by Tomi Thompson
Ball and glove in hand, and the desire to make another world series appearance, the nationally ranked MSUM club baseball team is up to bat for their spring season.
Team member Tyler Schmidt explained three years ago club baseball at MSUM became a part of the National Club Baseball Association.
As a member of the NCBA, the team will play to compete for a winning record and advance through a tournament series.
“That way we actually play for a tournament, we go to playoffs, we go to a world series,” Schmidt said. “Before we just kind of got together and played against some other teams.”
Teams in MSUM’s district include Lake Superior, Lakehead, University of Minnesota and NDSU.
All teams in the district play each other three times, and the team with the best record advances to the district playoff. Four more teams then battle in the district playoff, and the winner will advance to the college world series.
“It’s pretty fun,” he said. “We made it there last year and played against teams like Penn. State and Texas A&M.”
Head coach Matt Peck added the team’s schedule is mixed between other local teams as well as conference teams in order to keep it sharp in between big conference match-ups.
He’s been head coach the last three seasons, but has previously been a player on the team as well as serving as its assistant coach.
“We’ve got a roster of 24 guys this year,” Peck said. “We’ve got a lot of great depth at a lot of positions.”
He said having a group so large has tremendous advantages for a coach.
“It’s nice to have options as a coach writing a lineup,” he said. “I know that anyone we put in we’re going to have a shot to win the game.”
Peck said some of the team’s disadvantages include funding and practice space.
“About half of our budget is made up with player fees and fund raising, and it does make it hard when we’re looking at traveling to playoffs and other tournaments,” Peck said.
The team sometimes assembles their own field on the green space behind campus just to have the chance to play outdoors.
Even with challenges, his team’s strong performance gives him a positive outlook for the rest of the season.
“We’re just happy to have what we have, have the guys that we have, and be able to compete in our conference,” Peck said. “We’re looking to finish the last half of our conference schedule strong to clinch a spot in the playoffs again.”
Peck said the team was not known on the national level in the past but now has made a name for themselves.
“The past couple years we’ve been quite successful and been able to get some nice rankings nationally,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of team’s best looks, and teams are wanting to catch up to us now. It’s kind of nice to be on top of the standings.”
Team member Jeremy Bontjes said even though baseball is a club sport, it’s a high level of serious competition.
“It’s actually a competitive league,” he said. “A lot of people think of club ball as slacking off.”
Bontjes says the team is strong because they are a tight-knit group.
“It’s a really close group,” Bontjes said. “It’s actually really fun to come play with a good group of guys and also compete at the same time.”