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Stockert challenges himself at DI

Alexandria’s Blake Stockert (front) poses for a picture with his Alexandria baseball coaches (left to right) Russ Hinrichs, Chris Koep, Kevin Engebretson and Jake Munsch in a North Dakota State University baseball cap after signing as a preferred walk-on with the Bison last week. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

Alexandria’s Blake Stockert had some partial scholarship offers from the Division II level, but he wanted to challenge himself at the next step up.

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That’s why he made his commitment to the North Dakota State University baseball team official last Thursday after signing his paperwork to become a preferred walk-on for the Bison starting next fall.

“I didn’t really think I could get this far,” Stockert said of his decision. “Of course I worked hard and everything, but I didn’t think it was going to pay off this far. I’m just very appreciative of everybody who helped me through it all.”

Many of those people were there with him as Stockert signed in front of his mother, Carolyn, his father, Brian, and his brother, Carter, along with Alexandria baseball coaches Russ Hinrichs, Chris Koep, Jake Munsch and Kevin Engebretson. In doing so, he will join Osakis’ Drew Fearing on the Bison’s roster next fall after Fearing signed with NDSU last Wednesday.

“I just decided that this would be the best choice, even though it wasn’t the best [moneywise],” Stockert said. “I just felt like it would be the right place to is Division I and if you can say you went Division I in something, it’s a great honor. Division II isn’t far away, and I would pretty much put them at the same level, but just from the start, it was the top place that I really looked at and it really never faded from number one.”

The senior left-hander features a hard fastball that he mixes with a curveball, slider and change-up. He used that repertoire to post a 3.00 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 35 innings pitched for Alexandria this past spring. He broke onto the scene as a sophomore by posting a 1.03 ERA and 34 strikeouts in just 20-1/3 innings.

“The ball jumps out of his hand and he’s competitive,” Hinrichs said. “I think maybe that’s something, if you didn’t know Blake, you maybe wouldn’t recognize with him because he is pretty easy going and he never lets anything get to him, but he’s very competitive and he wants to do well. He wants to do well for his team.”

That competitiveness is on display by the fact that he wants to challenge himself at the Division I level. The Bison were his top choice from the time the recruiting process started. He said the coaches there told him they liked his velocity, his pitch mix and the fact that he’s a left-hander. They ultimately convinced him that NDSU was the right place for him over other options.

“They pretty much liked everything and hopefully I can keep impressing them,” Stockert said. “I know I don’t have to worry about making myself look amazing in front of everyone else. I’m just going to do my own thing. Keep working hard but not try to change anything. I just want to keep it simple and keep getting it up to the level I can get to.”

Stockert said his focus this year will be to fine tune his change-up so he doesn’t have to rely so much on his curveball. That’s all part of the progression that he knows he needs to make to succeed at the next level.

“College baseball, those opportunities are few and far between,” Hinrichs said. “I think for him now, he recognizes the challenge. There’s nothing that surprises me with Blake. I definitely feel like he’s somebody that can compete at that level, and he knows the things he has to do. He has a plan, and he knows what he has to work on.

Stockert can now shift his focus to wrapping up his high school career with a strong senior season. He formed a solid one-two punch with former senior Beau Backhaus this past spring. Now he’ll be looked upon as the ace of this staff as he takes on an expanded role with some big expectations in 2014.

“Blake will step into that role now and be that first guy on the mound to start the year,” Hinrichs said. “He’s going to lead us and show the younger guys what it takes. I also think his role is going to increase on our team. He’s going to have a chance to play in the field at times and he’s going to be able to hit some after just pitching for the last two years. We’re going to have a really nice team, but he’s definitely going to be a leader on the mound.”

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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