BEMIDJI, Minn. – A group of Bemidji State University baseball student-athletes are working on their game in summer wood bat leagues after helping the Beavers reach 20 wins for the third consecutive season in 2013.
Sophomore Joey Hanowski (INF/OF, Little Falls, Minn.) signed a 10-day contract with the Willmar Stingers of the Northwoods League May 27. In six games and 14 at-bats, Hanowski totaled two hits with a double and a run scored. He drew three walks and struck out just once. Playing third base, a spot he played 33 games last season, the Little Falls, Minnesota native totaled three putouts with an assist and no errors.
Following the 10-day contract, Hanowski returned to his town ball team in Little Falls.
“My experience with Willmar was extremely beneficial and made me more aware of what I need to work on,” Hanowksi said. “The players and coaches in Willmar helped a lot with the little things and they saw where I could improve in certain areas of my game. As time went on I felt a lot more comfortable. Even though my batting average didn’t show it, the last half of my at-bats I put a lot of good swings on balls.”
Former BSU student-athlete and coach, P.J. McIntee, who played from 2005-09 and served as a graduate assistant coach from 2009-11, is currently in his second season as an assistant coach for Willmar. He has spent the last three seasons as an assistant at Southeastern Community College in West Burlington, Iowa. In 2013, the Blackhawks established a program record with 45 victories and made an appearance in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II World Series.
Playing its 21st season of summer collegiate baseball, the Northwoods League is the largest summer collegiate baseball league in the world with 18 teams, featuring the top college players in the nation and North America. All players in the league must have NCAA eligibility remaining in order to participate. Each team is operated similar to a professional minor league team, providing players an opportunity to play under the same conditions using wooden bats, minor league specification baseballs, experiencing overnight road trips and playing nightly before fans in a stadium.
Five Beavers are playing in the Walter Johnson League with the Salina Blue Jays in Salina, Kansas. Sophomore Tyler Nelson (SS, Hayfield, Minn.) and redshirt-freshman Mason Bellew (1B, Bemidji, Minn.) are in their second seasons with the Blue Jays and are joined this season by junior Matthew Wixon (RHP/C, Fairbanks, Alaska) and freshmen Luke Benge (RHP, Lakeville, Minn.) and Parker Havel (RHP, Grand Rapids, Minn.).
After leading Bemidji State and earning All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Second Team honors with a .366 batting average last season, through 13 games (as of June 13), Nelson was leading the Walter Johnson League with a .524 average. He totaled 22 hits in 42 at-bats with four doubles, eight runs scored and six RBIs. Bellew had played in nine games and owned a .238 batting average with five hits, two runs scored and an RBI. Returning from injury, Wixon made his debut May 30 and posted a 2-for-3 performance at the plate with two runs scored and a double.
As of June 13, Havel had appeared in 10.2 innings, which was third on the team. He owed a 5.06 ERA and had allowed a .279 opposing batting average. Havel had allowed 11 runs (six earned) on 12 hits with six strikeouts and just two walks. Benge had started three games (0-1) and totaled a team-high 12.2 innings. He owned a 2.84 ERA and allowed a .294 opponent batting average. He had allowed eight runs (four earned) with six strikeouts.
Through 13 games, the Blue Jays were 4-9.
Established over 30 years ago, the Walter Johnson League provides summer opportunities to aspiring semi-pro and college athletes. The league is affiliated with the National Baseball Congress (NBC), which will complete its 80th annual World Series beginning in July.
Also, freshman Matt Mastantuono (INF, Mississauga, Ontario) is playing for the Melville Millionaires (Melville, Saskatchewan) of the Western Major Baseball League. He has played in eight of the 14 games and has totaled four hits, four runs and four RBIs in 23 at-bats while playing infield. In the field he owns 32 assists, 15 putouts and one error for a .979 fielding percentage.
The Millionaires are 6-8 this season.
The Western Major Baseball League (the “WMBL”) is Canada’s pre-eminent summer collegiate baseball league. The predecessors to the WMBL date back to 1948. Over the past 56 years the league has gone by such names as the Canadian-American Baseball League, the Northern Saskatchewan Baseball League, the Alberta-Saskatchewan Baseball League, the Western Canadian Baseball League, the Saskatchewan Baseball League and since 2000, the WMBL.
With a 21-22 overall record (15-15 NSIC), BSU reached the 20-win plateau for the third consecutive season, which stands as the first time in program history. The Beavers just missed out on the NSIC Tournament, as BSU finished ninth in the final NSIC standings behind Wayne State College (18-15 NSIC). Bemidji State graduates just four seniors from its 2014 squad.
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Nestled in Northern Minnesota’s wooded region and located on the shore of Lake Bemidji, Bemidji State University sponsors 15 varsity athletic programs with NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, while its 13 NCAA Division II programs hold membership in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).