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Former Lakers take their skills to the MIAC

Four recent Minnewaska graduates, Riley Thompson, Austin VerSteeg, Michael Gruber and Justin Amundson, are playing baseball in the MIAC (Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) and, at the end of February, all were in the new U.S. Bank Stadium on the first weekend of use for the home of cold-weather baseball.

Thompson, a 2015 graduate of Minnewaska, plays for Bethel. Michael Gruber, Austin VerSteeg and Justin Amundson are all of the class of 2016. Gruber is at St. John’s while VerSteeg and Amundson headed for Moorhead, home of Concordia.

Three of the four saw action under the glass ceiling.

VerSteeg saw the most action, starting at third base in Concordia’s 6-0 loss to Jamestown (ND) College in game one, then pitched an inning in the second game, a 1-0 loss for the Cobbers. Amundson pinch hit in game two for the Cobbers.

Gruber played second base in the second game of St. John’s doubleheader against Wisconsin-LaCrosse. The Johnnies lost that game, 6-0, after winning the first game by a 1-0 score.

Thompson did not see action as part of the Bethel pitching staff. The Royals split a doubleheader against Wisconsin-Stout, losing game one, 1-0, then winning game two, 8-0.

Since the opening weekend at the end of February, Gruber has seen more action, getting five starts at second base and shortstop for the Johnnies, who are 9-5 after returning on March 10 from a six-day trip to Florida. Gruber is hitting .278 in his five starts, with two runs scored and two RBIs.

VerSteeg has had a good amount of success thus far for the Cobbers, who are 7-6 on the season. VerSteeg has been in 11 games as a third baseman, hitting .231 with five runs scored. As a pitcher the former Laker right-hander has been in three games, starting two, and has a 2-1 record. VerSteeg’s 1.29 ERA is tops on the team.

VerSteeg threw a complete game, three-hit shutout against NCAA Division II Concordia-St. Paul on March 11. That performance earned VerSteeg the MIAC pitcher-of-the week award.

In limited action Amundson has appeared in two games, pinch hitting in one and pinch running in the other. He did score a run as a pinch runner.

Thompson has yet to get into a game for the Royals but will be a significant part of the Royals JV pitching staff.

The MIAC is a very good baseball conference, and the four players in the league are some of Minnewaska’s finest. The former Lakers and their teams will be squaring off in the months of April and May.

Bethel opens MIAC conference play with a doubleheader at St. John’s on April 1. Bethel plays two at Concordia in Moorhead on April 5. Concordia ends their regular season with a doubleheader against St. John’s on May 6.

Best of luck as the season progresses to  Riley, Austin, Justin and Michael!

Contributed photos

The Starbuck Times
The Starbuck Times