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Friday, April 21, 2017

Record Collection

Coley Ries is closing in on 100 career wins.
Individual success in sports is often up for interpretation.

However, when it comes to Minnesota State senior softball pitcher Coley Ries, “success” is undoubtedly one word to describe her remarkable record-breaking softball career.

Ries is the Maverick record holder for career wins (99) and strikeouts (571), as well as the most strikeouts in a single season (434).

“Coley has obviously been an important part of the program. She’s brought a lot of success to the program,” said Lori Meyer, Minnesota State's veteran head softball coach. Ries’s teammate, sophomore Cori Kennedy added, “Coley is a very selfless player and she always puts the team first. She’s a really good leader on our team.”

Hailing from Eagle Lake, Minn., Ries, 22, is a product of Mankato East High School, where she graduated from in 2012. Following her high school career, one in which she went 85-18 with 786 batters while leading the Cougars to three Big 9 championships, she committed to continue her softball career at Minnesota State.

“I chose MSU because, being from Mankato, it’s cool to be able to play in front of your community,” Ries said.

Her decision to attend a local university also stems from the importance of family and great coaches.
“Having my family close by, being able to attend all the games, and all the money and time they’ve put into my career throughout the years, it just seemed right to be able to have them be there,” Ries said. “I was also motivated by the coaching staff. I knew that they wanted to make me better,” she said.

After spending her first season red-shirting, it was during the 2014 campaign where Ries’s long list of achievements on the softball diamond for Minnesota State began. She made 37 appearances, including 29 starts in as a freshman, posting a 23-8 record to go along with a 1.92 earned run average. She was named Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) Pitcher of the Year that year.

Ries followed up on a great freshman campaign by appearing in 41 games and constructing a 21-16 record as a sophomore. She fanned 297 batters, a school single-season record. She earned All-NSIC Second Team Honors.

Ries didn’t slow down in 2016. She went 29-7 in her junior season. She compiled 1.18 ERA and fanned 434 batters in establishing a school single-season record.

That performance was good enough to earn her NSIC Pitcher of the Year and First-Team All-NSIC honors.

So far in 2017, the senior right-hander holds a 21-2 record with a record-breaking win coming Saturday against Bemidji State, when Ries became the all-time wins leader with 98. With a win Tuesday over Southwest Minnesota State, she now has 99 wins.

“100 wins is a goal of mine, so knowing I’m approaching one of my goals is really cool, but I’m not trying to think about it too much,” said Ries. The Mavericks next game is Saturday, when they host Northern State.

What Ries has done on the field during games is one thing, but off the field could potentially be even bigger.

“The community can relate to Coley because they’ve been able to follow her throughout her career, and what also adds to that is, she’s just a great person. She’s a great ambassador for the community, Minnesota State and for the sport of softball,” Meyer said. “She’s a tremendous role model for young girls just because of how she interacts with them and her passion for softball,” she said.

Ries graduates May 6 with a degree in mass media, but is unsure what she wants to do.

“I hope to get into coaching, maybe help out the coaches here. Nothing is really set in stone yet. I’m really trying to focus on finishing the year and see where it takes me,” she said.

  Contributed by Collin Wilmes, Athletic Communications intern

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Maverick From Down Under

Right-handed pitcher Bryce Collins
is in his first season with the Mavericks
It has been a long journey for new Minnesota State junior right-handed pitcher Bryce Collins as he has traveled far from his hometown of Brisbane, Australia to play collegiate baseball in the United States.

The story of how he ended up heading to America to play started with a professional scout that approached him after one of his games.

“A professional scout came up to me and asked if I had any aspirations to play pro ball and I told him that I did,” Collins said. “He then got into contact with the recruiting coordinator at Indian Hills Community College in Centerville, Iowa and then proceeded to exchange emails with him."

Within six hours there was a mutual agreement in place that would have Collins attending school in Iowa in the coming fall where he ended up playing two seasons before transitioning Minnesota State. At Indian Hills he was voted Freshman of the Year in 2015, where he started eight games while pitching 53 innings and recording 45 strikeouts. He also helped lead Indian Hills to a second-place finish in conference and region in 2015.

