE

 

St. Cloud State Women's Hockey Season Preview

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09/27/2018 - 6:00 PM

St. Cloud State Women's Hockey Season Preview

The Women’s hockey team comes into the 2018-2019 season after finishing 8-20-5 overall with a 6-14-4 conference record last season. Eric Rud’s Club graduated four players last season, Forward Alyssa Erickson, Defensemen Brittney Anderson and Emma Turbyville and Goaltender Taylor Crosby.

The three senior skaters were the three captains for the Huskies last season and were all in the top 8 in scoring. Last season’s team broke a 37 game losing streak against the Minnesota Golden Gopher at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, took the number one team in the country to the wire and played in Hockey Day Minnesota. All of this occurred with the Huskies being .500 after Christmas break, which leads to positive traction coming into this season.

The Women’s team is bringing back a load of talent, from their tantalizing tandem in net to their trio of top scorers from last year. These ladies are looking for only their second winning season in program history, the only other time it has happened was in ’07-08 where they went 18-15-5. This won’t come easy as four teams in the Western Collegiate Hockey Conference are ranked in the USCHO Division 1 Top 10.

The talent that is still in St. Cloud is up and down the lineup. Tops on the team in goals, assist and points are all still in town. Senior Julia Tylke led the team in goals the past two seasons and was second her freshman year. Tylke has been featured on Sportscenter Top 10 for her scoring prowess and it should be on full display in her last season. Sophomore Laura Kluge led the team in assists (17) and points (24) last year. Kluge’s play will go a long way for this team as she is a focal point for the offense both with the man advantage and at equal strength.

These two should pace the Huskies this season, who need to score more than they did last season’s 52 goals. My breakout forward candidate for this season is sophomore Megan Roe who should see time on the third line this season. Roe only saw the ice in 10 games last year and was unable to put up any points but in high school she scored at just under a point-per-game pace her final two years.

The back end is where the Huskies were hurt the most by graduation where they lost their top two defensemen. This season they will be led by junior assistant captain Abby Thiessen. Thiessen transferred from the University Of North Dakota after their women’s hockey team was cut. She had 10 points from the back end last season playing on the top defensive pairing with Britany Anderson.

My breakout defenseman candidate for this season is sophomore Taylor Wemple. Wemple is a force at 6’0 ft. tall and right handed from the point but she was undisciplined last season earning a penalty about every three games, which was the worst percentage on the team. She should lock down a solid role on the second and third pairings as long as she cleans up the penalties.

The Huskies are stacked in net with two clear starting college goalies. Junior Janine Alder and Sophomore Emma Polusny were unbelievable last year, leading to a handful of Huskies team records going down in flames. They claimed the number one save percentage for a season in team history at .929; while the second was all the way back at .919. Alder was at 9.35 and number one in team history with 33 GA and 473 saves. She also set the team record for saves in a game stone walling 59 shots against Wisconsin. Polusny was right behind at number two in save percentage with .934, 43 GA and 605 Saves.

The tandem is also number one in team history for goals against average in a season at .2.27; while the second is at 2.55. This time Polusny is number one on the record board at 2.20 GAA, second is at 2.32 GAA and Alder was right there with a 2.42 GAA. Polusny got significant run in the second half of last season but I expect them to split time in net for most of the season if they are both still playing at such a high level like last season.

The fresh talent on the team should find the ice from day one, especially on the back end. Freshman Olivia Hanson is expected be the left handed shot that fills Anderson’s old spot on the top pairing. Hanson is from Minot, North Dakota but she played in Canada for the Notre Dame Hounds the past four years. Hanson had four goals and 18 assists for 22 points in 25 games last season. She added three assists to that total during eight playoff games. Hanson did have 30 penalty minutes last season, which could work against her this year. Hanson will wear the 44 jersey this season.

Freshman Taytum Geier is the second defenseman brought in this year. She is from Verona, Wisconsin. She played for the Madison Capitals the past three years. She is more of a defensive defenseman who isn’t afraid to throw her body around to block shots. Geier shouldn’t wear down this year as she is used to a brutal schedule that includes 67 games a year on average. Geier will wear the 16 jersey this year.

