SIOUX FALLS — It was March 29 in Omaha, Neb., when Nate Baumann of Marshall hit his first home run in college baseball.
Last weekend was the “turning point” for the Augustana College freshman. He has played in 11 of the Vikings’ 18 games. He’s started the last eight.
AC has a 5-13 record, losing its share of games in the final inning.
“A lot times, we played good baseball, but the breaks didn’t go our way,” Baumann said.
The Vikings had a spring trip to Missouri-Arkansas.
“That’s when the flash floods were happening there,” Baumann said. “We were supposed to get seven games in. We only got three in.”
The Marshall native has gotten an opportunity at the collegiate level after adversity struck the Vikings.
“We had a key injury to our second baseman (Drew Hightov),” Baumann said. “It was in practice, and we were in a bunting drill.”
AC has tried several different combinations at second base. Another catcher has been tried at third base, meaning Baumann would get a chance at catcher.
The Vikings recruited four catchers — Baumann wasn’t on the list. During fall ball, his team didn’t have a catcher, so he volunteered.
“They asked me if I ever caught in high school,” Baumann said. “I told them that I did. After that, I was the second catcher.”
Baumann caught as a junior at Marshall High School, then he moved to center field as a senior.
Although he had previous catching experience, he had to relearn certain aspects of the game.
“I had to get used to the flow of the game and in calling pitches,” Baumann said. “Those things never leave you. You may lose your mechanics throwing to second base, but it eventually comes back. It had been a while since I did catching drills. I’ve done that in practice. That’s helped.”
Baumann is getting more comfortable calling pitches.
“Coming in, I didn’t know any of the pitchers, obviously,” he said.
He played against left-hander Don Morrison from Pipestone, but he was unfamiliar with the rest of the AC pitching staff.
“It took me a while to know the staff and how they go about their game,” Baumann said. “We’ve gotten better in forming relationships — in how the game is going to go and with what pitches they are comfortable with.”
Right now, he’s on the same page with the pitchers.
“It’s the best place to call pitches from,” Baumann said. “It’s easier than calling pitches from the dugout. You can get in a rhythm. Behind the plate, you see how the hitters react.”
Baumann also pitched at Marshall High School, so he had a good understanding of the pitchers’ mindset while he was catching.
He was recruited as an outfielder in college.
At Marshall High, Baumann was used as the leadoff hitter to take advantage of his speed as a baserunner. He stole 13 bases last year.
Later, he was moved to the No. 3-4 spots in the lineup, and he proved to be a dependable clutch hitter with runners in scoring position.
Last year, he put up big numbers for the Tigers in being selected to the All-Area baseball team. He hit .413 and had 11 doubles, four triples, one home run and 21 RBI. Hitting has never been a problem for Baumann, who was selected to Team Minnesota roster for the Midwest Classic, which showcased the top juniors in high school baseball.
“I struggled the first few games,” he said. “I talked to my coach (Dennis Boe). In the (batting) cage, we went over my swing and got it figured out.”
The last 5-6 games of the Midwest Classic, Baumann hit with power, hitting the ball to the gaps in left-center and right-center.
Those subtle changes in his swing did wonders.
“We tweaked (my swing) and made it shorter,” Baumann said. “My timing was off, and I was thinking too much. It got easier after that.”
He’s leading the Vikings with his .389 batting average. He’s collected 14 hits in 36 at-bats. He has driven in eight runs.
His slugging percentage is .611, thanks to three doubles, one triple and one homer. His on-base percentage is .421.
Baumann is adapting well to the speed of college pitching.
“You adapt as much as you can,” he said. “At this point in the season — after Legion and high school — it seems like baseball again. They can put me (in the lineup) anywhere they want, as long as I’m in there.”
Senior guard Jordan Radel scored nine points in New London-Spicer’s 59-51 win over Crosby-Ironton in the Class AA state championship game.
He is the son of Chad and Melissa (Penske) Radel.
Chad, a Wabasso graduate, pitched fastpitch softball several years at Vesta.
Melissa was a starting forward on Echo-Wood Lake’s District 11 championship girls basketball teams in 1985 and 1986.
Senior forward Jessica VanLoy (Wabasso) of Dakota State has been named to the NAIA All-America second team in basketball.
She’s now playing center field with the Trojans’ softball team.
Senior guard Beau Bredeson of Marshall has been selected to the Academic All-State boys basketball team.
The 26th annual Minnesota state high school All-Star basketball series is in St. Cloud Friday and St. Paul Saturday.
Keith Klawitter of Cedar Mountain-Comfrey will coach the Blue team, whose roster includes Jordan Hicks of Rochester Mayo.
Randy Klasen of Elk River will coach the Maroon team, whose roster consists of Tramel Barnes of Montevideo and Reed Sallstrom of Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop.
John Carlson of Litchfield will coach the Green team, whose roster consists of Wade Powers of New London-Spicer and Cody Schilling of Ellsworth.
Reggie Perkins of Minneapolis Washburn will coach the Gold team, whose roster consists of Jordan Cunningham of Mankato East and Casey Sussenguth of Willmar.