The recruitment of baseball players in Australia is a little bit harder for guys to get noticed. Collins also stated that “not as many people play it and it isn’t as popular there. Other sports take more of a priority such as rugby and cricket." Considering that baseball may not be as popular in Australia, Collins felt as though playing for his country would give him as good of an opportunity to get seen as any.

He played for Team Australia at the U19, U17 and U13 World Series which took him to places such as Taiwan, Mexico and the United States (Maryland). He also went up against current big league pitcher Julio Urias of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“The experience playing for my country was awesome, you have a lot of pride putting that jersey on,” Collins said. Playing in Taiwan and Mexico were very unique experiences because the areas that they played in were not the best so to speak. Every time their team left the hotel while they were in Mexico, they had to have police escorting them to and from the field. The ability to experience playing with the national team prepared him for coming over to the United States and not being intimidated.

“Everything over here is pretty similar to Australia which helped me feel very comfortable when I first got here,” he said.

Adjusting to a new culture has been a lot of fun for Collins. He has enjoyed meeting new people while also being able to get a degree playing baseball. An exercise science major, Collins has appeared in six games in his first year with the Mavericks, all in relief.

Currently in the midst of a 17-game winning streak, Minnesota State is rated 21st by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and stands 21-4 overall.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Old School

Minnesota State senior defenseman Carter Foguth is in his
second year as team captain with the Mavericks
Minnesota State has racked up 94 wins, won a pair of MacNaughton Cups, claimed a pair of Broadmoor Trophies and made two trips to the NCAA tournament during Carter Foguth’s time in Mankato.

Take a closer look at the type of game that the senior defenseman plays and the more appreciation you gain for the role he’s played in the success the Mavericks have enjoyed the last four seasons.

Foguth, a Fenton, Mich., native, is Minnesota State’s active career games played leader and while he’s closing in on 140 appearances, it’s not his career goals (4), assists (17) or points total (21) that make your eyes pop.  A “stay-at-home” defenseman, Foguth has led the Mavericks in blocked shots the last three years and has ranked amongst the team’s plus-minus leaders every season during the course of his career. And while those numbers are impressive, it is his physical presence that certainly is noticeable to the opposition as head coach Mike Hastings likes to point out.

“Scoring goals, setting up goals, those are the things that get people out of their seats,” said Hastings. “Carter does a lot of the unappreciated things as a player. If you were go around and ask around the WCHA, who’s one of the harder guys to play against, there will be a lot of coaches that would say they’re not going to miss Carter not being in the lineup. We definitely do miss him if he’s not there. He defends, he keeps players away from the net, he’s the guy who says “you’re not going get another whack at the puck” and if you’re coming between the dots you’re going to pay a price. He’s been one of the best defensive defensemen in the league in the last three years.”

Building on that, Hastings, who is in his fifth year as head coach of the Mavericks, is quick to add another characteristic Foguth brings to the table that is difficult to quantify.  The characteristic of leadership.

“Carter’s been a guy that you are comfortable with being in charge of your team. He leads by example and he does things that are admirable. He’s honest and truthful. He’s a great self-evaluator.  And those are qualities that are sometimes hard to find in people. He has a lot of qualities that you look for if you are going to build somebody as a leader. We were hoping he would end up being that type of player for us when we recruited him and he’s done that and more. Unquestionably he’s a leader and those types of people are hard to find.”

The soft-spoken Foguth, a two-time team captain who is slated to graduate with a law enforcement degree this spring, says his role with the team and as a captain specifically, has grown during the course of his career.

“I’ve learned a lot along the way. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve taken being a captain more seriously. Both on the ice and off the ice.  As I’ve gotten to know Coach Hastings and having had other guys as captains my first two years, it’s been one of those deals where you learn expectations. I first served as an alternate captain as a sophomore, then becoming a captain the next year was the biggest change for me as it meant a different level of responsibility. One of the most important things is communicating the message from the coaches to the players and vice versa. That’s part of what I’ve learned and it’s important to be transparent with the guys.”

And relative what the expectations are as a player, Foguth harbors no illusions.

“It’s nice to score a goal every now and then, but that’s not my game. I take a lot of pride in shutting down the other teams’ offense. As a younger player, at first it was making sure to get into position, getting in that lane, being physical and having a good stick. But sometimes it seems that shots just seem to gravitate toward me in the defensive zone, but it’s positioning and anticipation.”

