Former Raiders shine on collegiate diamonds

The Roseville Area High School baseball program has turned out a number of high-quality players in recent years. Four of them had award-winning or championship-aiding seasons this spring with their respective college programs while a fifth made his contributions from the dugout. Here’s a look at what each of them accomplished.

Ben Podobinski, University of St. Thomas

Podobinski earned plenty of individual accolades and also helped lead his team to a top-three finish nationally.

The Tommies advanced to the Division III College World Series for the second time in Podobinski’s three seasons at St. Thomas. In both trips to Appleton, Wisconsin, St. Thomas finished third.

Podobinski, the starting center fielder, was named to the all-tournament team after going 9-of-18, including two doubles. He walked three times, scored six runs and drove in two.

St. Thomas went 2-2 in the World Series with victories over 2013 national champion Linfield (Oregon) and Baldwin-Wallace (Ohio) and losses to Wisconsin-Whitewater and Emory (Georgia). Whitewater went on to win the national title.

The Tommies advanced to the World Series by winning a regional tournament in Moline, Illinois. St. Thomas went undefeated in the regional with wins over Rose-Hulman (Indiana), Buena Vista (Iowa), DePauw (Indiana) and Rose-Hulman a second time.

Podobinski was a first-team all-region selection.

St. Thomas qualified for the regional by winning its 10th Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference playoff championship in the 15-year history of the event. The Tommies also won the MIAC regular-season title for the 12th straight year.

Podobinski was named first-team all-MIAC and also landed on the conference’s all-defensive team. He started all 48 of the Tommies’ games and was second on the team in batting average at .437. He led the team in at bats (190), runs scored (68), hits (83), triples (9) and stolen bases (28). Podobinski compiled a fielding percentage of .990 while prowling center field.

Podobinski reached the 200-hit milestone in only three seasons and tied a school record for hits in a season. The 68 runs scored set a new school record and the nine triples are a new MIAC record. He also now owns the school record for triples in a career with 14.

One particularly hot stretch for Podobinski came in the middle of April and resulted in him earning MIAC Baseball Player of the Week honors. In a six-game span that saw the Tommies win all six games, four by one run, Podobinski batted .630 (14-of-22) with a double, three triples, a home run, 13 runs scored, four steals and four walks.

Austin Colvard, College of St. Scholastica

Colvard, a sophomore for the Saints, missed nearly half of his team’s games this season but that didn’t keep him off the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference awards list. Colvard was a first-team all-UMAC selection for the second consecutive season.

Colvard didn’t play his first game until April 5, but started every one of St. Scholastica’s conference games. He batted .349 and finished second on the team in runs scored with 33 (The team leader had 35).

Those numbers helped St. Scholastica win its 18th consecutive UMAC regular-season championship and its 17th straight conference tournament. The Saints also appeared in the Division III NCAA tournament for the 10th straight year.

St. Scholastica won the UMAC tournament by going 3-0 with wins over Bethany Lutheran and Northwestern twice. The Saints went winless in the NCAA regional held in Moline, Illinois, with the losses coming against Buena Vista and DePauw.

Ryan Busch, Georgetown University

Busch is a junior shortstop for the Hoyas and earned an academic honor earlier this spring. He was named the Academic All-District first team by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Majoring in art, Busch is a two-time Big East Academic All-Star and added the academic all-district honor to his list of accolades. To be eligible for the academic all-district teams, a player must maintain a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.30, be a starter or key reserve on his team and be at least a sophomore academically.

Busch started 41 games at shortstop in 2014 and was third on the team with a batting average of .317. He led the Hoyas and was third in the Big East Conference with 13 stolen bases. Busch was second on the team in on-base percentage (.400) and tied for the team lead in doubles with 13. His 39 runs scored in 41 appearances gave him the Big East lead in runs per game (0.95).

Busch was named to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll on April 7 for his performance in a four-game stretch early in the month. He hit .500 (9-of-18) with a .550 on-base percentage. He scored six runs, drove in five, hit three doubles and stole three bases while raising his batting average 40 points and his slugging percentage 55.

Ben Buerkle, University of St. Mary’s

Like Podobinski and Colvard, Buerkle was a starting center fielder at Roseville and has taken those talents to college. A freshman at the University of St. Mary’s, Buerkle nabbed a pair of impressive post-season honors.

Buerkle was named the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rookie of the year and also landed on the NCAA Division III All-Midwest Region third team.

Buerkle earned those honors by leading St. Mary’s in seven different offensive categories, including batting average (.405). He scored 32 runs, amassed 61 hits, belted two home runs and drove in 33 runs. His slugging percentage ended up at .561 while his on-base percentage was .467. He recorded at least one hit in 36 of the 40 games he played and reached base safely in 39 games.

In addition to the aforementioned awards, Buerkle was named the St. Mary’s male athlete of the week three times during the spring. One of the awards came in the final week of the season when he hit .619 (13-of-21) in a five-game stretch. Two of those hits were doubles and he added three runs scored and five runs batted in.

St. Mary’s qualified for the MIAC tournament for the third straight year and Buerkle went 7-for-13 in three playoff games.

Matt Busch, Bucknell University

Busch spent the spring as a volunteer assistant coach with the Bison baseball team. He was a four-year player at Bucknell and is pursuing a Master’s degree in college student personnel.

Bucknell won the Patriot League playoffs and qualified for the Division I NCAA tournament. The Bison went 1-2 in a regional held in Charlottesville, Virginia, with a victory over Liberty and losses to Virginia and Arkansas.

During his playing days at Bucknell, Busch appeared in 84 games, had 42 hits and scored 28 runs. He earned a spot on the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll three times and made the Academic Patriot League Team as a senior. As a freshman, he was a member of Bucknell’s NCAA tournament team.

He is the older brother of Ryan Busch, who plays college baseball at Georgetown, and Dan Busch, who plays college ball at Butler.

Brian Meyers can be reached at bmeyers@lillienews.com.

 

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