BURNSVILLE -- The NSIC Elite 18 award for baseball is staying local.

Minnesota Crookston senior catcher Ben Thoma was named the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference’s winner of the 2021 Elite 18 award for baseball on Wednesday. The award recognizes “the true essence of the student-athlete” by going to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NSIC’s 18 championship events.

Thoma, a native of Clearbrook and a Bagley High School graduate, is majoring in management and holds a 4.00 grade point average. The UMC captain has played in four games for the Golden Eagles this season, starting in three. In 2020, he hit .342 over 13 appearances with a pair of home runs, seven RBIs and six runs.

Thoma has also played for Bemidji’s American Legion team and the Bemidji Blue Ox amatuer team during the summer. The Blue Ox have reached the final eight of the Class C state tournament in each of the past four seasons.

Thoma is Minnesota Crookston’s first recipient of the award since its inception in the 2016-17 academic year.