Alexandria’s Brock Anderson is fitting in just fine in his adjustment from being an MVP for the Cardinals’ baseball team in 2018 to the Division I level in college.
Anderson played in all 43 games his freshman season at North Dakota State University last year. Included in that was 41 starts on his way to hitting .277 with 30 runs scored, 21 RBIs and a single-season school record 39 walks.
“I’d say in the start of my year as a freshman, I was definitely nervous and eager to get out there and show my ability,” Anderson said. “It’s really different when you come back for your sophomore year and you’re more familiar with things. I just felt more mature at the plate.”
That comfort with the talent at the college level started to take hold for Anderson as his freshman season progressed. Then as a sophomore, it was becoming abundantly clear that he belonged at that level before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the spring sports season.
Anderson led the Bison (8-9) in hitting through 17 games with a .317 average. His runs scored (9), hits (20), doubles (5), walks (13) and on-base percentage (.434) all led or tied for the team lead in those categories among regular starters.
Anderson got off to a slow start through an opening four-game series in Hawaii where he went 1-for-13 with one walk. He took off from there, tallying 19 hits over his next 13 games.
“I think everybody on the field has to have a chip on their shoulder, knowing that they belong,” Anderson said. “Having that confidence really does help because baseball is such a mental game.”
A position switch
Anderson was dominant during his senior year of high school when he hit .424 with a .561 on-base percentage. In addition to the big numbers at the plate, he played center field on days he wasn’t pitching.
Anderson played that outfield position at a level that would suggest he would stick there in college, but he said he was willing to move anywhere on the field to get into the lineup right away at NDSU. The Bison coaches found a fit for him at first base.
“The transition was better than I thought it would be,” Anderson said. “It’s a way tougher position in my eyes than outfield, just because everything happens at such a faster pace. But it’s been good, and I really enjoy it.”
Anderson said he played first base for a little bit in elementary school, but had been stationed in the outfield ever since. He adjusted well to the move, committing just four errors with 352 putouts and 23 assists as a freshman. Through 17 games this year, he added a perfect fielding percentage with 107 putouts and eight assists.
“I miss the outfield, but first base is a fun position as well,” he said.
Back on the mound
Anderson was also getting a chance to be back on the mound.
He made just one appearance as a pitcher last season after dominating for Alexandria as a senior. Anderson led the Cardinals in 2018 with a 1.00 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 42 innings.
Through the start of 2020, he made four appearances for the Bison. Anderson struck out eight and worked around seven walks in 9 2/3 innings to post a 2.79 ERA.
“It’s awesome,” Anderson said of pitching again. “It feels just like when I was back in Alex.”
Anderson has a fastball that sits in the mid-to-upper 80s and a curveball that he uses a lot. He also incorporated a changeup into his mix to help keep batters guessing. He’s settled into a prominent role as an every-day player for the Bison, but he’s confident that he can help on the mound when needed, as well.
“I like to contribute both ways for the team, however I can help out the most,” he said. “When it comes to practice, I usually get my hitting and fielding done first, and then I head over with the pitchers and stay longer after practice to get all that work in.”
A look at the future
The Bison got off to a slow start to the non-conference schedule, but NDSU had won five of seven games before the season came to a halt.
Included in that was a 7-3 win over the University of Minnesota on March 3 where Anderson went 2-for-5 at the plate with a run scored. The Bison were taking some momentum into their Summit League schedule, and Anderson had high hopes for this group.
“Team wise, my goal is to get the Bison back into a regional tournament,” he said. “I think we have the ability to. This year, I thought we did. That’s the main goal. I think winning the championship would be the most important thing to everybody on our team. Individually, it's to keep progressing, getting better and doing as much as I can to help the team win.”
Anderson knows if he does that, good things will happen for him too. Continued improvement after an already impressive start to his career could mean opportunities in baseball after college.
“I think you just focus on the here and now for right now,” Anderson said. “I would absolutely love to play professionally. I know it’s been harder with (COVID-19) because they just reduced the rounds (in the Major League Baseball draft) from 40 to five. It’s making it a lot tougher.”
Cutting the June MLB draft by 35 rounds was done in an effort to cut costs for teams amid the financial struggles associated with the pandemic. Exactly what professional baseball will look like in a year or two remains to be seen.
Anderson knows there’s a long way for him to go on the field before he reaches that point, but he’s off to a good start in his transition to NDSU.
“The dream is still there,” Anderson said. “I’d like to go as far as I can and play professionally.”