In net, freshman Karlie Ries comes in from New Ulm High School. She brings in the pedigree being the daughter of former Husky Bill Ries, who played and coached here in the 1980’s. Ries probably won’t see the ice this season barring injury but the future in net looks bright. Ries will wear the 30 jersey this year.

On the offensive side the Huskies brought in freshman Jenniina Nylund, Allie Cornelius and Sophomore McKenna Wesloh, who will redshirt this season as a transfer from Ohio State. Nylund appears to be the one who will have the biggest impact on the Huskies this season having found a possible spot in the top 6. Nylund can flat out put the puck in the back of the net. Last season for Team Kuortane she scored 23 goals in 30 games, adding in 16 assists in there. In international competition playing for the Finland U18 team the year before she scored eight goals in 16 games. Nylund will wear the 81 jersey this year.

Cornelius is the home town girl having played high school hockey for the St. Cloud Icebreakers. She had an amazing four years with the Icebreakers amassing a program record for points (162) and goals (102) while being a mere second in assists (60). She will most likely not see much ice time this season with her skill set leaning toward offense the top 6 being pretty crowded but look for her to use that elite offensive skill in the near future for Rud’s squad. Cornelius will wear the 6 jersey this year.

The top games you won’t want to miss at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center are as follows:

Oct. 12 vs. Minnesota Gophers

Oct 26 and 27th vs. UMD Bulldogs

Nov. 17 vs. Minnesota Gophers

Dec. 7 and 8 vs. Wisconsin Badgers

Feb. 1 and 2 vs Ohio State Buckeyes

The Huskies begin regular season play this weekend Sept. 28 and 29 when they fly out to Storrs, Connecticut to take on the University of Connecticut. The games will be at 6 p.m. on Friday and at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Neither of the games will be broadcast.

NOTES:

• This will be a good gage on where the Huskies are at with Connecticut earning two votes for the USCHO rankings.

• These teams tied 0-0 with Connecticut wining in OT on Friday and St. Cloud won 3-2 in comeback fashion on Saturday to start last season.

Local connection: Connecticut has one Minnesota native on their team in sophomore Natalie Snodgrass, who is from Eagan.

• Connecticut lost their exhibition game 4-2, while SCSU won theirs 9-0.

Softball Fall Preview with Paula U'Ren

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09/20/2018 - 1:20 AM

Softball Fall Preview with Paula U'Ren
Softball Head Coach Paula U'Ren

The SCSU Softball team announced today their captains for the upcoming 2018-2019 season. Seniors Kate Kopeck, Bradi Yost, and Morgan Emmans were informed by Head Coach Paula U’Ren on Wednesday of the voting results and will be the trio of captains that will lead the Huskies into their promising season ahead.

 

The captaincies were voted upon by the team and coaching staff and it seemed that after counting the votes that everyone agreed that the veteran experience on the team translated over to the be the best options for team leadership.

 

“It was great to see that the team had the same idea that our seniors are the leaders on our team…they take a lot of ownership in the program and they know how to play the Husky softball way” U’Ren told KVSC.

 

SCSU has already gotten their exhibition season in the fall under way and will continue to do so with a game against the University of Minnesota later this month on Sep. 28th, followed up with their Alumni game on Sep. 29th and then concluded by a game facing the Minnesota Moose on Sep. 30th.

 

KVSC Sports Director AJ Fredrickson had a chance to sit down with Head Coach Paula U’Ren to discuss her thoughts on what she’s seen so far and to preview the rest of the fall for the Huskies.

 

LISTEN HERE

 

 

Sports Schedule

  • Wrestling vs National Duals (Sports Stream)
    Jan 04, 2019 - 12:00
  • Wrestling vs National Duals (Sports Stream)
    Jan 05, 2019 - 12:00
  • Women's Basketball vs Minot State University (Sports Stream)
    Jan 11, 2019 - 5:30

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