Again, as Hastings has said, nothing fancy. “As a person he’s five stars as far as I’m concerned. We put a lot of responsibility on him and he’s done a great job. He had a history of being  to handle himself before he came here as a junior hockey player. And he’s expanded on that as a member of our program here. He plays hard, he’s mentally tough and he cares for others. I’m not sure you could ask any more of a player and of one who is expected to be a leader for your team.”

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Hallowe'en 1991 and the Mavericks

Following a late October storm that buried Mankato
with 20 inches of snow, the Maverick football team
worked to clear Blakeslee Stadium for a game vs. Augustana
This Halloween will mark the 25th anniversary of the worst snow storm to hit the Midwest since November of 1940. 

Overnight on Thursday, October 31, 1991 Mankato was hit by a snowstorm that left almost two feet of snow across Minnesota. The storm kicked off an unusual set of events, including some which wreaked havoc with the Minnesota State football team, which was steaming toward a spot in the NCAA Division II playoffs.

The Mavericks entered the Oct. 31st weekend standing 3-3 in North Central Conference games and was looking for a home win against a University South Dakota side that was 1-6 on the season. That was before the storm hit, making roads impassable as virtually everything in southern Minnesota, along with most everywhere else in the upper midwest, ground to a halt for several days.

And for the first time in the history of the storied NCC, which dated back to the 1921 season, all football games across the conference that weekend were cancelled.

“Trick or’ treaters were done early that night and the snow started falling," said Don Amiot, the Athletic Director for Minnesota State at the time, recalling the onset of the storm. "In the morning we couldn’t get anywhere, everything was shut down.”

A sophomore quaterback named Jamie Pass, a Chicago native who had just transferred from Western Michigan, was new to the area and was about to find out what Minnesota winters were about.  "The highways were closed down because of the storm and no one could move. Canceling football games? I’ve never seen that before,” said Pass.

Unfortunately, Saturday's game vs. the Coyotes would not be rescheduled. The Mavericks had two remaining home games, and although the snow had stopped falling, it was still causing problems. With venerable Blakeslee Stadium still submerged in snow and ice in the following days, almost incredibly it appeared that another crucial home date was in jeopardy. After searching for a Plan B, the DakotaDome in Vermillion, S.D., emerged as a potential site for the Mavericks to "host" it's next opponent, South Dakota State.

The DakotaDome, which ironically is the home field for the University of South Dakota, was busy due to to the fact that is was indoors. But if teams could get there, it was one of the lone facilities in the area that had a playable field.  The Dome was set to host three other football games that afternoon, so the Mavericks and the Jackrabbits would not kick off until after 9:30 p.m.  Serving as the home team and with the department working as it normally did when it ran a home game (the public address announcer, scoreboard and score clock operators, chain gang, press box staff, etc., all travelled from Mankato to Vermillion to work the game), the Mavericks prevailed in the unusual contest, winning 23-0.

The last hurdle to jump in order for the Mavericks to make the NCAA postseason was to find a way to win a final home game against Augustana. This game had originally been scheduled for the UNIDome at the University of Northern Iowa. But, with the entire Maverick football team pressed into snow removal service, work began on clearing Blakeslee Stadium with snow blowers and shovels. Amiot understood that if the University was to use heavy equipment to clear the fields that it could have resulted in damage to the turf. So the job was left to Runkle and the football team and the mission was accomplished.

And although most of the snow from the storm had been cleared from the field, the snow banks created by shoveling led to some interesting plays.

“The sidelines were a mess, the field was soft and you couldn’t play a real football game," said Dan Runkle, who coached the Mavericks from 1981-2001.

The sidelines were packed with snow and big plays were the difference as the Mavericks dispatched the Vikings by a 28-14 margin. The all-important win gave the Mavericks a 7-3 regular season mark and a spot in the postseason, their second such foray into the NCAA tournament under Runkle.

“It was a fun, strange year. To have a game cancelled, another played over two days (the game vs. SDSU in Vermillion didn't end until early in the morning) and make the playoffs.” said Runkle.

Undoubtedly the 1991 season will be remembered as one in which the Mavericks made the NCAA playoffs - one of sixteen teams playing football in the DII postseason. MSU defeated North Dakota State 27-7 in Fargo before falling to Portland State in the quarterfinals in finishing with an 8-4 final record. 

