Riverland pitcher set to sign with four-year school
By Scott A. Kolb
Post-Bulletin, Austin MN
Riverland Blue Devils ace pitcher Brady Banse will be continuing his baseball career after junior college as he signs today to play for the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
This is an NCAA Division II program, and Banse will join the pitching staff for the 2009 season. Banse will pitch his sophomore season in the spring with the Blue Devils.
The signing this afternoon by Banse to attend a four-year school is another feather in the cap of coach Scott Koenigs’ program at Riverland. One of his main recruiting tools is tell a high school player they will get noticed at Riverland and the coach is delivering on his promise to incoming freshmen.
Pat Wolard, who was the standout catcher for the Blue Devils the last two years, will be playing at St. Cloud State University next spring.
"Brady is taking advantage of the early signing period from Nov. 12-19, and it should be a great opportunity for him in Omaha," coach Koenigs said. "We have some other guys that will likely sign later in the spring, and it’s exciting for our program to see them move on to four-year schools."
Last season, Banse led the Blue Devils with a 7-1 mound record and a 2.15 ERA, but he wasn’t the only quality pitcher on the staff.
Brandon Huhn, a sophomore pitcher, has had contact from several Division II teams and even a Division I school. He throws his fastball near 90 m.p.h.
Kyle Starkey hit .402 last year for the Blue Devils and with the statistics expected to be even better in his sophomore campaign, he’ll also have four-year schools to choose from after the spring season. Chris Lindemann has been recruited by a few of the NAIA schools in the Dakota Athletic Conference.
Andy Behnke is another big hitter as he posted a .344 average last season for the Blue Devils. Behnke is also a solid outfielder on defense. Shane Lang is a left-handed pitcher and college coaches are always looking for southpaws. All of these talented players will be back for their sophomore seasons at Riverland.
Hard work paid off
Not only did Banse have a superb freshman season with the Blue Devils, but he also hung around town for the summer months and played amateur baseball with the Austin Blue Sox. This gave him more pitching experience going against the tough hitters in the wooden bat league.
"Brady found the weight room and got bigger and stronger during his first season," Koenigs said. "He wasn’t heavily recruited out of Forest Lake (Minn.), but I saw his potential. He’s put on 15-20 pounds of muscle, and filled out his 6-foot-2 frame. He also has the right mindset for a pitcher, and isn’t afraid to battle out there on the mound."
Success for a junior college coach isn’t only about wins and losses; the respect factor from other coaches is a big part of the sell to a recruit.
With players from Koenigs’ program making the transition to four-year schools, the number of coaches making calls to Riverland has increased over the last few years.
Top notch facility
The completion of the Riverland baseball complex has also enhanced the reputation of the Blue Devils program. The sod has grown in nicely at Dick Seltz Field, and even the old college field has been transformed into another viable baseball park. Going right out the backdoor of the school, Koenigs has access to one of the nicest baseball facilities in the state.
"We’re making strides on where we want to be with the program," Koenigs said. "We’re getting respect from four-year coaches, and that has helped me recruit more talented players. This will my seventh year coming up in the spring, and the team went 19-11 last season, which was one of our best records in a long time.
"It’s a definite advantage to have the new complex right next to our school. When I take kids out to Dick Seltz Field, they’re impressed by the facility and they want to come here to play baseball."
Banse is scheduled to officially sign his paperwork for the University of Nebraska-Omaha at 3:30 p.m. today in a room adjacent to the Riverland Gym. This is a big step for a young baseball player, and another leap forward for the Riverland baseball program.