Century's Benson has big-league skills

Century senior Josh Benson.

After Rochester Century senior Josh Benson wrapped up a solid spring baseball season a year ago, he planned to turn his attention to basketball.

Instead of joining the Legion team, Benson wanted to play on a traveling summer basketball squad. But coaches and friends convinced Benson to focus on baseball instead.

And now he’s glad they did.

Benson played well enough last summer to gain the attention of many college coaches, and in the fall he accepted a scholarship to play college ball at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D.

"He’s a late bloomer," Century coach Keith Kangas said. "I think he probably could have been a Division I player if he waited (to sign), but I know eduction is very important for him and Augustana will be a great fit. He should be able to play right away."


Before college ball, though, Benson, who is a 4.0 student, hopes to lead Century into the Class AAA state baseball tournament.

The Panthers lost several top hitters off last year’s team, but they return the bulk of their pitching staff.

Benson is set to return as the starting shortstop, a position he took over mid-season last spring. He excelled, hitting better than .400 and driving in 11 runs.

Benson’s game rounded into shape last summer, thanks to Kangas — two Kangases, actually. Keith and his son, Blake Kangas, played major roles in Benson’s development.

"They helped me so much," Benson said. "I’d say last summer was the most fun I’ve ever had playing baseball, and it was because of coach Kangas and his son. We had a close group, too."

Kangas said Benson’s potential is sky high as both a hitter and a fielder.

"He has above average Major League speed and arm strength," Kangas said. "He has a baseball body, very athletic and gap-to-gap power. I think he could eventually be a drafted player if he continues to develop. He reminds me of Dan Lyons."

Benson missed his sophomore summer season after being hit in the face by a baseball. But he’s healthy coming into his final season in a Panthers uniform.


"We want to get to state, but I know that’s everybody’s goal coming into the season," Benson said. "We feel like we can be right in the mix. The Big Nine is very tough this year; there are a bunch of good pitchers. It’s not going to be easy, but we have the potential to be good."

Benson moved from right field to shortstop during last season. It was a position he played all throughout his youth playing days, so the transition wasn’t overly difficult.

"It was a little tough getting back into it at first, but you get confidence as you play there more and more," he said.

The Century standout will be counted on this year for leadership, on and off the field. Benson is eager to tackle that leadership role.

"I’m excited for the challenge," Benson said. "We have high hopes for the season. If we can hit, and the pitchers continue to develop, we’ll be right in the mix. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do, and it’s that much more exciting knowing it’s my senior season."

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