For those that experienced it though, the infamous "Hallowe'een Blizzard of '91", will be hard to forget.

                                                  contributed by Chris Langlois, Athletic Communications intern

Monday, October 24, 2016

Back to the Future

Tim Jackman played for Minnesota State from 2000-02
before embarking on a pro career that saw him play for
six NHL teams in 12 seasons. He's now a student-assistant
coach for the Mavericks
Most kids who grow up playing the game of hockey in Minnesota dream of one day making it to the National Hockey League.  

Born in Minot, N.D., Tim Jackman’s father worked for the railroad and was often transferred all over the nation for work.  Following a few years in Brooklyn Park, Minn., and a year in Texas while Tim was in seventh grade, the family moved back to Minneapolis, where his hockey career began to flourish. And following two years of varsity hockey at Park Center High School and a short stint with the Twin Cities Vulcans of the United States Hockey League, where he had 11 goals and 19 assists in 25 games following his senior year of high school, he headed to Mankato for his freshman year of college hockey with the Mavericks.

“I loved the opportunity they were willing to give me by taking a chance to let me play right after my high school season so I thought that it would be a great step in my development as a player,” said Jackman on his decision to play college hockey for Minnesota State.

Jackman played two seasons for the Mavericks where he had 25 goals and 28 helpers in 73 games and it was his after his freshman season in 2001 when he was selected in the second round, 38th overall, by Columbus in the 2001 National Hockey League Draft.

He said he had known Columbus was interested after having a few meetings with them before he was drafted.  “Growing up I wasn’t much of an NHL fan, I watched the North Stars a little, and was a big Wayne Gretzky fan. But I really watched a lot of college hockey though, so I never envisioned myself being drafted or playing in the NHL, I just couldn’t see it.  It all just happened pretty fast.”   

He signed with the Blue Jackets following his sophomore year with Minnesota State, but looks back fondly of his time as a student-athlete in the Key City. “The community and the fans were great,” said Jackman.  “The buildup of the weekdays going into the weekend and with the opportunity play college hockey on Friday and Saturday nights with a great group of guys was special.”  He also noted that the college hockey model was an important ingredient in his development as a player with the practice to games ratio, along with strength and conditioning during the year serving in his growth as an athlete.

Jackman began his pro career with Syracuse, the American Hockey League affiliate for Columbus.  He played there for a year and a half before making his NHL debut on December 20, 2003 in a game against the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul. By doing so, he became the first former Maverick to play a game in the NHL.  

Last year, at the age of 33 and going into his 12th pro season, Jackman went to camp with Anaheim, but was experiencing back problems. Following two games with the Ducks he was sent to San Diego of the AHL where he played another 22 games before surgery ended his year. Having forged a professional career and playing a physical game that saw him tally 32 goals and 43 assists for 75 points in 483 games over a span of 12 seasons with six different NHL teams, it was at this point where the big forward decided he needed to start turning his attention to things outside of his hockey career.

Now at the age of thirty four he decided to return Mankato, starting a new chapter for his family, which includes his wife, Chelsey, an 18-month old son and another child on the way.

With a desire to finish his degree, but wanting to continue on with the game, he received the perfect opportunity from Mike Hastings and his staff, joining Minnesota State as a student assistant coach.

“This is something that I have really gotten excited about,” says Jackman, who assists with practice, reviewing game tape and strategy.  “I just want to be someone that can help pass the message to the players, and sometimes just encourage the players when I see something by trying to explain it and help them out by relating it to what the coaches want.  I just want to be a positive influence to the program as a whole.”  By working with Hastings and the rest of the coaching staff, Jackman characterizes his work as "great opportunity to learn some new things. I truly admire the way Coach Mike Hastings carries himself and treats his players. He is very honest with his players, he really cares.  It’s great for the players to know it’s a safe place to make a mistake because as long as you’re playing hard and learn from it, and you’re having fun with it that’s all that matters.”

So in a back-to-the-future kind of way, it’s hitting the books for Jackman. And while he’s working toward the next phase of his professional career, one in which he will likely teach and coach, he’s also assisting young student-athletes prepare for the next aspect of their careers.  For Tim Jackman, it’s come full cycle.
                                    contributed by Connor Wachtel, Athletic Communications intern