Lumberjacks baseball: Hirt, Rutledge commit to BSU baseball program
BEMIDJI -- Recently graduated Bemidji Lumberjacks baseball players Ryan Hirt and Collin Rutledge have signed Letters of Intent to join the BSU program and BSU head coach Tim Bellew is happy to have the left-handed pitches on board.
"Collin came onto the scene as a pitcher during the past year and Ryan is a big-game pitcher who is not afraid of the spotlight," Bellew said. "Both Collin and Ryan realize that good things are happening with the BSU program and I think both of them enjoy staying home and having the opportunity to compete at a high level.
"Both of them will be great additions. We're excited about our program and about where BSU baseball is moving. We are a young team and now we are adding a couple more talented players to the mix."
As a sophomore at BHS in 2012 Hirt was among Minnesota's elite high school pitchers. He fashioned a 10-1 record that season and the lone loss came in the state Class 3A championship game when the Lumberjacks lost 1-0 to Eastview.
Hirt injured his elbow at the start of his junior season and did not pitch for an entire year. He returned this spring with the Lumberjacks and currently is pitching for the Bemidji Legion.
"Ryan was one of the top pitchers in Minnesota as a sophomore and I think he is just coming back from his arm injury," Bellew said. "He is very good now but I don't think he is anywhere near what he can become in college. Ryan's velocity and strength will only improve."
Rutledge and Hirt created a potent one-two pitching punch for the Jacks this spring and both are duplicating those roles with the Legion. As is the situation with Hirt, Bellew believes that Rutledge's strengths will translate very well to the college game.
"Collin had a good Legion season last summer, a very good high school season and is having a nice start to this year's Legion season," Bellew said. "He has a nice frame and once he gets into the weight room I think he will increase his velocity, arm strength and confidence.
"Collin also has a very nice swing and because of his ability to play defense I can also see him playing some outfield for us."
The BSU baseball program is developing a strong local flavor as Rutledge and Hirt join fellow former Lumberjacks Cody Jenkins, Nick Hovila and Mason Bellew on the roster. Jenkins is a junior while Hovila is a sophomore and Bellew will be a redshirt sophomore. All five of them were on the state runner-up team in 2012 and Hirt, Jenkins, Hovila and Bellew were starters for that squad.
"They all were part of a very successful program at Bemidji High School," the coach said. "It is exciting for BSU to have these kids join our program. Bemidji coach Mike Fogelson and his staff did a great job developing these kids and now it's my turn to continue that development.
"Last year we were 21-22 overall and 14-14 in the conference," Bellew continued. "We also had five freshmen playing in most of our games and, because we have so many good, young players in the program, I think the addition of Collin and Ryan will help us get from a middle-of-the-pack team to the top four or five in the conference."