Bemidji State baseballers continue playing careers
Monday, July 19, 2004

BEMIDJI, Minn. - Former Bemidji State University baseball players Shaun Ross and Brian Beuning are headlining a sizable group of former Beavers who are continuing successful baseball careers beyond their collegiate playing days.

Ross has signed with the Beatrice (Neb.) Bruins, and play in the Missouri-Iowa-Nebraska-Kansas League as part of the National Baseball Congress. The Bruins have 12 former players in the major leagues and have more than 100 alumni in the minors.

“The opportunity to play at the next level and to continue chasing the dream of playing in the big league is one that does not come along very
often,” third-year BSU head coach Chris Brown said. “To have Shaun picked up and given this opportunity is something special. He deserves this opportuntiy and will make the most of it.“

Ross was a three-time First-Team All-NSIC selection for BSU from 2002-04. In 2004, he had a team-high 13 doubles and was second behind Jon Czech with seven home runs and 33 RBI. His .557 slugging percentage also was second on the team behind Czech. Ross tied for the team lead with 14 multi-hit games, including one of just three four-hit games by a BSU hitter in 2004. He finished second behind Czech with eight multi-RBI games, including a BSU season-high five RBI at Concordia-St. Paul on April 4, 2004.

Ross was one of the NSIC’s best at throwing out baserunners, erasing seven runners in just 12 starts at catcher for the season.

Beuning joined Ross in Beatrice for a short time, and in late June was signed to a professional contract by the Kalamazoo Knights of the Frontier League. Beuning’s deal with the Knights made him the first BSU baseball alum to ink a pro contract since former pitcher Shaun Zenner. Beuning has played 14 games for the Knights, with 23 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched and a 2.91 earned-run average.

In 2003, Beuning earned First-Team All-NSIC honors for the second consecutive season as BSU’s starting shortstop and closer. He led the conference in pitching appearances (19) and games finished (18) and was second in the league with six saves. For the season, Beuning posted a 2-3 record with a 4.45 ERA. He struck out 36 batters in just 28.1 innings pitched (11.43 K/9 IP) and walked only three batters all season. Beuning’s three walks issued were the fewest of any pitcher in the NSIC with at least 25 innings pitched.

Beuning finished 33rd in the league in hitting with a .288 average in 2003. He had 40 hits, three doubles and six RBI. He also led the team and finished seventh in the league with 12 stolen bases.

In addition to Beuning and Ross, four other BSU players are playing in high-leve summer wood-bat leagues. Brian Weller is playing for the the Alaskan League’s Matsu Miners in Palmer, Alaska while Tony Klaers, Matt Middendorf and John Grindeland are playing for the Southern Collegiate Baseball League’s Lenoir (N.C.) Oilers.

“This is big for them and for our program,” Brown said. “It proves that we are bringing in high caliber athletes and are affording them the opportunity to continue their playing careers after college. I hope this is the start of a long line of Beaver baseball players that move on to the next level of baseball.”

Five members of the 2004 BSU baseball squad, Chris Dvorak, Tyler Norland, Tim Voigt, Joe Ferguson and Jared Podraza recently completed a trip to Belgium and Holland were they played in the Robur 58’ International Baseball Series in Apeldoorn, Holland for USA Athletes International. The team was coached by Brown and BSU graduate assistant coach Mike Benke. The team took 3rd place, losing in the semi-finals to the eventual tournament champions.

“The opportunity to compete overseas against teams from all over Europe is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Brown said. “It not only gives the guys a chance to play against international competition, but to experience other cultures and meet people from all over the world. For most of the guys on the team it was their first time traveling internationally, so that in itself was a new and fun experience.

“The people of Apeldorn made our travel experience one to remember,” Brown said. “The atmosphere at the ball park was unbelievable. It was the big event in town, so the guys got to be on TV, sign autographs, run a day camp and be treated like All-Stars. The opening and closing ceremonies had over 1,500 in attendance from the town and surrounding areas and was televised live. We also got to visit many tourist destinations and experience the local lifestyle, so the trip was about more than baseball. It was a life experience that these guys will remember forever.”