When you think of the powerhouse programs at St. Cloud State University, wrestling and hockey are usually at the top of the list, but there is one squad that is often overlooked, even though they are perennially one of the nation’s best teams. The St. Cloud State baseball team are owners of 171 wins the past four seasons – they have averaged over 42 wins per season.
This year has been no different. With the team off to a 18-6 start they are currently third in the NSIC. With one of the most powerful offenses in the nation, it is not hard to see why the team is able to reel off win after win, with a ten game winning streak that saw the Huskies outscore their opponents 144 to 35 runs in those ten games. Now in the midst of another seven game streak with the offense leading them once again.
Even with the team scoring runs seemingly at will, Head Coach Pat Dolan says the key to their success begins on the mound, “it starts on the mound and we got four really good games on the mound against Wayne State and hopefully we can keep that up,” said Dolan.
Kept it up they have, over their current streak they combined pitching efforts of Austin Caspersen, Dominic Austing, Aaron Hammann, Shannon Ahern, and Kevin Bolder have done wonders to keep the opponents from crossing the plate as team’s are averaging less than two runs per game over the current streak.
However, it isn’t just the starting pitching that’s doing the job, the bullpen has done their part as well. With guys like seniors David Kroger and Miles Nablo, and sophomores Kyle Boser and Zach Siggelkow being able to come out in the late innings and shut the door, it helps take pressure off the start when they know that from the sixth inning on they have the support of the bullpen. Kroger, who is thriving in his bullpen role this year to the tune of a 2.31 ERA in 11.2 innings says he loves getting the ball in those late game situations.
“I like the pressure. I’m the kind of guy who wants the ball in those situations,” Kroger said. “I would say I feed off of it, along with the adrenaline that comes with pitching in those spots it makes it a little easier to be confident knowing you have such a great defense behind you,” he said.
No matter how you look at it, the team is just playing outstanding ball right now with both the offense and the pitching coming together to obliterate opponents.
To make the run even more impressive, all of this has been without the team’s number one starting pitcher, Sheldon Miks, who was lost to an injury before the season. Two guys that Dolan highlighted as stepping up are freshman starters Hammann and Ahern, who are a combined 4-1 on the year, with both going seven strong in their last two starts.
“Shannon Ahern and Aaron Hammann have really really thrown well for us… traditionally you don’t like to have true freshmen in those starting pitching roles, but both of those guys are gonna be good ones,” Dolan said.
After losing seniors Brandon Arnold, Karl Sorensen, Kyle Lieser, Zach Hoffmann, Zak Hoffman, and Reese Gregory, one man who has really stepped his offensive game has been center fielder, Jackson Goplen.
Even after hitting .337 last year in 43 games, Goplen has absolutely exploded this season. In 22 games this season, Goplen is hitting an absurd .486 in 70 at bats. And he hasn’t just been getting hits, Goplen is slugging the ball too, already matching his season total last year with three homeruns, add three doubles and two triples into the mix and that does wonders for an offense.
When you can hit yourself into scoring position it just makes it so much easier for the next man up to step into the box and do his thing. As he was a starter on the team last season, Dolan knew he would get good play from the junior. “We knew we were gonna get some good performances out of Jackson. He’s really had a great start to the year, he puts in a lot of work and he’s a talented player,” Dolan said.
It hasn’t just been Goplen, when you bat .348 as a team, you’re going to have a few guys who can really swing the bat. North Dakota transfer Cooper Maas was a guy Dolan was able to point out as having a great season as well, the junior is hitting .383 with 25 runs scored. “He’s played unbelievably. And what’s awesome is he can play about five different spots. He’s really had a great year,” said Dolan.
As far as expectations for the rest of the season, Dolan and the Huskies are going to continue to take it game by game. “We play a lot of baseball. You just gotta take it game by game, and really inning by inning and when it comes down to it pitch by pitch. I think we’re a talented young team that is gonna do pretty good as the season goes on,” Dolan said.
With the boys on the diamond continuing to play lights out on the field, it is clear that the sky is the limit for the cardinal and black.
*Statistics accurate as of noon, April 2.